When it comes to mental illnesses and having a specialist help with the treatment of these problems, a common confusion that can arise is to use the terms psychologist and psychiatrist interchangeably as if they do exactly the same job.
But this isn’t true.
While both professionals may treat similar patients, there’s definitely a difference when it comes to a psychiatrist vs. a psychologist.
In fact there are quite a few differences. We’ll break these differences up into different areas such as education, treatment, job options and salary to give you an in-depth understanding of which option might be better for you if you’re considering a career in psychology.
Psychologist vs Psychiatrist – Educational Differences
The first point of difference between the two professions is in the education required to earn your accreditation and begin work in your chosen field.
To begin with, both careers require you to complete some sort of undergraduate studies. But the type of undergraduate degree completed will more than likely be quite different and the ensuing post graduate paths will be quite different.
People looking to become psychologists will have usually done a degree with a major in psychology. Once they’ve finished their undergraduate degree, they’ll enroll in a post graduate program that is geared toward them getting their Doctorate in Philosophy (Ph.D) or their Doctorate in Psychology (Psy.D).
The path they choose will usually be based on what type of psychologist they’d like to become.
People who are more interested in psychiatry will have studied some sort of science based major as part of their undergraduate program.
This is important because in order to become a psychiatrist you actually need to complete your MD and become a doctor of medicine. Within the field of medicine they would specialize in some sort of psychiatric studies.
The Job Options Of Psychologists vs Psychiatrists
So now that you understand the different study paths of the two professions, it’s easier to understand the difference between psychiatrists and psychologists when you start talking about what sort of work you do and who you might be employed by.
Regardless of which field you work in you’re going to be involved in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses. But your training is going to give you very different ways of providing that treatment.
The psychiatrist is a medical doctor, and so their treatment is obviously going to be rooted in the use of medical products and technologies and will more than likely be carried out at some sort of medical facility.
The psychologist on the other hand is going to be approaching the problem more form a consultative and counseling angle, where you’re going to be helping your patients make behavioral changes to deal with their problems.
You are more likely to be self employed, but you could also be working at medical facilities or you could be involved in research or teaching.
Differences In The Way Treatment Is Administered.
We’ve already mentioned that psychiatrists are medical practitioners, and this means that they use this medical training to treat their patients.
The most obvious example of this is through the prescription and administering of drugs, but it could also be through more serious medical treatment options available for mental illnesses such as brain stimulation treatments.
The psychologist on the other hand attempts to use various counseling techniques to isolate potential root causes of mental problems and then map out a treatment plan that can include ongoing counseling but could also involve referring the patient to a psychiatrist if any medication may be beneficial.
Psychologist vs Psychiatrist – Who Earns The Most?
The salary difference between the two professions are actually a fair bit bigger than you might have thought.
While the average psychiatrist can expect to earn just under $200,000/yr, a psychologist will earn roughly half of that. So while their salary is still good and well above national averages, it’s the psychiatrist that’s really making the big money.
And that’s only to be expected when you understand the medical training required for the role.
So hopefully that’s helped clear up some of the confusion about the differences between psychologists and psychiatrists. If you’re interested in either of those careers you’ll need to study hard and be committed to ongoing education, but not only will you be in a well paid career, you’;l also have plenty of opportunities to really make a difference in people’s lives.