“Psychologist vs Psychiatrist”—sounds like a battle of heavyweight pugilists. They don’t necessarily battle with each other but they do fight against a common foe—mental illness. While both professions have the same objective, there’s a marked difference between being a psychologist and being a psychiatrist (and it’s not just in the spelling). Let’s see what makes each profession unique.
The Main Difference
If you want to get a clue about the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist, you only need to look at their suffixes. The suffix “–iatry” means medical treatment, while “—ology” means the science or the theory. Therefore, psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in the treatment of the psyche, while psychologists are also doctors (although the academic kind) who study the psyche.
Educational Requirements and Credentials
Psychiatrists have to go through the rigors of medical school first before they’re allowed to specialize in psychiatry. After earning their MD, they need to go through four years of residency. This residency training is usually done in a hospital psychiatric department, where the resident will get hands-on experience with mental patients. After hurdling their residency training, these physicians are then licensed to practice psychiatry.
For psychologists, they go through five (or sometimes seven) years of postgraduate study. Eventually, they will have to earn a doctorate degree. For psychologists, they may hold a PhD or a PsyD (a Philosophy Doctorate or a Psychology Doctorate). Internships are required and a psychologist needs to undergo a year or two of internship training in order to obtain a license to practice. Each state will have different licensing requirements in order for the psychologist to start their practice.
One stark difference in both practices is the power to prescribe medication. Psychiatrists can, while psychologists cannot. Since psychiatrists are doctors, they are able to treat psychological disorders and mental illness with prescription drugs. Psychologists, on the other hand, treat patients through psychoanalysis, counseling and other psychological practices.
However, it is a misconception to think that psychiatrists only rely on prescription medicine in order to treat patients. They too, can employ the use of counseling and psychoanalysis techniques to treat their patients. Psychologists too can prescribe medicine, but never independently. They have to obtain special permission from a licensed psychiatrist.
Other Methods Used by Psychologists
Aside from psychoanalysis and counseling, psychologists also spearhead research and also do psychological testing. Academic research is an important endeavor psychologists take in order to advance the science of psychology. Psychological tests are mostly intelligence or personality tests. These exams create a personal profile of a patient that can prove helpful when treating mental illness and disorders. Psychological exams also include Neuro-psychological tests, which evaluated brain functions to aid in patient diagnoses.
Career Outlook—Who earns more?
It’s obvious that psychiatrists earn more because of their power to prescribe medication. This method is seen as a quicker treatment compared to sessions with a psychologist involving counseling and psychoanalysis.
Psychiatrists earn $75-$100 or more for a 15-minute session medication management than by doing a 45-minute counseling session. A psychologist’s fees can range around $70 to $130 for a 45 minute session. Both psychiatrists and psychologists need to account for time extensions because clients usually don’t leave by the 45 minute mark.
As for earning potential, a psychiatrist has an annual average income of $174,000. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reported that job outlook is expected to increase 24% between 2010 and 2020. For clinical psychologists, they earn an annual average income of $86,000. Other fields in psychology like school psychologists and geriatrics psychology earn much less, at around $48,000 annually. But along with psychiatrists, the psychologist’s job outlook is also expected to increase 24% between 2010 and 2020.
Conclusion: So Who’s Better?
In the match up between a psychologist vs psychiatrist, there’s really no clear winner. Each discipline has its strong points. If you want to earn a lot, then a career in psychiatry could be for you. The trade-off is that you have to invest considerably in medical school, internships and residency. Psychologists, on the other hand, earn a decent income, but can’t prescribe medicine. At the end of the day, it’s all a matter of who delivers that extra human touch and tender care to their patients.