Ordinary people often express confusion about the difference between psychiatry and psychology. This is only natural as the fields overlap in several meaningful ways. Though these two professions certainly complement each other, it is important to understand the differences between these important disciplines.
Firstly, there are many similarities between the professions. Psychiatrists and psychologists alike conduct psychotherapy and research the human mind. However, psychiatrists are far more likely to focus on therapy. Critically, psychologists and psychiatrists undergo different types of academic training. All psychiatrists are medical doctors with degrees in medicine. Conversely, each psychologist must earn a Ph.D (Doctor of Philosophy) or Ps.D (Doctor of Psychology). Psychologists generally specialize in clinical or counseling psychology.
Doctorate programs for psychologists typically take five to seven years. After graduation, prospective psychologists must undergo one to four years of internships and supervised practice. After completing this extensive process, people are legally licensed to work under the professional title of “psychologist.” Without the appropriate licenses, people who perform this type of work use informal titles like counselor or therapist.
Though psychiatrists also study the human mind, psychiatry has unique focus. As licensed medical doctors, psychiatrists diagnose, treat and prevent mental illness. Performing these tasks, psychiatrists are on the front lines of the global mental illness epidemic. As more and more government bodies recognize the need for greater access to mental health care, psychiatrists experience increasingly plentiful job opportunities.
After completing medical school and earning their medical degrees, psychiatrists complete four years of psychiatric residency training. This step is critical for ensuring that all psychiatric professionals act with integrity and skill. When comparing psychologist vs psychiatrist jobs, people should know that psychiatrists generally access a higher pay scale. Interestingly, psychiatry is one of the lower-paying specialties for doctors. Nevertheless, psychiatrists are usually able to command very comfortable salaries. Though psychologists face a slightly lower pay scale, most psychologists enjoy strong job satisfaction. As they counsel clients and research solutions for human problems, psychologists do their best to make the world a better place.
Ability to prescribe medicine is another major difference between psychologists and psychiatrists. In theory, psychologists are fully capable of identifying and addressing psychological problems. In practice, most states only allow psychiatrists to prescribe psychiatric medicines. Notably, there is a broad-based push to allow more psychologists the freedom to prescribe. States like Louisiana and New Mexico now provide qualified medical psychologists with full prescription rights.
Though broadly similar, psychology and psychiatry are unique fields that attract different types of people. Members of both fields work with clients from all walks of life. However, psychiatrists are more likely to address the needs of deeply disturbed clients with serious mental problems. Ultimately, both fields are critical for developing a more peaceable modern society.