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Psychologist vs. Psychiatrist: Which Career Is Right for You?

The world of psychology holds many professional pathways.

What’s the difference between a psychologist and psychiatrist? While both of these occupations allow you to help people with a variety of conditions—from mild anxiety or depression to schizophrenia or bipolar disorder—they actually have different educational requirements and career paths.

So You Want to Be a Psychologist

Psychologists have a doctorate in psychology—either a PhD in Psychology (Doctor of Philosophy) or PsyD (Doctor of Psychology). However, earning one of these degrees does not mean that an individual is a licensed psychologist. In fact, many of the typical career opportunities a psychologist might consider do not require licensure and so earning a PhD in Psychology or a PsyD in Psychology is the perfect path.

Psychologist vs. Psychiatrist: Which Career Is Right for You?

A PhD psychology program that focuses on clinical psychology or counseling provides you with the training and skills needed to help others effectively manage life issues, including mental health problems. Earning a professional doctorate in psychology generally requires between four to six years of post-undergraduate work. Coursework may include topics such as ethics, statistics, and behavior, as well as training in performing psychological assessments.

Careers for psychologists vary greatly. With median salaries of about $79,010 in 20181, psychologists find themselves leadership roles that could include running mental health programs, overseeing research studies, working as a staff psychologist, or running their own consulting or coaching firms. They might work independently in a private practice, with a group of psychologists, or with other healthcare providers. They may also find jobs in schools, universities, hospitals, prisons, community clinics, nursing homes, and many other businesses or organizations where mental health is a continual focus.

So You Want to Be a Psychiatrist

Psychiatrists have a degree in medicine and complete a medical residency before being licensed to practice. They focus on diagnosing, treating, and preventing mental health and emotional problems.

Because they train as physicians, psychiatrists are qualified to determine when certain symptoms might be linked to physical conditions rather than psychological illnesses. Psychiatrists can give full physical examinations, prescribe medication, and administer psychotherapies as well as different types of non-medical therapies. With a median income of around $220,380 in 20182, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, psychiatrists typically work longer hours than psychologists and spend significantly more time and money completing their educations. While they may work in a private practice, they may also work in medical facilities and incorporate the use of medical technology and pharmaceutical therapies.

If you are interested in helping others improve their lives by improving mental and emotional well-being, then explore the online PhD in Psychology program at Walden University and earn your doctorate in psychology.