Psychologist Or Psychiatrist – What’s The Difference?

When it comes to the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders, there are two different types of professionals who may be involved – they are a psychiatrist and a psychologist. This often creates a bit of confusion as to what the difference is between the two and whether or not one is potentially a better choice than the other when it comes to treatment options.

The easiest way to gain an understanding of the difference between the two is probably to look at and compare the educational requirements of the two jobs.

If you want to become a psychiatrist you will need to take the same study path as if you were going to become a doctor of medicine. So you’ll need to go to college and study an undergraduate degree, majoring in some sort of science based subject, before going on to graduate studies and completing your MD. From there you would then look at doing your residence in psychiatry so that you have the necessary education and training to commence work as a certified psychiatrist.

On the other hand if you were looking to become a psychologist then you would take a different path. Your undergraduate major would more than likely be psychology, although there are some other subjects that you could choose to major in instead. After completion of this degree you would also need to commence graduate studies, and go on to earn either a Masters degree, a Doctorate, or possibly both in some sort of psychology related field.

So the simple difference between the two is that a psychiatrist is a qualified medical doctor, while a psychologist is not.

This means that a psychiatrist is able to prescribe medications, while a psychologist must refer their patients to a psychiatrist if they feel medication is required.

A psychologist will be focused more on treating their patients using such techniques as psychotherapy and counseling.

They will be dealing with people with a range of mental disorders if they are working as a clinical psychologist. A counseling psychologist will focus more on areas such as marital counseling or addiction counseling where the problems are more behavioral related as opposed to being a diagnosed mental disorder.

One of the big differences between a psychiatrist and a psychologist is in their potential earnings.

Because a psychiatrist is medically trained they can expect to earn a much higher salary than the psychologist.

That’s not to say that the salary of the psychologist is anything to be sniffed at – but the psychiatrist will generally earn much more.

Both career choices require much study and commitment, so if you are thinking about becoming one or the other then you need to be prepared for close to a decade of study and training.

But you will be rewarded with an interesting career that offers plenty of room to specialize and move into areas which are of greater interest to you personally.

The Top 10 Reasons To Become A School Psychologist

It doesn’t seem like that long ago I graduated from my School Psychology graduate program but it has actually been going on 16 years now. Time flies and much has changed in the field of School Psychology. However, it seems like my reasons for becoming a School Psychologist have relatively remained intact. Here they are:

1) The pay isn’t that bad. Even though we are required to complete 3 years of graduate school which includes a one year internship that is commonly unpaid, School Psychologists get compensated relatively well. The average salary seems to be in the $60-80K range after about 5 – 10 years of experience.

2) The vacation time isn’t bad either. School Psychologists are commonly on a 210 day contract or around there and don’t work through the summer unless they want to pick-up some extra money. This allows time to spend with family or to go on long vacations in the summer.

3) School Psychologists are relatively well respected in the school setting. Despite the fact that most individuals think we are guidance counselors and very few school officials even know exactly what we do, School Psychologists seem to be held in high regard and are commonly looked for when it comes to finding solutions to a wide range of issues.

4) School Psychologists have a great deal of autonomy in the work place. Quite often you will be assigned more than one school. This can be stressful in terms of work load but it can also be a blessing in disguise since you will be able to move from school to school depending on each school’s needs. You usually aren’t stuck in an office being watched by your boss. If you are, you probably need to re-consider where you are working.

5) Number 4 brings up another good point. The job outlook for School Psychologists is pretty good. I don’t have the statistics but it seems that there are plenty of jobs available to those that are willing to move about the country. With the economy taking a turn for the worse lately I have definitely seen a decrease but even in tough economic times it seems that there are opportunities still out there for school psychologists. I have found a great place to go to get a feel for actually how many schools are looking for new School Psychologists.

6) You feel like you are helping those that need help. Sure, weeks and months pass by where you slog through the paperwork and complete the evaluations. However, every so often you are confronted with a situation in which you are able to provide some real assistance to someone in need of it. That always feels good. I actually recommend finding a position in those areas that are the most economically depressed and full of problems. After all, this is where we are needed the most and is also where our efforts are appreciated the most by parents, children and administrators. I work on the Mexican border and wouldn’t change that for anything. Despite the news reports, the people and the community here are very grateful and value their children’s education quite a lot. I very rarely get the over aggressive soccer mom yelling at me because her child isn’t in the gifted program.

7) Opportunity to branch out into other fields. With a Masters in Psychology one can teach at the community college level, work weekends for the local counseling agency, perform outside evaluations for other local area school districts, and/or branch out into educational consulting. Not too many fields where you are qualified to do so many different things.

8) If you don’t want to supplement your income in the various methods in #7 the field of School Psychology offers a great many areas you can choose from to be an “expert” in and apply in your everyday professional life while being a School Psychologist. There are post graduate certificate programs in School Neuropsychology as well as behavior specialist and/or life coaching, all of which can be applied with your students in the school setting.

9) We are called “Psychologists” but do not have a license. This was actually up for review by the APA but thankfully we can still call ourselves School “Psychologists”. Funny thing how many Clinical “Psychologists” attempted to become School “Psychologists” due to the poor job prospects for clinical psych degrees but that is another story and issue.

10) Helping is something you are driven to do. If you like helping kids who are basically just in need of a bit of support to get them through to a successful life then the field of School Psychology might be fore you. I wish I were able to read the ups and downs of being a school psychologist back in the early 90’s before I ventured out into this profession. However, this article is there for those who want to consider this profession. No profession is perfect and jobs vary a great deal depending on locations, bosses, school boards and so on. In my experience it seems that School Psychology positions are more similar than they are different and the job is what you make of it. You have the freedom to start programs or specialize in your area of choice. Not too many professions out there where you can do that.

How Much Salary Does a Psychologist Get?


They can work in a wide variety of settings that includes private businesses, schools, group or private facilities, and hospitals. Clinical psychologists use their wide variety of skills and knowledge of the human mind and behavior to treat patients with a wide variety of issues. Clinical psychologists commonly help patients readjust to life after a life-changing event, like divorce, death, or can help patients with other mental or physical illnesses. They often work in one-on-one settings with patients to help them evaluate, diagnose, and provide appropriate treatment for mental and emotional illness. Counseling psychologists often do much of the same but they also help their patients to understand and deal with their problems. They help the patients indicate methods for treating their own issues, often dealing with behavioral or substance abuse problems. Industrial-organizational psychologists are another popular specialization. This field of psychology deals with the study of work place behavior, and industrial-organizational psychologists usually work in the private sector, helping companies to select the ideal employee and to maximize productivity.

Education, Training and Certification

For you to become a psychologist, a master’s or doctorate degree in Psychology is almost certainly needed. However, there are certain perquisites before enrolling in one of these. You will need a bachelor’s degree, and some Ph.D. programs require a master’s degree before you can enroll. While strong undergraduate grades are not necessarily required, they certainly will help you be admitted to a graduate program. At the completion of doctoral programs, students are required to complete a yearlong internship as part of the program. The amount of education and degrees requires varies upon which specialty one wishes to enter. Admission to master’s and Ph.D. programs can be competitive and often require either an undergraduate degree in psychology or clinical practice or coursework.

Psychologists will require workplace training before obtaining a license, like face-to-face interaction and work experience are very important aspects of the job. In all states, psychologists who practice independently must have a license. Most clinical and counseling psychologists need a doctorate in psychology, an internship, and one to two years of professional experience and to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. Many specific fields of psychology, like school psychologist, may require a specific certification to practice. Certain workplaces, such as hospitals, may also require specific or additional licenses and certifications.

Average Annual Salary

The average annual salary of psychologist is $72,220. This is calculated by adding all the wages within the occupation and dividing that value by the total number of employees. The lowest 10% of all psychologists can expect to make less than $$38,450 each year while others with more experience in the top 10% can expect well over $109,340 each year.

Factors that Affects the Psychologist Salary

Psychologist salaries vary according to the area of psychology, with clinical, counseling, and school psychologists earning an average $72,220; industrial-organizational psychologist salary is, on average, $98,800; and the average for all other psychologist salary is $86,380. In general, the highest paid psychologists are those working in the industrial organizational sector that includes in areas such as human resources, administration, and management, as well as sales and marketing. Of these, those working in management, scientific, and technical consulting services have the highest average salary, at $125,980.

• Education and Specialization – A psychologist requires a master’s as well as a doctoral degree in psychology at minimum. The master’s program can be in either arts or sciences of psychology. At the doctoral level, for those wishing to engage in psychologist services for clients, a one-year internship with supervision is generally required. Some schools allow students to enter a doctoral program immediately following a bachelor’s degree, reducing the time spent in school. While there are positions for those holding only a master’s degree (a shorter program than a doctoral one), a doctoral degree will yield a higher salary.

• Experience and Position – The majority of psychologists have a doctoral degree, and so increased experience on the job will result in a higher salary. Advanced-level positions will pay higher than entry-level. In addition, particular specializations are in higher demand, such as neuropsychologists or engineering psychologists. However, industrial-organizational positions tend to be the most lucrative.

• Industry – With the multiplicity of possible areas for focus in psychology, the industry is highly variable. However, as mentioned, industrial-organizational psychologists tend to earn the highest wages. While a starting salary for a master’s holder will be in the $40,000 range, a doctorate-level entry position will receive above $50,000. According to the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, the top five percent of their earners have a salary greater than $250,000 per year.

• Location – While the greatest number of jobs for psychologists tends to be in more densely populated areas such as California and New York, the demand in more rural regions will yield a higher salary. While this is highly dependent on the specialization chosen, area such as Rhode Island and Hawaii, along with New York, pay better than others, averaging above $90,000 for most focuses.