In recent years, mental health has achieved greater importance. The fascinating human mind draws students into pursuing a career in mental health. Many become confused about how a psychiatrist and psychologist differ. Both study the brain, thoughts, behaviors, emotions and feelings; however, the differences lie in the fields of education, training, approach, and salary.

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor that specializes in treatment, diagnosis and prevention of mental health problems. Psychiatrists earn a degree in medicine (either a MD or DO, medical school application, take the MCAT). They also must complete a year of medical internship and a 3 year residency before becoming licensed to practice. Their primary focus is on diagnosing, treating, and preventing mental health/emotional problems. Since they are medical doctors, psychiatrist can prescribe medication. In their training and approach, psychiatrists have a greater background in neurochemistry and biology. They’ll try to diagnose a condition by checking other health factors, i.e a thyroid problem before fully providing a diagnosis. They evaluate any underlying physical and medical problems, while also providing insight on drug effects. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they earn a median income of around $173,330 in 2012.

A Psychologists begin with a bachelor’s in psychology. Then they can obtain a master’s degree in graduate school and then earn a doctorate degree in psychology, either a PsyD (Doctor of Psychology) or PhD (Doctor of Philosophy). However, a masters degree is the minimum education required for most psychologist positions. While a PhD requires a dissertation, a Psy.D needs clinical experiences, which takes 5-7 years to complete. Then 12 years of internships are required to gain their licence to practice. If one wants to specialize in a specific field of psychology, it may require additional classes and licensing. There are many different types of psychologists. Some study the mind through lab tests, surveys, and interviews. Others provide counseling to their patients, and may diagnose for mental disorders.

In general, psychologist do not have the ability to prescribe medication, but there has been a recent push in some states to grant prescribing privileges. They must be medical psychologists who hold a post doctoral master’s degree or equivalent clinical degree in psychopharmacology.

Different from Psychiatrists, Psychologists are also trained in giving psychological tests (i.e personality assessments, behavioral assessments, assessment of Intellectual functioning (IQ)). They earn according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics median income of around $69,280 in 2012.

In choosing a career path, it all comes down to personal interest. If you are interested in conducting research, psychotherapy, administering psychological tests, the best choice will be a psychologists. But, if you have an interest in medicine and the physiological perspective, a career in psychiatry may be better for you. If you’re still conflicted, try talking to a local psychologists and psychiatrists in the area to see what career path fits best for you. A career in patient care or alike is a marathon, but worth the reward at the end.

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