Psychiatry vs. psychology
In short, psychiatrists prescribe medications to treat specific psychological illnesses while psychologists do not prescribe medications but still help patients through various forms of therapy while their focus is more on the study of psychological matters. If you want an even shorter answer, psychiatrists are doctors and psychologists are essentially researchers or scientists but both fields can engage in either of these activities.
The real answer of course is significantly more complex. There are a lot of similarities between the two fields and also some significant differences. For instance, both professions study psychology, help patients experiencing related psychological problems and both professions have a focus on researching and innovating in the field.
Psychology and Psychiatry, Education and Training
Like all other types of medical doctors. Psychiatrists will first attend medical school and then apply for and join residency programs which will last for 4 years. This residency period is basically the medical equivalent of on-the-job training during which they will work grueling hours for compensation that is comparatively low for the medical professions. In these programs, psychiatrists will choose their specialties and develop skills according to the areas that they have chosen. Once they complete the residency programs, they can then be eligible to get their licenses to practice.
Psychologists have similar education investments. Like psychiatrists, they endure many years of post graduate level academic work. They do not attend medical school but they must continue their education to the PHD level meaning at least 4 years of post grad study. Additionally, like psychiatrists, there will be some training years consisting of internships before they become eligible for licensing.
What is the difference between what psychiatrists and psychologists do?
Psychologists and Psychiatrists are both groups of highly educated people dedicated to the study and/or treatment of mental illness or matters related to psychology which is the study of the mind, how it works and common disorders related to it. The best way to remember how they differ in their approach to the psychological community is to observe the structure of the words themselves.
We remember from school that the suffix: ology means to study. A lesser known bit of trivia is that the suffix: iatry means essentially, to “heal”. So once you understand that, it becomes easy to remember that the psychologist is the one who studies the mind whereas the psychiatrist is the one who heals the mind and more specifically prescribes medicine to heal the mind.
Not to further confuse the matter, but it is also important (and respectful) to add that both professions heal or treat patients in their own way. It’s just that psychiatrist focus on this more directly in the sense that they are doctors and are more prone to direct treatments for specific patients and their illnesses. Again, psychologists treat patients as well but generally do it through other forms of psychotherapy. They are also more commonly prone to follow careers more oriented towards research although they are by no means limited to that.
Psychiatry vs. Psychology Earnings
Although not always the case, generally psychiatrists will earn more for various reasons. One reason is that there will always be a demand for those who can prescribe the necessary medications to patients who need them. That one little distinction is actually a very significant one.
Another reason is that in a practice, a psychiatrist may be able to address his client’s issues more directly with medication which is a less time consuming process than many psychotherapy processes. This of course translates to the ability to process more patients in a shorter amount of time and thus, greater earnings.
Believe it or not, another factor is nothing more than human nature itself. Many people who know that a psychiatrist has a medical degree from a medical school will always value that individual’s advice above the advice of anyone who does not. While the logic behind this mentality is flawed, it is non-the-less a factor in many people’s decisions.
According to Salary.com, the expected median yearly salary for psychologists in 2012 was in the mid 80k range whereas they report that psychiatrists will earn over twice that amount at over 190k.
When comparing psychiatry and psychology, it is important to consider the motive. Are you a potential patient or are you considering them as career options? Either way, there are many factors to consider but in the end, both have similar investments of time, education, money and both have very similar focus but utilize different methods of approach. If you are looking for the money, the choice is pretty clear. If you are in it for other reasons then it depends of course on what those reasons are. A focus on the study of the mind might choose psychology vs. psychiatry where a focus on a more lucrative career treating illness might choose psychiatry.