Difference Between Psychiatrist and Psychologist

Do you know the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist? If you said no, you’re not alone. Most people don’t know what makes one different from the other, and most people simply assume that a psychiatrist and psychologist can each do the same things for them.

A psychiatrist has a medical degree, while a psychologist does not. To know which is which, look at the suffix. The “-iatry” in psychiatry denotes “medical treatment” while the “-ology” in psychology denotes “science or theory.” This article will elaborate on more differences between the two like education, fees, treatment method and interests.

Difference Between Psychiatrist and Psychologist

PhD vs. MD

The studies in psychiatry and psychology can be very different. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has a specialty in psychiatry. The psychologist might also be called a therapist or a counselor. They have a doctorate in their field, but not a medical degree. They can be called a doctor, but not an M.D.

This doesn’t really matter when it comes to diagnosis of a problem, counseling for a problem and the like. But it does matter when it comes to medications. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor, and therefore can prescribe and dispense drugs. A psychologist is not a medical doctor, and thus can’t write prescriptions. If you decide to visit a psychologist and it is determined that you need medication or treatment that they simply can’t provide, you will be referred to a psychiatrist who can help you.

Here’s more information on exactly how they are different.

Education, Training and Credentials

Psychologists hold a PhD in their field. They go through five to seven years of education, and possibly one to two years more of training before they can become licensed to practice. Though psychologist might also be called counselors or therapists, keep in mind that a counselor or therapist is also a term that many social workers can use, regardless of their educational status. The psychologist is the only one who can legally call themselves a psychologist.

The psychiatrist goes to medical school, completing at least seven years of education, and then serve another four years of residency to learn about psychiatry. They are medical doctors, who can use the initials “M.D.” behind their name.

Prescribing Powers

Since a psychologist is not actually a medical doctor, they can’t prescribe medications to their patients. However, some states allow prescribing privileges to psychologists who have also completed a clinical psychopharmacology program. If you are a psychologist in the military who has earned the right to prescribe medications, you have the right to prescribe in any state where the military has stationed you. In the vast majority of cases, however, only a psychiatrist can prescribe medication to patients.

Type of Work

Psychiatrists can prescribe medications and therapies, including those that are on the cutting edge of medicine. They can also use different types of non-medication therapies. If you’re interested in learning more about psychiatrists, this video link can give you much more information on a day in the life of a psychiatrist.

Psychologists can work in 40 different specialties, and they might do everything from work directly with patients to work in laboratories where they study animals or humans on a regular basis, conducting research into the human psyche. This video can help you learn more about what a psychologist does on a day-to-day basis.

Treatment Method

Psychiatrists deal with patients from all walks of life and of all ages. They prescribe medications and treat those who suffer from everything from mild depression to serious mental illnesses that require constant care.

Psychologists serve more as counselors who listen and talk with you about what is happening, and help you find healthy solutions to the issues in your life. They can also conduct psychological testing and assessment.

More Differences

There are a few more differences between psychiatrists and psychologists, detailed below.




Those who choose to go into psychiatry often have an interest in medical issues that lead to mental problems, or how to solve mental health issues through medication and other therapies. Psychologists tend to have more of an interest in the research aspect, or in solving behavioral problems through talk therapy.


The fees you pay for services by either a psychiatrist or a psychologist can vary widely depending upon what is going on with you. In most cases, psychiatrists make more money from medication management appointments than they do from psychotherapy. Psychologists can make more money for their time spent talking with you. Some insurance plans will require that you see either a psychiatrist or psychologist, and won’t allow you to choose which one you prefer.

Which Is Better?

This is an important question for students to consider if they aren’t sure whether to become a psychologist or a psychiatrist. It really depends on what you want to do with your career. For instance, if you want to work with patients on a regular basis, being a psychiatrist might be the best idea. But if you are into research, pursuing a psychology degree might be the best bet.

If you are a patient, the person you choose depends upon your specific needs. If you prefer to speak to a counselor on a regular basis, a psychologist can help you. But if you will need medication to treat your problems, a psychiatrist is a must.

Current time: 05/24/2024 10:15:21 pm (America/New_York) Memory usage: 1316.63KB