Psychology vs. Psychiatry – What is the Difference?
The difference between psychology and psychiatry begins with credentials. While (as I am sure all of you know by now) a psychologist has a PhD in Psychology, a Psychiatrist has a medical degree. Unlike a psychologist, a psychiatrist can prescribe medications (although there has been a recent push for psychologist to prescribe medications, and psychologists in NM and LA can now prescribe medications after completion of a post-doctoral master’s degree in clinical psychopharmacology).
Psychology PhDs are research degrees,
The Nature of the Job
A psychologist is a researcher first, while a psychiatrist is a doctor first. As a psychiatrist, you can expect most of your job to entail medication management. As a psychologist, you can expect most of your job to entail assessment/therapy/research.
If you focus on therapy, you will see patients for 45 minutes – 60 minutes as a psychologists, but only 15-20 minutes as a psychiatrist.
Although Psychology is a difficult path to travel, Psychiatry is far less competitive. As long as you can get into medical school, you will be all set for psychiatry as the competition is not very tough once you are in medical school. Psychiatry is one of the easiest residencies to match for. This is not the case with Psychology, with many hoops to jump through at every stage
If you want to be a psychiatrist, you will have to ace your pre-medical courses – biology, chemistry, physics, calculus. After that, you can expect a four year medical education.
If you want to be a psychologist, you should probably be a psychology major (taking courses like research methods, statistics, abnormal psychology, social psychology, etc) and do lots of research as an undergraduate. After you get into graduate school, you can expect to take courses such as psychopathology, research methods, statistics, and the history of psychology for your first couple of years in graduate school. You will also be most likely required to TA, see patients starting your second year, and do research.
While most PhDs are free and even pay a small stipend, medical degrees are very expensive, costing around $200,000
The education timeline is very similar. To get a Psychology PhD, you must spend 4-5 years in graduate school, 1 year on internships, and 2 years as a postdoc. So you can expect to spend 7-8 years in school. To become a Psychiatrist, you must spend 4 years in medical school and four years in residency. So you can expect 8 years in school.
We have already discussed how much psychologists make. Psychiatrist make about twice as much. However, don’t forget that most psychiatrist have lots of medical school debt to pay back.