What is the difference between a psychologist and psychiatrist?

Although people often get the terms psychologist and psychiatrist confused, there are profound differences between the two, and the words are not interchangeable. The short answer to the question is that a psychiatrist is a medical doctor and a psychiatrist is a therapist that helps people with their emotional problems. This answer is oversimplified, and the differences will be better explained below.

Education needed to become a psychiatrist

The educational requirements to become a psychiatrist are fundamentally no different from any other medical doctor. A student attends a four year college and earns a bachelor’s degree usually in a field such as biology. There are certain pre-requisites that are required for medical school that must be a part of a four year college program. A certain minimum grade point average must be earned, and medical examinations must be taken and passed with good scores. A student must then be accepted at a medical school and will usually attend for a minimum of four years. After this, residency is done at a mental health facility. This takes four more years and involves outpatient and inpatient care as specialties in the field of psychiatry are learned.

The jobs done by a psychiatrist

After a residency is finished, a person then applies for a license to practice medicine in a particular state and also gets certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. At this point a person has become a psychiatrist and can open their own practice or work on the staff of a hospital that requires a psychiatrist. Patients will usually be those who have biologically based mental problems. Much of the treatment will be with medication. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor and unlike a psychologist will prescribe medication when needed.

Education needed to become a psychologist

The education needed to become a psychologist will vary depending upon the particular job desired after graduation. A person can obtain a variety of jobs in the field of psychology with a four year degree in psychology; however, the opportunities increase with a master’s degree in psychology. This usually takes two to three years after getting a bachelor’s degree. You can count on at least three more years to get a doctorate in psychology.

The jobs done by a psychologist

There are many counseling jobs available for those with a psychology degree and those of a therapist. Each state has particular licensing requirements. However, to be a license clinical psychologist, you will need to get a doctorate in psychology. This is why a practicing psychologist is always referred to as doctor: they have a doctorate in psychology. However, they are not medical doctors like a psychiatrist. Their focus is helping people with emotional disorders with a variety of methods and techniques.

Conclusion

Whether you decide to pursue a career as a psychologist or psychiatrist will have a lot to do with your personality and the type of work you want to do. If you have no desire to be a medical doctor, it is best to avoid the field of psychiatry; however, if you want to help people with emotional problems, there are many possibilities in the field of psychology.

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