When job descriptions of two professionals overlap, it becomes difficult to differentiate between the two professions; the confusion between psychologist and psychiatrist is one of the prime examples of this. We need to delve into the basics of these subjects and understand the key points of distinction if we are to differentiate between these professionals.
In the field of medicine, psychiatry is a discipline which emphasizes on the study and treatment of various mental disorders. The term psychiatry, which means the medical treatment of mind, was coined by German physician, Johann Christian Reil in the 19th century. A person who specializes in this discipline is known as a psychiatrist.
In order to practice psychiatry, the person has to hold a degree of MD (Medical Doctor or Doctor of Allopathic Medicine) or DO (Doctor of Osteopathy or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) along with a medical license. More recently, careers in different branches of psychiatry―especially forensic psychiatry and addiction psychiatry―are in great demand. For a person specializing in psychiatry, salary offered can range between $125,000 - $200,000 per year, depending on his education and overall experience.
In science, psychology is a field which deals with the study of human behavior. This study is predominantly targeted at understanding the physiological and neurological functions of human mind, and social behavior triggered by these functions. The term psychology was coined by the German philosopher, Rudolp Gockel in the 16th century. A person who specializes in this discipline is known as a psychologist.
A psychologist can have specialization in any of the different types of psychology. One has to get a graduation degree in psychology and go for further specialization depending on the field which he opts for. With a Master's degree in this discipline, you can qualify for different jobs in psychology. Some of the most popular careers for someone with a Master's degree include clinical psychologist, industrial psychologist, forensic psychologist, etc.
Psychiatry Vs. Psychology
Going through these definitions of psychiatry and psychology, you must have realized how the two disciplines differ from each other. The differences between the two start right from their names. While both the terms start with 'psyche', which means 'related to mind', the suffix iatry, coming from iatros, means treatment, whereas the suffix logy denotes science. This means that the objective of psychiatry is to treat mental illness, while that of psychology is to study human behavior and cognition.
While both psychiatrists and psychologists resort to psychotherapy and counseling, a psychiatrist is also allowed to prescribe medication―something which a psychologist can't do. A psychiatrist's education also differs from that of a psychologist. The difference between the two disciplines can also be seen in terms of research, with the research area of a psychiatrist more often revolving around concepts such as psychiatric medication, and that of a psychologist revolving around clinical and research psychology.
While a psychiatrist can legally prescribe medication for your problem, a psychologist is allowed to do the same only after consulting a psychiatrist (and that too in certain jurisdictions). With such developments taking place, the difference between the two subjects is bound to narrow down, but that will take some time.