Psychology vs Psychiatry: Should I be a psychologist or a psychiatrist?

Imagine one of your close acquaintances, friends or family, approaches you to share something very personal. They tell you that they feel a bit low and depressed lately. They fear that their mental health is at stake. You realize that they need medical aid and attention. 

Who would you take them? A psychologist or a psychiatrist? Or do you think a psychologist and a psychiatrist do the same profession? I can see plenty of questions brewing up in your mind right now. What exactly is the difference between psychiatry and psychology? What does a psychiatrist do? And what about a psychologist? Well then, let us have a detailed discussion.

Psychology Vs Psychiatry: How to make the choice?

I am sure most of us would have come across many instances where these two terms are used interchangeably. The first and foremost thing to be aware of before getting into the details is that these two terms are NOT the same. A psychiatrist’s profession stands entirely different from that of a psychologist’s. The only similarity is that both deal with the mental wellbeing and behavioral patterns of human beings.

Psychiatry is, essentially, a branch of medical sciences. Psychiatrists are medical practitioners, or physicians, whose work deals with diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of mental illnesses and behavioral disorders. 

They are like any other medical doctors who we consult in times of necessity. Psychiatrists can suggest medical tests, and prescribe medicines as well. Child and adolescent psychiatry, geriatric psychiatry, emergency psychiatry, military psychiatry, neuropsychiatry are some of the specialisations available for a doctor who is a practitioner of psychiatry.

On the other hand, a psychologist is never a medical doctor with an MBBS degree. Psychology is considered as the scientific study of the human mind and behavior and is mostly associated with interventions in the form of counseling and therapy. In other words, a psychologist treats mental illnesses and behavioral disorders through non-pharmacological methods. 

A psychologist can be a scientist, a researcher, a clinician or a therapist who deals with issues related to health, mental wellbeing, interpersonal relationships, and social living. Psychologists can choose to specialize in clinical, developmental, forensic, sports or occupational psychology. Psychology, however, is interestingly described as a brilliant blend of biology and social science.

Even after this basic introduction, you may still recognise both these terms as closely linked and often overlapping. Let us now dive in a bit deeper.

Psychology Vs Psychiatry: How do you become a Psychiatrist/ Psychologist?

Since we have already realised that psychiatry is a branch of medical science, a psychiatrist is, therefore, a medical doctor. All of us are aware of the fact that to become a medical doctor in India, you need to secure an MBBS degree in the first place. After finishing the degree, which might take over five years, a postgraduate MD course shall be completed for a doctor to become a certified psychiatrist. 

While doing MD, area of specialisation can be decided as well. As I have mentioned earlier, many branches including child, adolescent and geriatric psychiatry are available to choose from. Once they become qualified after around eight years of study, psychiatrists can start practicing and prescribing medicines for mental illness. 

Major illnesses that need critical attention like intense depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic disorder are treated by them through medication. It is important to understand that their methods are very similar to that of any other medical doctor.

A psychologist, unlike a psychiatrist, is not a designated doctor. They are psychotherapists who meet the consultee, engages in conversation with them, understand their problem in detail, and then suggest therapeutic solutions. They mostly talk, observe and collect background information to recognise the problem. 

Their methods are more sociological and laboratory-like when compared with that of a psychiatrist. Psychologists can even become scholars or researchers who work to develop the knowledge understanding. They can also become counselors or social workers who interact directly with people. All of these professions comes under the umbrella term psychologist. 

Also, a psychologist can built his career in various branches as discussed above. However, clinical psychologists are that group of people whose profession is often confused with that of psychiatrists’. A clinical psychologist should have a graduate degree and a postgraduate degree in psychology. An MPhil degree in clinical psychology is also mandatory to get licensed by the Rehabilitation Council of India, without which a psychologist cannot practice in the country.

Psychology vs Psychiatry: Are they the same or do they differ?

With all these differences in qualifying degrees and treatment methods at hand, can we now say that these two branches are mutually exhaustive? The answer is again a big NO. Psychology and psychiatry are interlinked in many ways even when they stand miles apart in many other ways. 

In many cases, both a psychiatrist and a psychologist work hand-in-hand, to formulate a feasible treatment method. When a psychiatrist reads the symptoms, diagnosis, and prescribes medication, a psychologist might take days, weeks and even months talking to the consultee to decide upon a solution. 

Even when common people prefer consulting a clinical psychologist rather than making an appointment with a psychiatrist, both often refer their consultees to each other accordingly. The nature of the illness and necessity of the patient is decisive in finalising who to consult, or whether the collaborative effort is needed. 

Psychologists of the other kinds, including forensic, business, and sports psychologists, deal with different kinds of problems when compared to a clinical psychologist. However, it is quite evident that a psychologist can have a plethora of career options to choose from, and this might not be the case with a psychiatrist. 

Where to study psychiatry?

We know by now that a psychiatrist should have an MBBS and then an MD in Psychiatry. Is MD in Psychiatry a rare course? Which is the best place to study Psychiatry? After completing MBBS, aspirants have to attempt different postgraduate entrance examinations to enter prime institutions like All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Science (NIMHANS). 

Annual fees in these leading institutions for MD Psychiatry could be as low as 2,500-3,000. Other non-government institutions might charge up to 2 or 3 lakh per annum as well. Several good diploma courses are also available. Following are some of the top-rated institutions to study Psychiatry:

  • AIIMS, New Delhi
  • Christian Medical College, Vellore
  • Armed Forces Medical College, Pune
  • Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi
  • JIPMER, Puducherry
  • King George’s Medical University, Lucknow
  • Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi
  • Central Institute of Psychiatry, Ranchi.

Where to study Psychology?

MSc in Psychology along with Mphil in Clinical Psychology is necessary to practice as a clinical psychologist in India. MSc Psychology course might cost a fee of a few thousands in central universities but can go as high as 50,000-70,000 in private colleges per annum. 

Both MA and MSc courses are available in Psychology, but MSc is preferred since the curriculum involves a more practical and laboratory-oriented pedagogy. The following are categorized as the best places to study psychology.

  • Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
  • Christ University, Bangalore
  • Manipal University, Manipal
  • Gujarat Forensic Sciences University, Gujarat
  • Presidency College, Chennai
  • PSG College of Arts and Science, Coimbatore
  • Banaras Hindu University, Banaras
  • Karnataka Central University, Gulbarga
  • Pondicherry Central University, Puducherry

Psychology Vs Psychiatry: Salary and Career options – A Comparison

We now know that a psychiatrist is a doctor, while a psychologist is not. It is quite normal for an aspirant to feel that a psychiatrist shall be a better profession. Wait a moment before finalising your option. Once you choose to go for a career in psychiatry, you shall forever remain a doctor. Your only option is to consult people and heal them. Psychology can offer you much more than that. 

An MSc Psychology graduate has a wider range of career options to choose from. A psychologist, unlike a psychiatrist, can work in hospitals, laboratories, clinics, community health centers, corporate offices, prisons, courtrooms, and even in schools. People from different sections of the society might need the assistance of a counselor or a therapist, and a psychologist is the first one to approach. 

Apart from this, a psychologist can also be a dedicated researcher or a social worker. Isn’t it evident now that even though a psychiatrist and a clinical psychologist work side-by-side on similar ground, their professions differ vastly?

Psychology vs Psychiatry: Salary

Salary earned is another decisive factor that draws the distinction between the two. A psychologist, as a therapist or a counselor, might charge per hour of consultation. This could range from 300 per hour to 1,500 per hour according to experience and expertise. 

Psychologists are often hired by corporate companies and government institutions also. In this case, they can earn a sum of about 2 lakh up to 6-7 lakh per annum. The reputation of the institution and the expertise of the psychologist can influence this average pay scale. 

On the other hand, a good psychiatrist in India can earn a sum of about 8 lakh to 12 lakh per annum. There is nothing to be astonished in this figure since a psychiatrist is a medical practitioner!

Psychology vs Psychiatry: Job prospects

Given all this, do you now think that the only job profiles available in this field are these two? Of course not! If you do not wish to spend five to eight crucial years of your life studying, but still wish to work in the field of mental health, there are even more choices in store for you. 

A diploma and basic work experience on field can get you a job as a counselor or a social worker who deals with mental health services. You can also try a hand in psychiatric nursing as a specialization if you hold a basic nursing degree. 

Conclusion

Whether you choose to become a psychiatrist or a psychologist, you should develop the understanding that the job you wish to do is necessary for the existence and wellbeing of humankind. This makes it mostly social work at times. With the globalized economy and market-oriented capitalist lifestyle, studies show that the mental health of the general public is deteriorating alarmingly. 

Mental health services need more manpower, and according to the statistics report, 800% increase is expected in the job opportunities related to the field. Even though these figures are a bit worrying, it also opens up ample chances for us to forge our careers. You learn, you practice, you earn and you help the world to become a better place, all at the same time. Is there anything that sounds more perfect than that?

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