Nuclear Medicine Physician Vs. Psychiatrist

The focus of nuclear medicine physicians and psychiatrists may be on healing patients, but the means to that healing varies between the two professions. Compare their duties, median salaries and expected job growth.

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Comparing Nuclear Medicine Physicians to Psychiatrists

Though these careers are both part of the medical field, they have different treatments and techniques for healing differing types of health conditions. Their careers may overlap, however, if someone diagnosed with cancer or undergoing treatment of another disease seeks help for a mental illness.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Nuclear Medicine Physicians Doctoral Degree $206,920 13% (Physicians and Surgeons, all other)
Psychiatrists Doctoral Degree $194,740 13%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Nuclear Medicine Physicians vs. Psychiatrists

Nuclear medicine physicians and psychiatrists are both aware of a patient's medical histories to offer the best care possible. The former is interested in using chemicals to diagnose and treat someone's body, while the latter often uses chemicals to treat someone's mind. Both of these professionals go through medical school and specialize in their chosen career. Rather than learning radiopharmaceutical therapies, as a nuclear medicine physician does, psychiatrists learn about medications to administer for the treatment of mental illnesses.

Nuclear Medicine Physicians

For those with cancer or lung and thyroid issues, nuclear medicine physicians are there to diagnose and treat those diseases, among other illnesses. These doctors look over a patient's medical records to learn their past health issues and family history. They often inject radiopharmaceuticals or give patients pills to swallow that contain chemicals. This allows them to take images of the patient's organs, which they can then interpret to find any abnormalities.

Job responsibilities of a nuclear medicine physician include:

  • Prescribing radiation to treat cancer after checking that the patient is healthy enough for treatment
  • Using medical equipment, such as gamma cameras, to capture images of organs
  • Writing detailed reports of their findings to share with other medical professionals
  • Regulating laboratories to enforce safe use of radiation


Psychiatrists are medical doctors who attempt to help those with anxiety, paranoia, and thoughts of suicide, among other mental illnesses. First, they meet with and talk to the patient to determine what their illness may be. They may also use laboratory tests, such as brain scans and bloodwork, to further their diagnosis. Their focus is to change a patient's behavior and help them meet their personal goals. Psychiatrists also prescribe medications, such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, or sedatives.

Job responsibilities of a psychiatrist include:

  • Keeping detailed notes during patient sessions
  • Suggesting hospitalization in psychiatric facilities
  • Utilizing psychotherapy (talk therapy) or electroconvulsive therapy to treat patients
  • Determining a patient's family history and past experiences to better help them

Related Careers

As someone potentially interested in a career as a nuclear medicine physician, you may want to look into a job as a radiation physicist, because both focus on using radioactive materials to help people. On the other hand, if you're curious about a job as a psychiatrist, you could research a career as a counselor, as both want to improve the mental health of patients.

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