Difference Between Physiologist & Psychiatrist

Physiologists and psychiatrists both work with the human body; however, the type of conditions they treat differ. This article will cover the job descriptions and outlook for each career to assist you in selecting the best one for you.

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Comparing Physiologists to Psychiatrists

A career as a physiologist or psychiatrist may be suitable for those with an interest in medicine and who have strong technical skills. However, while they both are in the medical field, their work environments and areas of focus differ. The key similarities and differences between these jobs are highlighted below.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Physiologist Doctoral or Professional Degree $80,530 (Medical Scientists, except epidemiologists) 8% (Medical Scientists, except for epidemiologists)
Psychiatrist Doctoral or Professional Degree $194,740 15%

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Physiologists vs. Psychiatrists

Physiologists and psychiatrists both assist patients with medical issues and often utilize diagnostic tests to accurately diagnose conditions. Both careers require strong critical thinking and observation skills. A physiologist specializes in how organs and systems operate and how environmental factors can affect the body. In contrast, a psychiatrist specializes in treating emotional, mental, or behavioral issues in patients.


As a physiologist you will be part of a broad profession that researches how the human body works. You will spend most of your time observing and documenting patients' vital signs during physical activity tests, overseeing the operation and upkeep of equipment utilized in cardiopulmonary stress tests, performing experiments in a laboratory and notifying the treating professional of the results. Physiologists with advanced work experience may have additional responsibilities, such as serving as a project leader on studies. Due to the advanced research conducted, it is typical to need a doctoral degree before being hired. However, it is possible to enter the field with a bachelor's degree for positions as a research assistant, with a master's degree required for management projects. As such, you may work in research and development, hospitals, or educational institutions.

Job responsibilities of a physiologist include:

  • Performing pharmaceutical research experiments with the supervision of a senior physiologist
  • Starting their own research laboratory and coordinating operations
  • Overseeing all staff members in a laboratory
  • Serving as an instructor in an undergraduate or graduate setting


Psychiatrists are doctors who specialize in working with and treating patients experiencing mental health or emotional issues. You will do so by meeting with patients to discuss their current issues and background, performing diagnostic tests and analyzing the results, and developing individualized treatment plans for patients. Psychiatrists can work in private or group practice or for hospitals or community health centers. After finishing medical school, you will need to complete a four-year psychiatric residency program. All psychiatrists must become licensed through their state's medical board, with the option to pursue board certification through the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

Job responsibilities of a psychiatrist include:

  • Recording and maintaining comprehensive patient records
  • Utilizing medications or psychotherapeutic treatments as part of treatment plans
  • Working with other medical professionals or social workers to ensure patients receive the best care
  • Enhancing your knowledge through attending conferences, performing research, or completing continuing education classes

Related Careers

If you would like to become a physiologist, consider a job as a medical laboratory technologist, as both careers perform diagnostic testing. Those interested in a position as a psychiatrist may be interested in a job as a mental health counselor, as both may involve working with patients to improve their mental and emotional well-being.

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