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Difference Between Psychiatrist & Neurologist

Since they're both medical doctors, psychiatrists and neurologists share some common duties, but the needs of their patients and the medical issues they treat differ. This article compares some details of these careers.

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Comparing Psychiatrists to Neurologists

Although psychiatrists and neurologists have a comparable level of education and are both medical doctors who've specialized in their fields, there are bold distinctions between these two careers. The key difference between these professionals lies in the health issues that their patients have and how those problems are treated.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2017)** Job Outlook (2014-2024)*
Psychiatrists Medical Degree $195,564 15%
Neurologists Medical Degree $204,722 15% (for physicians and surgeons, all other)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **PayScale.com

Responsibilities of Psychiatrists vs. Neurologists

Psychiatrists and neurologists meet with patients and discuss their medical concerns. They must also review a patient's medical history, and when necessary, they may require medical tests to ensure the patient has been correctly diagnosed. Other similar tasks they may perform can include writing prescriptions for medications and updating their patients' medical files. Psychiatrists tend to spend more time counseling patients because they work with individuals who have mental health issues and may need help altering their behavior or handling personal problems. Neurologists work with patients who have issues related to the nervous system, and their primary focus is on treating the patient's physical condition.

Psychiatrists

Psychiatrists are mental health professionals and work with patients who have mental health issues. They are required to have a medical degree and license. Since they spend significant periods of time interacting with patients, they must have good listening skills and be able to communicate clearly. Psychiatrists also must pay attention to details and take notes of any changes in a patient's condition or behavior. They may work in medical offices, hospitals or other facilities where people with mental health issues are treated.

Job responsibilities of a psychiatrist include:

  • Diagnosing patients
  • Determining the best treatment for patients
  • Prescribing medication
  • Ordering medical tests to confirm or clarify diagnosis
  • Observing patients
  • Updating patient records

Neurologists

Neurologists are medical doctors, and they must have a medical degree and license. They also have to complete internship and residency requirements and specialize in neurology. Once they are licensed to work as a neurologist they typically work in an office or hospital. Their patients have nervous system problems, and they may treat patients with issues such as multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injuries. They need strong communication and assessment skills in order to effectively treat their patients.

Job responsibilities of a neurologist include:

  • Reviewing a patient's medical history
  • Identifying potential medical concerns
  • Sending patients for tests
  • Explaining a diagnosis to a patient
  • Choosing a treatment plan
  • Writing prescriptions for patients

Related Careers

Those who are interested in becoming a psychiatrist may also be interested in working as a mental health counselor, since they also work with patients who have mental health problems. Aspiring neurologists may also be interested in becoming a neurosurgeon, since neurosurgeons are qualified to operate on patients with neurological problems.

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