Difference Between Psychiatrist & Therapist

This article discusses the similarities and differences between psychologists and therapists, including their daily tasks, salaries, educational requirements, and job outlooks.

Comparing Psychiatrists to Therapists

Psychiatrists work closely with patients and may even meet with other health care professionals to bring about the healing of those with mental disorders. Similarly, therapists have clients they meet with to encourage mental and emotional health. Though there are many similarities between these two careers, the responsibilities and duties of each are slightly different. Examine some of the key career details in the table below.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2014-2024)**
Psychiatrist Doctoral degree $195,564 15%
Therapist Master's degree (for all mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists) $44,170 19% (for all mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists)

Sources: *, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Psychiatrists vs. Therapists

Psychiatrists and therapists both aim to help people with mental and emotional disorders. Therapists may work in private practices, mental health facilities, and even schools. Unlike a therapist, however, a psychiatrist can prescribe medicine to aid in the recovery of their patient. Additionally, a psychiatrist may develop research on mental disorders by conducting case studies, while therapists are more interested in the one-on-one treatment of clients.


Psychiatrists evaluate patients for mental disorders by observing and interviewing them. Extensive knowledge of human behavior and brain function is essential for this career, as it is their job to conduct probing tests and prescribe the necessary medicine or other treatments for any mental illness that may be discovered during these tests. This ability to prescribe medicine, much like a doctor, is why psychiatrists must become licensed and board-certified.

Job responsibilities of a psychiatrist include:

  • Document patient visits to share with other medical professionals
  • Collect patient's medical history to ensure the selection of appropriate treatment
  • Assess success of treatment and patient progress
  • Review academic literature on various mental illnesses to gain an understanding of treatment options


Therapists can work with couples, families, and school children in various settings. They often assist clients with their mental and emotional illnesses, such as anxiety, depression, and body dysmorphia. Therapists listen to clients as they share emotions and life events. Then, utilizing various cognitive and behavioral therapy techniques, therapists guide clients towards recovery. As they meet with clients, therapists must take notes on the discussion, including any treatments or progress.

Job responsibilities of a therapist include:

  • Track the progress and attendance of clients through detailed files and notes
  • Develop strategies for behavioral or emotional growth for their clients
  • Encourage couples and families to share their feelings in a safe and open environment
  • Refer clients to support groups or treatment facilities if necessary for further progress

Related Careers

If being a psychiatrist suites you, perhaps exploring a future as a physician could be for you. Both of these careers require knowledge of anatomy and an interest in healing people. Of course, if a career as a therapist interests you, it may be beneficial to look into a future as a social worker, as professionals in both these careers seek to reach out to those in need and help them.

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