Consultant Psychiatrist vs. Clinical Psychologist: What Differs One from Another?

In the field of mental health jobs, we hear the term “Psychologist” and “Psychiatrist” and some people might mistake a psychologist for a psychiatrist. Even some consider both having the same meaning, but no, they are different. Who are they? What’s the difference?

Though both study the brain, thoughts, feelings and emotions, there is a distinct difference between the two fields of study. What makes them different can be seen from their education requirements, the specific training, practice or work, and of course, salary.

Education Requirements and Specific Training

  • Clinical psychologists
    Clinical psychologists start their education with an undergraduate major in psychology. After earning either a bachelor of science in psychology or a bachelor of art in psychology, they need to attend a graduate program to earn a master’s degree as well as a doctorate degree in psychology. Following undergraduate classes, an additional five to seven years is required for obtaining a doctorate degree. Most countries require a two year internship before they are qualified for licensing or with two years of supervised practice. While obtaining a degree, they can also choose to specialize in a particular field of psychology, which may require additional class time and/or additional state exams for licensure.
  • Consultant psychiatrists
    Consultant psychiatrists, on the other hand, have to go to medical school. After they complete an undergraduate degree in science, they have to attend a graduate program to complete their medical degree. Following medical school, they have to finish four years of residency, during which time their training would be in psychiatry. The residency is particularly completed at a hospital on the psychiatric unit. Following an internship and residency, they need to pass a state exam in order to become a licensed medical doctor; an additional exam is also required in order to become a licensed psychiatrist.

What They Do
If you are still confused about their difference, the key difference between a consultant psychiatrist and a clinical psychologist is that a consultant psychiatrist is a qualified medical doctor, but a clinical psychologist is not. A consultant psychiatrist is able to prescribe medicines, while clinical psychologist cannot, but they may recommend a patient to come to a fellow psychiatrist to receive more proper medications.

  • Clinical psychologists
    They typically diagnose and treat mental, emotional, and behavioural disorders. They provide continuous and comprehensive mental and behavioural health care for individuals and families, but they cannot prescribe medicines for their patients. They assist in the evaluation of the mental health needs of patients and undertake psychological therapies with individuals and groups. They mainly focus on the patients’ thoughts, feelings and general mental health.
  • Consultant psychiatrists
    They sometimes deal with a more serious mental or behavioural disorder, as they are able to prescribe medicines and use psychological treatments for their patients, especially ones with depression. Some often work in community mental health teams, while some consultant psychiatrists work in various specialist teams. While clinical psychologists recommend their patients to see a psychiatrist for a proper medication, consultant psychiatrists often refer patients to psychotherapists and psychologist to receive continuous counselling and/or mental health therapy. Consultant psychiatrists pay attention to the patients’ well-being; however, their focus is mainly towards disorders like a chemical imbalance.

As they undergo different kinds of studies, of course their salary is also different. Clinical psychologists in Australia earn an average base salary of AU$72,877 per year, while consultant psychiatrists earn an average base salary of AU$315,599 per year. Consultant psychiatrists typically make a larger income per year due to the medical degree.

That’s all you need to know about their difference! For your information, though both are different, they may work in the same team. Both career choices require several years of commitment to studies, but the results will be rewarding.


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