What Is A Psychiatry Salary Compared To Other Mental Health Professionals?

Updated February 6, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, social workers - there are so many different types of mental health professionals out there, each with its perspective on mental health care. Although it can be difficult to tell them apart, these professions typically differ in many ways, including how much training they receive, their approach to mental health, and the types of treatment they can offer their clients. However, these professions tend to differ in one less apparent, although still crucial, aspect: salary. The average psychiatry salary varies notably from that of other mental health professionals because the profession requires attending medical school and meeting higher qualifications than other options.

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What Is Psychiatry?

Psychiatry is the medical study of mental illnesses and disorders, which psychiatrists then attempt to diagnose and treat. Being a psychiatrist is much like being a “regular” doctor, but instead of focusing on physical ailments, psychiatric professionals focus on the mind.

An easy trick to remember what a psychiatrist does is to look into the origins of the word itself. The word "psychiatry" is derived from the Greek root words psykhe and iatreia. These root words mean "mind" and "healing" respectively. Psychiatry, then, involves identifying and treating a patient's mental illnesses.

Psychiatrists treat disorders through a variety of methods ranging from recommending talk therapy to administering electroconvulsive therapy. However, unlike other mental health professionals, psychiatrists can prescribe medication to their patients due to their status as medical doctors.

Diagnosing mental illnesses in psychiatry involves a lot of conversation and testing. Psychiatrists may meet with a potential patient to talk through the problems that they are having and will typically order a physical examination as well.

After ruling out any physical issues that can present symptoms that coincide with mental illnesses, the psychiatrist will diagnose the patient. Once a diagnosis has been achieved, they will then begin a treatment course.

How Psychiatrists Are Different From Other Mental Health Professionals

Just as medical doctors tend to make more money than emergency medical technicians or nurses, psychiatrists tend to make more than other mental health professionals. This difference in salary often results from the amount of training that psychiatrists receive.

Licensed psychiatrists obtain extensive training before being able to practice. Psychiatrists are required to go through four years of undergraduate as well as four years of medical school. After this, doctors must complete an additional four-year residence in a hospital. Finally, psychiatrists may choose to undergo additional training to specialize in areas such as geriatric psychiatry or sleep medicine.

Psychiatrists are also required to gain a state license to practice and are generally encouraged to become certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. This certification states that their psychiatrists are qualified to treat a host of psychiatric disorders by completing lab tests, prescribing medications, and providing whatever treatment is necessary. Board-certified psychiatrists can also provide intervention and consultant services.

In contrast, psychologists will typically have advanced degrees in psychology, but have not attended medical school or completed a residency at a psychiatric hospital. Still able to diagnose and treat their patients, psychologists typically use talk therapy to address the symptoms of mental illness. Because they do not have medical degrees, psychologists cannot prescribe medication and cannot order physical examinations to be done.

The training associated with becoming a social worker or professional counselor involves completing a bachelor's degree and a master's degree. Upon completing a master's degree in social worker, an internship, and licensing processes are necessary. Social workers and professional counselors help address the mental health needs of their clients, too.

Though their methods and means of treating patients vary greatly, psychologists, professional counselors, social workers, and psychiatrists typically work together as a team when treating a patient. Social workers may direct clients toward a psychologist for therapy, while psychologists often refer patients to psychiatrists for medication. The cooperation of each mental health professional can be a necessary part of ensuring that patients are treated effectively and efficiently.

How Much Do Psychiatrists Make?

The psychiatry salary is often much higher than that of other mental health care professionals. As of 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual salary for a psychiatrist is $249,760 per year.

Psychiatrists' salaries fluctuate based on where they live and practice, how much experience they have, and how specialized their practice is. For example, a psychiatrist that has thirty years of experience in the field and is living in a high-need area will typically make more money than a newly licensed psychiatrist. Similarly, a psychiatrist that has specialized in a specific subsection of their fields, such as child and adolescent psychiatry, will typically earn more than a general psychiatrist.

Typically, however, a psychiatrist will earn more per year than any other mental health professional. However, despite their medical degree, some psychiatrists will earn less than other medical doctors. The comparison depends on a variety of factors. For example, a brain surgeon with years of experience will earn far more than a general psychiatrist with only a few years of experience. Location, again, may also cause these salaries to change.

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Apart from salary, psychiatrists cite doctor-patient relationships and flexible hours as additional benefits of the job.

How Much Do Other Mental Health Professionals Make?

As opposed to the psychiatry salary, the salaries of other mental health professionals tend to vary greatly. These salaries are also more similar to those of any other professional rather than that of a doctor.

Psychologists, counselors, social workers, and therapist salary estimates are anywhere from $40,000 and $70,000 a year. Although these mental health professionals often have advanced degrees and years of experience, they still typically make far less than the average psychiatrist due to their lack of a medical degree.

Much like the salary of a psychiatrist, however, the salaries of other mental health professionals can vary based on location, experience, and specialization. A psychologist with decades of experience and a specialization in industrial-organizational psychology or forensic psychology, for example, could make more than other types of psychologists.

What Can You Do Next?

Learning the average salary of mental health professionals as well as understanding the training and experience that goes into these professions can demystify the high costs of mental health care. Even so, these costs often make it difficult for many people to obtain care from a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker.

Of course, when seeking the help of a mental health professional, many hope to find a trusted, experienced care provider that won't break the budget. However, receiving this type of psychiatric care can be expensive, overwhelming, or inaccessible. If care from a medical doctor is out of reach, there may still be a way to seek professional help for mental health symptoms or simply to receive support and advice.

Online therapy can provide help that is discrete and available on your time, which means that you can speak to a professional at a time and location that makes sense for your schedule. Whether you’re looking to pursue regular care or would like to gain insight as you start your own path into the world of mental health treatment, a therapist can help. 

Meeting with a therapist through the web is not only convenient, but it can also save you a lot of money. One review of several studies analyzing the efficacy of online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) noted that online treatment is more cost-effective for patients than in-person treatment. Because it’s accessible, flexible, and affordable, online therapy can be a great way to get started working with a professional who understands your goals.


Psychiatrists generally make significantly more than other mental health professionals due to the rigorous training and education that they must go through before beginning to practice. Because they’re more similar to doctors than therapists, psychiatrists have a salary to match; it’s a specialized job that requires a lot of preparation, but it’s also one that can be rewarding to pursue.

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