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

Updated December 17, 2018

Reviewer Tanya Harell

The world of mental health care can seem indecipherable to a newcomer. 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.

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However, these professions tend to differ in one less apparent, although still crucial, aspect: salary. The psychiatry salary, in particular, often varies notably from that of other mental health professionals. It is this element, as well, that is often a barrier to understanding the field of mental health care.

Whether seeking the aid of a mental health professional or hoping to become one yourself, it can be helpful to understand how much these professionals are paid. As a hopeful mental health practitioner, you may want to get a glimpse at your future salary. Or, as a possible client, you may want to explore the potential costs of receiving care.

Before exploring the salary of these professionals, however, it is important to understand what psychiatry is and how it differs from other mental health professions.

What Is Psychiatry?

To understand and explain psychiatry, it is important to remember that, although it deals with mental health, it is an area of medicine. Just like other medical professions, it looks at health from a physiological standpoint.

But what is psychiatry? Psychiatry is the medical study of mental illnesses and disorders, which psychiatrists then attempt to diagnose and treat.

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. They range from recommending talk therapy to administering electroconvulsive therapy. However, unlike other mental health professionals, psychiatrists can prescribe medication to their patients due to their statuses as medical doctors.

Diagnosing mental illnesses in psychiatry involves a lot of conversation and testing. Psychiatrists 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.

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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 combat 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 and/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. Social workers and professional counselors also often pursue advanced degrees.

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 is necessary to ensure 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. Due to their extensive amount of training and their medical background, psychiatrists tend to make anywhere from $61,000 to over $250,000 a 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, will 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.

Whether working in a hospital, for the government, or in their private practice, psychiatrists are usually amply compensated for their work and the training that they have received.

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 therapists typically make 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.

Aside from salary, however, mental health professionals typically gain fulfillment from their ability to impact another person's life. However, some mental health professionals, like social workers, also have high rates of job burnout.

While other mental health professionals do not have to undergo as much training as psychiatrists, they are, accordingly, paid markedly less than psychiatrists. However, many of the services that these mental health professionals provide to their clients are similar to those provided by psychiatrists. Most mental health professionals meet with patients and diagnose disorders, just as psychiatrists do. Similarly, psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers all develop treatment plans for their clients and help administer them.

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 is still a way to seek professional help for your problems.

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BetterHelp can set you up with cheap, convenient counseling that can give you the care you need. With over 1,500,000 registered users and 2500 licensed counselors, BetterHelp is a service you can trust. With a variety of flexible, digital counseling options, BetterHelp can provide help that is discrete and available on your time, which means that there is no reason to put off getting the help you need. Users of BetterHelp can communicate with their counselors by exchanging messages, instant messaging, talking on the phone, or through video conferencing.

Once you fill out a short questionnaire, BetterHelp can place you with a counselor that will be right for you and your needs. If you are tired of struggling, head over to BetterHelp today.


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