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What is the difference between psychology and psychiatry?

There has been a rise in Australia for those experiencing mental health issues and seeking professional assistance for psychological based problems. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has reported that there was an estimated 15% of young people aged 18–24 experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress in 2017-2018, and 4.3 million people given mental-health related prescriptions in Australia during 2018-2019. However, this figure does not include therapy sessions and non-prescriptive psychological care. The ever-growing number of clients who require psychological care have resulted in a demand for highly skilled and trained professionals who are able to give treatment. Both psychologists and psychiatrists are trained to meet this need, with both roles having the ability to treat different clients.

Key difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist

Understanding human behaviour and how the mind works can be a fascinating and rewarding career path. Psychologists and psychiatrists are both healthcare professionals who are able to help clients understand and better manage their ways of thinking and behaving through detailed approaches. The key difference between psychologists and psychiatrists is that psychiatrists are trained medical doctors who specialise in psychiatry following medical school. Studying psychiatry can take over eleven years of formal tertiary training. Whereas, becoming a psychologist typically requires a total of six years of tertiary training, made up of university education and supervised experience. When pursuing a career in psychiatry or psychology in Australia, there are various pathway options available and these timeframes are provided as the ‘typical’ route.

A career as a psychologist vs psychiatrist

Both psychology and psychiatry are rewarding and necessary jobs that help the wider community long term. Understand the key elements involved in pursuing a career in psychology and psychiatry, alongside the day-to-day responsibilities to gain further insight into this valuable career path.

Career as a psychologist

Psychologists work closely with their clients, often aligning with others professionals, to recognise, diagnose and treat different psychological challenges and conditions (emotional problems, behaviours and behavioural patterns). It is a people-centric scientific field, and psychologists work to help others improve their current circumstances, and investigate how and why the mind influences behaviour. As a highly regulated field, all practising psychologists must be registered with the Psychology Board of Australia and there are multiple pathway options to reach this goal. Once certified, the average annual salary of a psychologist is $75,296 in Australia and this figure continues to grow with experience in the field.

Pay by Experience Level for Psychologists

Psychologist salary in Australia (Source:


Psychology remains an evolving industry with several pathways to take - the options vary with different areas of psychological practice, such as Clinical Psychology, Educational Psychology, or even Sports Performance Psychology. Psychologists work with clients to manage problems ranging from short-term challenges to severe and ongoing emotional and behavioural disorders. These challenges can result from genetic predispositions, environmental stressors, interpersonal relationships, personal traumas and more. 

Roles and responsibilities of a psychologist

  • Conduct psychological examinations and provide a professional opinion regarding mental treatments and psychological diagnosis,
  • Create treatment plans and teach coping skills for clients changing their lifestyle or environment,
  • Document a client’s progress and measure their psychological development,
  • Assist clients through the implementation of treatment plans like psychotherapy, group therapy, behaviour modification and more.

Career as a psychiatrist

Psychiatrists treat and diagnose a patient’s psychological behavioural patterns and are trained to meet the needs of those with inherent neurological imbalances and obstacles. However, the main difference between psychologists and psychiatrists is that psychiatrists generally treat patients with mental disorders and can administer treatment or medication to overcome this. Psychiatrists must complete a medical degree and become a doctor, work in a hospital environment for at least 12 months, and then apply for a medical specialisation in psychiatry. Once fully qualified, psychiatrists can earn an average salary of $125,476 in Australia. With experience and knowledge working as a doctor, psychiatrists can treat mental illness under the medical model.

Pay by Experience Level for Psychiatrists

Psychiatrists Salary in Australia


Key responsibilities of a psychiatrist

  • Preventing, treating and monitoring mental health conditions,
  • Administering medication to help mental health conditions and overseeing the patient’s overall health and the effects of this medication,
  • Providing expert insight into a patient's mental wellbeing and delivering advice to their support system.

Why you should choose to study human behaviour

Having the expertise in human behaviour is not only valued within psychology, but remains a skill that is appreciated across different industries. Psychology has been used across criminology to help understand why people commit crimes, whilst marketing utilises psychology to understand purchasing patterns and consumer behaviour. 

Where to study psychology

Finding the right school that fits into your lifestyle is important when taking the next step in your psychological career. Study psychology online with The University of Adelaide that offers psychology courses that fill your educational requirements to move forward as a psychologist. The Graduate Diploma in Psychology online is a program designed for those with non-psychology related bachelor’s degrees, it allows students to learn essential psychology foundations.

Once you successfully finish the graduate diploma, the next step towards becoming a psychologist is the Graduate Diploma of Psychology Advanced, a 100% online equivalent to an on-campus psychology honours program. The University of Adelaide has been accredited by the Australian Psychology Accreditation Council (APAC) as a recognised program that will contribute to an official psychology registration. The University of Adelaide is a Group of Eight university which makes it a leading education provider in Australia. Choose to learn from a prestigious and trusted University and help make a difference in people’s lives.

To learn how a Graduate Diploma in Psychology is the first step towards a career in psychology, make an appointmentto speak with an advisor today.