Psychiatrist vs. Psychologist Salary – What’s the Difference?

Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

Are you considering a career as a mental health professional? There are several avenues you can choose that present the opportunity to care for a patient's emotional and mental well-being. Among the most common questions, people ask when choosing a career are those regarding earning potential. In this article, we will compare the salary difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist. In addition to psychiatrist vs. psychologist salary, we will also discuss some benefits and perks of both careers.

Psychiatrist vs. Psychologist: What Do They Do?

The roles of psychologists and psychiatrists are similar. However, there are some distinct differences in their practice roles.

Psychologists focus mainly on behavior. Some of the services that psychologists perform include:

• Mental health counseling
• Use talk therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy
• Prescribing medication is limited to Louisiana, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, and Idaho. If they hold credentials in Louisiana or • New Mexico, they may prescribe anywhere in the military and in the Indian Health Service.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors. Although they may offer counseling services, their practice range is broader than that of a psychologist. For example, psychiatrists may:

• Order lab or other diagnostic testing
• Conduct physical examinations
• Prescribe medications without having limits due to geographical location

Psychologists typically focus on how emotions and behavior are connected. Psychiatrists are trained to examine the mental and emotional state of a patient and to implement psychotherapeutic measures focused on managing mental health disorders with mental health and medical interventions.


Entry-Level Psychiatrist vs. Psychologist Salary

The entry-level salary of psychologists versus psychiatrists generally differs by almost $30,000 annually. Although they are both professional degrees, the fact that a psychiatrist has a medical degree is a factor in the more substantial beginning income.

Psychologists usually earn a median entry-level salary of approximately $46,100, and psychiatrists begin with an annual salary near $75,000. Psychiatrists or psychologists who live in areas with higher living costs may be offered higher beginning salaries to compensate for those expenses. In areas where there is an increased need for mental health providers, some companies offer to help with the cost of relocation to get qualified providers.

Occupation Entry-Level Salary
Psychiatrist $74,530
Psychologist $46,100
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Hourly Psychologist vs. Psychiatrist Salary

When considering each professional's hourly pay, the difference between psychologist and psychiatrist salary is almost $60 per hour. On average, psychiatrists earn approximately $105 per hour. The hourly salary range for psychiatrists may be from $95 to $120 per hour or more. Psychologists, on the other hand, earn just less than $50 per hour on average. According to, psychologists may make from $39 to $50 per hour.

Occupation Average Hourly Pay
Psychiatrist $105.98
Psychologist $47.23
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Average Annual Salary of Psychiatrists vs. Psychologists

On average, psychiatrists make a little over twice as much annually as psychologists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that psychiatrists typically make an annual salary of $220,430, and psychologists earn about $98,230 each year.

Annual income may vary some depending on where the psychologist or psychiatrist works, whether they are required to work nights or weekends and where they are geographically located. Other factors that may impact salary include years of experience and whether the position is an administrative role.

According to a 2019 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following are some examples of psychologists' jobs and what they pay.

• Elementary and Secondary School psychologist: $80,180
• Offices of Other Health Practitioners: $100,300
• Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals: $86,350
• Outpatient Care Centers: $99,870
• Child Day Care Services: $120,130

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports income for psychiatrists in the following positions:

• Offices of Physicians: $214,50
• Outpatient Care Centers: $250,230
• Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals: $227,460
• Individual and Family Services: $236,580
• Home Health Care Services: $253,090

Occupation Average Annual Salary
Psychiatrist $220,430
Psychologist $98,230
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Experience-Wise Psychologist vs. Psychiatrist Salary

While psychiatrists generally make more money than psychologists, the salary difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist is more diverse as each professional achieves additional years of experience.

For example, an entry-level psychiatrist typically makes approximately $74,530. However, in as little as five years, that salary may double. With twenty or more years' experience, a psychiatrist's salary typically doubles again, and they can earn about $208,000 annually. Psychologists begin their careers with an average annual income of around $46,000. With five to nine years of experience, they can double that income, and by twenty years, earn almost $130,000 annually.

Occupation Level of Experience Hourly Monthly Annual
Psychiatrist Starting (Entry-Level) $35.83 $6,210 $74,530
1-4 Years of Experience $71.85 $12,450 $149,440
5-9 Years of Experience $100.00 $17,330 $208,000
10-19 Years of Experience $100.00 $17,330 $208,000
20 Years or More Experience $100.00 $17,330 $208,000
Psychologist Starting (Entry-Level) $22.16 $3,840 $46,100
1-4 Years of Experience $36.41 $6,310 $75,740
5-9 Years of Experience $48.94 $8,480 $101,790
10-19 Years of Experience $55.23 $9,570 $114,870
20 Years or More Experience $62.27 $10,790 $129,530

Employee Benefits and Perks

Having a career in healthcare often means being afforded benefits and perks. Benefits are any advantage or profit that is gained from something else. For psychologists and psychiatrists, benefits may include participating in employer-sponsored health insurance and retirement plans and having paid sick, annual, or personal time. Although some psychologists and psychiatrists may choose to work in hospitals or in-patient facilities, many work in office settings and enjoy the perk of having nights, weekends, and holidays off work.

It is also worth noting that, although financial perks and benefits are a plus, working as a psychologist or psychiatrist can be very rewarding. People who work in both professions have the opportunity to help people grow and learn about themselves and those they love, explore new challenges, and develop on a personal level, as well.

Psychologist vs. Psychiatrist Salary Outlook

With growing numbers of people living longer and having age-related mental changes, the unfortunate number of addiction disorders, and overall awareness of the importance of mental health and wellness, a career as psychologists or psychiatrists look promising. When there is an increased need for a service, this means that providers are in a better position to negotiate salaries. With the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimating a 16 percent increase in jobs for psychiatrists and an 11 percent increase for psychologists, it is safe to say that salary outlook is favorable for both professionals.

State-Wise Psychiatrist vs. Psychologist Salary

One of the most influential factors related to potential salary offerings is where a person lives. This is true of healthcare careers, such as psychiatrist and psychologist careers. It is understandable that geographical areas that have higher cost of living expenses typically offer higher salaries to offset those expenses.

Currently, Arizona is the state with the highest reported salary for psychiatrists, with an average annual income of $270,890. Louisiana pays psychiatrists the least around $104,270. California pays psychologists the highest yearly salary at approximately $117,610, while Montana pays the least, about $72,020.

The psychiatrist vs psychologist salary in California is a good example of how the cost of living affects one's earning potential. In California, psychiatrists make almost $240,000 annually, and psychologists make over $117,000. This is a difference of about $119,000 annually. Arizona has a more significant gap in salary with over $180,000 annual difference.

State Psychiatrist Psychologist The Difference in Salary Between Psychiatrists & Psychologists
Alabama $168,340 $91,970 $76,370
Alaska $197,680 $112,260 $85,420
Arizona $270,890 $89,810 $181,080
Arkansas $180,820 $85,270 $95,550
California $236,930 $117,610 $119,320
Colorado $243,030 $97,790 $145,240
Connecticut $254,310 $88,460 $165,850
Delaware N/A N/A N/A
District of Columbia $168,850 $98,530 $70,320
Florida $203,830 $95,040 $108,790
Georgia $246,500 $95,490 $151,010
Idaho $212,930 $92,410 $120,520
Illinois $246,090 N/A N/A
Indiana $264,260 $75,520 $188,740
Iowa $214,790 $97,410 $117,380
Kansas $255,980 $104,980 $151,000
Kentucky $217,920 $86,580 $131,340
Louisiana $104,270 $90,190 $14,080
Maine $273,900 $75,670 $198,230
Maryland $195,260 $112,260 $83,000
Massachusetts $214,760 $89,600 $125,160
Michigan $199,170 $86,190 $112,980
Minnesota $243,190 $95,250 $147,940
Mississippi $239,720 $86,110 $153,610
Missouri $241,670 $87,940 $153,730
Montana $158,650 $72,020 $86,630
Nebraska $262,570 $79,020 $183,550
Nevada $249,250 $87,250 $162,000
New Hampshire $256,460 $94,800 $161,660
New Jersey $247,320 N/A N/A
New Mexico $240,350 $83,560 $156,790
New York $216,280 $97,190 $119,090
North Carolina $183,130 $88,880 $94,250
North Dakota $264,770 N/A N/A
Ohio $214,490 $93,510 $120,980
Oklahoma $212,680 $83,920 $128,760
Oregon $237,540 N/A N/A
Pennsylvania $208,550 $90,320 $118,230
Rhode Island $223,530 N/A N/A
South Carolina $171,110 $83,100 $88,010
Tennessee $211,620 $85,800 $125,820
Texas $209,980 $92,270 $117,710
Utah $120,440 $88,430 $32,010
Vermont $202,640 N/A N/A
Virginia $196,150 $103,100 $93,050
Washington $247,190 $103,440 $143,750
West Virginia $162,570 $80,250 $82,320
Wisconsin $202,240 $82,350 $119,890
Hawaii N/A $86,430 N/A
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Annual Job Openings Comparison

With a combined 17,600 estimated job openings for psychiatrists and psychologists each year, the future of these mental health care professionals looks promising. Annual job openings are determined by adding the number of expected new and replacement positions that may become available. New positions are a reflection of the increased need for services. Replacement positions occur when employees reach retirement age or change career paths.

Occupation New Replacement Annual Job Openings (New + Replacement)
Psychiatrist 460 940 1,400
Psychologist 210 15,990 16,200
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Job Outlook Comparison

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the outlook for job growth for both psychiatrists and psychologists looks promising. This projected growth may be attributed to the increased demand for mental health services in a variety of settings.

Today, many private companies offer mental health services to employees. Additionally, rehabilitation and treatment centers, social service companies, mental health clinics, and hospitals continue to increase their use of these skilled professionals. Many schools now offer the services of mental health professionals due to substance abuse in adolescents, domestic abuse issues, and the occurrence of bullying.

In 2018, there were approximately 25,000 psychiatrists actively practicing in the United States. The Bureau reports that psychiatrists should see a 16.8% growth from 2018 to 2028. It also suggests that psychologists will see an 11.48% growth within the same time frame.

Occupation Employment New Employment Growth (2018-2028)
2018 2028 Number %
Psychiatrist 28,600 33,200 4,600 16.08%
Psychologist 18,300 20,400 2,100 11.48%
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

The Bottom Line

If you are considering a career as a mental health professional, both psychiatrist and psychologist career paths offer promising opportunities. After comparing psychologist vs psychiatrist salary, job outlook, and salary outlook, perhaps you have a clearer understanding of which career may be a better fit for you. The most important thing is to choose a career that fits your professional and personal goals.

Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years' experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels.