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Pharmacist vs. Psychiatrist: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

Pharmacists and psychiatrists are both medical professionals who help people with their health. Though they have some similarities, these two job titles have many differences. If you’re interested in working in either field, it’s important to understand the requirements, duties and salary expectations of each. In this article, we compare and contrast pharmacists and psychiatrists, and we provide helpful information about both professions.

What is a Pharmacist?

Pharmacists dispense medication prescribed by physicians and other health practitioners and provide information to patients about the medication. They interpret and communicate this information to patients, as well as health care professionals. Pharmacists are responsible for ensuring that the medications they dispense will be effective for the patient and that there are no negative interactions with other medications the patient is taking. They also counsel patients on the proper use of their medication, including dosage, side effects and storage. Pharmacists typically work in pharmacies, but they may also work in hospitals, clinics or other healthcare settings.

What is a Psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating mental health disorders. They use a combination of medical tests, physical exams, psychological evaluations and observations to arrive at a diagnosis. Once a diagnosis is made, psychiatrists work with patients to develop a treatment plan. This may include medication, psychotherapy or a combination of the two. Psychiatrists also provide counseling and support to patients and their families to help them better understand and cope with mental illness.

Pharmacist vs. Psychiatrist

Here are the main differences between a pharmacist and a psychiatrist.

Job Duties

Psychiatrists and pharmacists both work to improve patient health. However, their daily tasks differ because of the different types of treatments they provide. Psychiatrists evaluate a patient’s mental health and treat it through medication. They also perform diagnostic evaluations and assessments to determine the best type of treatment for a patient.

Pharmacists assess and manage medications for patients. They do this by providing medical advice about medications and filling prescriptions. Additionally, pharmacists educate patients on how to properly use their medications. They may also advise patients on other ways to improve their overall health.

Job Requirements

Pharmacists typically need a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree to enter the field, which takes four years to complete. During their studies, pharmacists take classes on topics like chemistry, biology and physiology. They also complete clinical rotations in different settings, such as hospitals and community pharmacies. After graduating, pharmacists must obtain a license from the state they wish to practice in. Some states require pharmacists to pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) before they can be licensed.

Psychiatrists must first earn a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, such as psychology or pre-medicine. They then attend medical school for four years and complete a residency program, which could take an additional four years. Psychiatrists must also obtain a license from the state they wish to practice in. To do this, they must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).

Work Environment

Pharmacists work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, retail pharmacies and long-term care facilities. They may also work for pharmaceutical companies to develop new medications or conduct research. Psychiatrists typically work in medical centers, such as psychiatric hospitals, where they provide mental health services to patients. Some psychiatrists work in private practice, while others work in correctional facilities.


Both pharmacists and psychiatrists use critical thinking skills to solve problems that arise in their work. For pharmacists, this may involve troubleshooting issues with medication orders or finding the root cause of a negative reaction a patient is having to a medication. For psychiatrists, critical thinking skills are used when diagnosing patients and determining the best course of treatment.

Both pharmacists and psychiatrists need to have excellent communication skills. Pharmacists need to be able to explain complex medical information to patients in a way that is easy for them to understand. Psychiatrists need to be able to build rapport with patients and effectively communicate their diagnosis and treatment plan.

While both pharmacists and psychiatrists need to have a strong understanding of human anatomy and physiology, pharmacists also need to have a detailed knowledge of medications and how they interact with the body. This knowledge is used to fill prescriptions and advise patients on over-the-counter medications. Psychiatrists need to have a deep understanding of mental health conditions and how they affect the mind and body. They also need to be familiar with different types of treatments, including medication, therapy and lifestyle changes.


The average salary for a pharmacist is $128,828 per year, while the average salary for a psychiatrist is $240,179 per year. The average salary for both professions can vary depending on the location of the job, the type of employer, the level of experience and the level of education.


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