What is the Difference Between Counseling and Psychology Degrees?

If you are interested in a career helping people with emotional and psychological issues, you might have wondered about the difference between counseling and psychology. There are many similarities in the professions; both involve treating struggling people. The differences, though, are in the way people are helped and in the type, and length, of education required to get the degrees.

Difference in Approach

Psychologists do a lot of research. They also administer and assess psychological tests such as those that measure IQ or neurological functioning. Their clients often have serious mental illnesses, and psychologists can prescribe medications to help in treatment.

Counselors sometimes administer tests as well, but they are more limited in the ones they use and in their assessment. They work with people who are dealing with temporary challenges and, according to an article on the Counselor License.com website, the professionals tend to have more “practical” approaches using the research to arrive at treatment protocols. They cannot prescribe medication.

Difference in Education

In general, Psychologists must have a doctoral degree to practice. That means a Ph.D. in Psychology or a Psy.D. There are some exceptions to this; occupational, organizational psychologists may have master’s degrees. To work face-to-face with clients, however, psychologists must be licensed and, though states differ in some requirements, all require a doctoral-level education for licensure.

The curricula psychologists study contains a lot of statistics courses, quantitative assessment, and research methodology. They also must present a dissertation. The American Psychological Association sets their curriculum. Counselors generally have master’s degrees. Their curriculum is overseen by CACREP and includes courses dealing with things like human growth and development and the issues that arise in diverse cultures. They are able to specialize their degrees in many ways such as clinical psychology, counseling psychology, forensic psychology, experimental psychology and others.

Counselors learn practical skills to help people. While some areas of specialization require 48 hours of credits for licensing, many mental health counseling programs are requiring 60 hours. Both require extensive fieldwork and internships. Counselors must accrue 3000 hours of supervised clinical work after graduation from the two-year master’s program to become licensed, according to “Everyday Life Global Posts.” It takes five years to earn a Ph.D. in Psychology, followed by an internship.

Difference in Work Places

Counselors may work in public or private schools, in clinics or hospitals, in rehabilitation facilities, prisons and in private practice. They earn a median salary of $53,370 a year. They work in colleges to help students find financial aid or plan degree paths. They may also work in nursing homes helping older people and their families deal with issues surrounding aging and debility.

Psychologists may work in schools as well but, if they do, they are more likely to work with specific populations such as special needs students. Often one psychologist serves an entire district and divides his time between schools. Psychologists are also found in many other places where counselors practice and their functions may sometimes overlap. They often teach or do research at universities and colleges and in governmental agencies. The median wage for psychologists is $87,150.

Both professions focus on helping people. They often overlap, but their capabilities and job requirements are specific. Before deciding upon a career path it is important to understand the Difference Between Counseling and Psychology.

Related: the 10 Most Affordable Online Counseling Degree Programs (Bachelor’s)