If you have an interest in the inner workings of the brain and human performance, you may be wondering how a neuroscience degree is different from a psychology degree. This is understandable since both disciplines relate to the mind and are easily confused. Taking just a few moments to learn more about neuroscience and psychology now will enable you to decide which degree program best meets your future career aspirations and employment needs.
What is Neuroscience?
Neuroscience is the study of the brain and nervous system. This entails study of the structures and biochemical of the neurological system, as well as the ways in which the outside world influences brain health. Another key area of neuroscientific discovery is how the brain shapes our perceptions, thoughts, and behaviors. Since there are more than 100 billion nerve cells and a multitude of functional neurological circuits, brain researchers have quite a bit of research that needs to be done. For this reason, neuroscientists often spend years, decades, or even an entire career studying one structure in the brain or a nerve tract. Therefore, neuroscience degree programs are typically at the graduate level and most neuroscientists have a doctorate. Taking as many biology, chemistry, and other science course is great preparation for entering such a rigorous graduate program. Although many neuroscientists work in research labs, a neuroscientist who is also a Medical Doctor can also work with patients in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and other medical settings. If you choose to go the MD/PhD route, you will spend at least a decade earning the necessary degrees.
How Does a Psychology Degree Compare with One in Neuroscience?
While psychologists also study normal and abnormal mental, emotional, and behavioral health, they often do so with more of a clinically based focus. While a neuroscientist may study the prefrontal cortex, a psychologist may focus on the impact of judgement on behavior, which is one way the prefrontal cortex portion of the brain interacts with everyday life. Simply put, practitioners in some specialties of psychology can be considered applied neurologists, helping individuals learn how to make the behavior changes needed to improve their health, relationships, and many other important aspects of their lives. Earning a psychology degree, particularly at the graduate level, can also give you valuable skills to help people better cope with trauma, tragedy, and other life crises. Some of the more traditional specialties within the discipline of psychology include clinical psychology, experimental psychology, forensic psychology, and educational psychology. Engineering psychology is a newer specialty focusing on how people interact with machines. One key difference between neuroscience and psychology degrees are that psychology degrees are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Internships, certification programs and continuing education trainings are available in both fields, as are mentorships and shadowing days. If you are currently in high school or college, your guidance counselor or academic advisor can help you arrange such meetings and offer you materials to learn more about the differences between a neuroscience degree and a psychology degree.