What is the Difference Between a Counseling Degree and a Psychology Degree?

When a student makes the decision to enter the helping profession of psychology or counseling they will have to make the decision which degree is a better fit for their career goals. Both counseling and psychology are closely related, in that both fields lead to a career that involves counseling or therapy. There are, however, some major differences between the two.

What is a Psychology Degree?

A psychology degree program involves the study of large field of professional psychology, which encompasses a wide range of sub-fields. The curriculum in most psychology programs focuses on psychology as the scientific study of the brain and behavior. Students will also become familiar with the scientific method and how to conduct, analyze and publish psychological research. Many psychology students will enter private practice or a larger psychology practice and provide therapy or counseling, but the focus of the academic program is different than that of a counseling degree.

What is a Counseling Degree?

A counseling degree program involves the study of psychological disorders, how they impact people and how to use counseling techniques to help individuals find improvement of their symptoms or alleviation of a problem. While some counseling degree programs will involve the scientific method and an understanding of how psychological investigation works, most programs will focus heavily on the various counseling theories, modalities and applications.

Can I Choose a Specialization With Both Degrees?

Students who want to further specialize their psychology or counseling degree have many options to do so. Psychology degrees come with many different areas of specialization. Some of these include forensic psychology, developmental psychology, school psychology, geropsychology, industrial & organizational psychology and many more. Counseling degrees may also be pursued with a range of specializations, including school counseling, Christian counseling, career counseling and many others. What this means is that neither a psychology or a counseling degree should be omitted from a students decision making simply because of specialization.

Is One Degree Better Than The Other?

The answer to this question is definitely not. Neither degree is intrinsically more respected or “better” that the other. What degree to pursue depends completely upon your career goals and aspiration. Students who believe that a career as a school counselor, Christian counselor, or other type of counselor will be better suited with a counseling degree. Students who want to pursue a career as a professional psychologist, researcher, college instructor, or pursue one of the sub fields of psychology (industrial/organizational psychology, child psychology, forensic, psychology etc.) will be best suited with a psychology degree.

Making the decision to pursue a degree in psychology or counseling is an excellent step towards a career in either of these important helping fields. Both fields lead to a degree that arms students with the knowledge and skills to help those in need. Which degree a student chooses depends largely upon what area of employment they plan to pursue.