What is the Difference Between a Degree in Psychology and a Degree in Neuroscience?

neuroscience vs.psychology

Prospective students often wonder, “What is the difference between a degree in psychology and a degree in neuroscience?”. Before making the important decision to further one’s education, it is important to understand the differences between these two, similar fields. Here is some important information to consider if you are making a decision between obtaining a degree in psychology or in neuroscience.


Psychology is a science field that seeks to understand human behavior by studying the mind. There are different disciplines, or divisions, of psychology. These different approaches attempt to explain human behavior and, by extension, the human condition by focusing on different psychological constructs. Cognitive psychology focuses on the mental processes that affect how the mind perceives and stores information. Constructs related to cognitive psychology include memory, recall, attention, and language development. Developmental psychology makes use of the theories from other disciplines, such as cognitive, biological, and social. However, developmental psychologists focus on studying the crucial development that occurs during childhood. Clinical psychology is a branch of psychology that specializes in diagnosing and researching mental health problems.


Neuroscience is a field dedicated to understanding the most complex organ in the human body; the brain and the nervous system are responsible for coordinating the activities of all the other organs in the body. There is still a lot that is unknown about how the brain, and its associated constructs, function. Neuroscientists accept this challenge and attempt to understand how the brain’s nerve cells grow, organize themselves, and function as a cohesive organ system.

Educational Requirements

The actual length of time required to obtain a degree in either psychology or neuroscience depends on the chosen college institution, and any state occupational regulations that apply. On average, obtaining the educational requirements to become a clinical psychologist takes 10 to 13 years total. The average time for obtaining the educational requirements to become a neuroscientist is similar. Neuroscientists must have a Ph.D, but may also hold an M.D. in addition to the Ph.D. Before beginning a degree in any field, it is good to find out as much information as you can that pertains to your field of interest. Taking occupational interest inventories and looking into various degree programs is a good place to start. Psychologists and neuroscientists can work in a variety of settings; however, the specific type of degree obtained often determines whether the professional can work in a clinical or research setting.

The Difference

Psychologists and neuroscientists both seek to find the answers to important questions. So, what is the difference between a degree in psychology and a degree in neuroscience? In short, psychologists study the mind in order to understand human behavior; whereas, neuroscientists study the biological constructs of the brain and nervous system to understand how they function.

Related resource:

Top 20 Best Graduate Programs in Industrial/Organization Psychology and Behavioral Neuroscience