Psychology vs. Counseling

The range of human emotions is wide, varied, and complex. Every experience and memory we have affects us differently and influences the way we might respond to new experiences. Navigating human psychology requires emotional intelligence and an ability to read people, as well as a deep understanding of what drives human behavior and what makes us act, think, and feel the way we do.

Two fields that intersect with human behavior and emotion are psychology and counseling. They encompass different careers that involve working with individuals to assess and support their mental health. Many people who work in these fields do so because it gives them an opportunity to help others. Continue reading to further explore psychology vs. counseling, the job market outlook for each, and the educational background required to step into one of these positions.

Psychology Overview

Psychology is the study of human behavior as influenced by our conscious and unconscious minds. Psychologists study the brain and its expressions through counseling, therapy, and other strategies, rather than a direct clinical evaluation. There are many careers related to psychology, including those that deal with human behavior, such as in marketing and human resources. In these professions, individuals foster positive relationships between people and companies, which often involves utilizing psychology principles. High-level jobs in psychology include work as a psychologist in any number of different specialties. Psychologists have a doctoral degree in the field. They can conduct scientific studies on human behavior and the brain or serve in therapeutic settings, where they use cognitive behavioral therapy methods to assist people coping with mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.

Psychology Salaries and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports there were 181,700 psychologists working in the country as of May 2018, including 1,400 industrial-organizational psychologists; 162,000 clinical, counseling, and school psychologists; and 18,300 psychologists in the “all other” category.

The median annual salary for psychologists was $79,010. The lowest 10% earned approximately $43,800 each year, and the top 10% earned at least $129,250. The BLS reports that clinical, counseling, and school psychologists earned a median annual salary of $76,990; industrial-organizational psychologists earned $97,260; and all other psychologists earned $100,770. Industries that paid the most by median annual salary were the government ($96,410), hospitals ($86,530), ambulatory health services ($79,180), and elementary and secondary schools ($75,890).

The BLS projects the job market for all psychologists to increase by 14% between 2018 and 2028, which means about 26,000 new psychology jobs. All three categories of psychologists should see job growth, since the BLS expects industrial-organizational psychologists to grow 13%; clinical, counseling, and school psychologists to grow 15%; and all other psychologists to grow 12%.

Counseling Overview

Counseling is a therapeutic experience wherein individuals find ways to cope with conditions such as anxiety, low self-esteem, and stress. It is the role of the counselor to help people work through individual challenges. These mental health professionals use their education and training to address problems ranging from family troubles and marital issues to problems in school. Patients frequently see benefits such as better communication skills, improved relationships, and higher self-esteem. During their graduate studies, aspiring counselors often pursue degrees in disciplines such as psychology, family counseling, school counseling, or substance abuse counseling and often go on to earn a doctorate. With advanced study and specialized training, they are prepared to assist others in improving their mental health.

Counseling Salaries and Job Outlook

The BLS divides counselors into multiple categories. It reports there were 55,300 marriage and family therapists as of May 2018, earning a median annual salary of $50,090. The BLS projects the job market for marriage and family therapists will grow 22% between 2018 and 2028, adding 12,300 jobs during that time. The industry that paid marriage and family therapists the most was state government ($69,900), followed by outpatient care centers ($51,270).

According to the BLS, there were 119,700 rehabilitation counselors as of May 2018, earning a median annual salary of $35,630; 139,820 mental health counselors, earning a median annual salary of $46,050; and 324,500 school and career counselors, earning a median annual salary of $56,310. The BLS projects the employment of rehabilitation therapists will grow by 10% (11,800 new jobs) between 2018 and 2028, and the employment of school and career counselors (27,200 new jobs) will grow by 8%. It does not provide the projected job market growth for mental health counselors.

Similarities Between Psychology and Counseling

Psychologists and counselors have a similar goal: to help people achieve better mental health, whether through gaining an understanding of the human brain and how it impacts emotions and behavior or through behavioral counseling, addressing problems and thinking patterns through talk therapy and other therapeutic methods. Psychologists and counselors must enjoy working with people and should possess strong interpersonal skills, as well as problem-solving and critical-thinking abilities. These careers also benefit from similar educational backgrounds, starting with a degree in psychology, such as Maryville University’s Bachelor of Arts in Psychology online.

Differences Between Psychology and Counseling

Though some aspects of their jobs might overlap in a clinical setting, there are plenty of differences between psychology and counseling. The degree necessary for practice and the potential career options available are what set them apart.

Degree Requirements

Careers in counseling always require a master’s degree. For example, an aspiring counselor might pursue a master’s degree in family counseling or social work. The right bachelor’s degree helps, but without a master’s degree, it’s not possible to step into a professional counseling career.

Psychology careers are attainable with a bachelor’s degree, but becoming a psychologist requires a doctoral degree and licensure. Aspiring psychologists would be unable to properly identify and diagnose mental health diseases without a doctorate, and they would not be allowed to treat patients without a license.

Career Options

Psychology-related careers attainable with a bachelor’s degree include positions related to human behavior, such as market research analyst, survey researcher, or human resources professional. In such positions, graduates with a bachelor’s degree in psychology can apply their knowledge of human behavioral patterns.

Counseling careers exist in a number of different arenas, such as marriage and family therapy, child therapy, and school counseling. Their general job duties remain somewhat similar across the board and involve addressing issues such as depression, anger management, and stress through talk therapy. Counseling career options always involve direct work with individuals, families, or groups.

Psychology vs. Counseling: Which Is Right for You?

Psychology or counseling might be a good career path for those who want to better understand human behavior, thoughts, emotions, and actions. If pursuing a terminal degree in psychology and gaining the ability to conduct clinical research interests you, psychology might be ideal. On the other hand, if you’re interested in working directly with individuals, couples, and families, offering talk therapy and other therapeutic modes of treatment, counseling might prove to be a worthwhile path. Explore how Maryville University’s online BA in Psychologycan help you attain a position in either of these useful, growing, and well-compensated fields.

Recommended Readings
A Guide to Children’s Mental Health

Going Back to School for Psychology
The Future of Psychology: New Methods for Helping People

American Psychological Association, “What Do Practicing Psychologists Do?”
Community Health, “Psychologist, Psychiatrist, or Counselor: Which One Is Right For You?
Simply Psychology, “What Is Psychology?”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Psychologists
WebMD, “Guide to Psychiatry and Counseling”

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