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What's the Difference Between Counseling and Psychology?

As a counselor or psychologist, your job involves helping people to resolve problems. However, these two professions are different in several ways, including work duties, education, salary and job outlook. If you have decided that counseling or psychology may be the right field for you, continue reading to examine the differences between the two professions.

Differences in Work Duties for Counselors and Psychologists

Counselors work with individuals, couples and families facing issues such as problems at work or school, substance abuse and mental illness. As a psychologist, you also work with students, individuals and families. Counselors and psychologists are both employed in the mental health field and may work alongside each other in the same office.

In both professions, you help people to work through their issues and problems through discussions, work groups and other therapy methods. While counselors typically only provide therapy services, psychologists may have additional job duties and responsibilities.

As a psychologist you attempt to assist individuals and families by observing behavior, applying theories and using therapies you feel will help. You may also perform research. In applied settings for corporations and businesses, you use psychological principles to develop employee training, marketing or company initiatives.

Important Facts About Counselors and Psychologists

Counselors Psychologists
On-the-job Training Internship/residency Internship/residency
Key Skills Compassion, listening, interpersonal, organizational, and speaking skills Patience, trustworthiness, analytical, observational, problem-solving, communication, and people skills
Work Environment Private practice offices, mental health centers, substance abuse treatment centers, hospitals, colleges Private practice offices, clinics, hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, mental health centers, schools, research facilities
Similar Occupations Physicians, psychologists, social and community service managers, social workers Anthropologists, archeologists, physicians, social workers, sociologists, postsecondary teachers

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Differences in Education

Counselors typically need to be licensed in that state in which they work. Many states require you to hold a master's degree to be licensed, although specific requirements may vary by state. You may earn your degree in general counseling or in a specialized area of counseling.

Psychologists need to hold a doctorate degree and be licensed to work in a private practice. You may also earn a master's degree and work in research or industrial jobs. To become a school psychiatrist, most states and schools will require you to hold a specialist degree. However, there are some states where a master's degree is the only education required to work as a school psychologist. In all states, you must be licensed or certified if you are offering direct patient care, but requirements may vary to earn a license or certification.

Differences in Salaries and Job Growth Potential

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median wage for counselors working in schools or vocational programs was $56,310 as of May 2018 (www.bls.gov). Employment is expected to grow by 13% from 2016 to 2026. As of the same date, counselors working with families or in couples counseling earned a $50,090 median yearly salary. Counselors working in the mental health field earned a median salary of $44,630. Employment for mental health and marriage and family counselors is expected to increase by 23% from 2016 to 2026.

For psychologists, the BLS reported that the job market would grow about 14% from 2016-2026. The BLS also reported psychologists doing clinical and school work earned a median salary of $76,990 a year in 2018. Industrial-organizational psychologists earned a median salary of $97,260 during the same year. Psychologists earned a median salary of $100,770 in all other fields.