What Is the Difference Between a Counseling and Psychology Degree?

There are many differences between counseling and psychology degrees and their respective fields. The counseling field requires a master's degree in order to be licensed and practice as a counselor. However, a psychologist must typically complete a doctoral level degree in psychology to practice independently. There are various areas of specialization in both counseling and psychology, opening a variety of career paths. Schools offering Psychology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Differences Between Counseling and Psychology Degrees

Purpose of the Degree

Students generally enroll in a counseling master's degree program to become eligible for licensure as a professional counselor for the state where they reside. Coursework revolves around training the student to be a certain type of counselor and to obtain certification in that area.

A master's degree in psychology is offered either as a terminal degree (students want additional education in psychology in order to obtain a job) or as preparation for a doctoral degree. In order to become a licensed psychologist, most states require you to complete a doctorate in psychology. Psychology degree programs may focus more on research than counseling degree programs, although both may have research components. Students pursuing a psychology degree usually do not receive training in academic counseling as do counseling degree students.


Students taking either a counseling or psychology degree may choose a specialization. In counseling, the possible specializations may include:

  • Career counseling
  • Counseling for college students
  • Marriage and family therapy (MFT) (preparation for MFT license)
  • School counseling leading to a credential in Pupil Personnel Services
  • School psychology leading to a credential in Pupil Personnel Services

Psychology specialization may include:

  • Forensics psychology
  • Biopsychology
  • Perception and cognition
  • Developmental psychology
  • Psychopathology
  • Social psychology
  • Organizational and industrial psychology


If you study counseling, you may start your career after completing a master's degree. Some jobs that a graduate with a master's in counseling could be eligible for include:

  • Licensed social worker
  • Professional counselor
  • School counselor
  • Substance abuse counselor
  • Rehabilitation counselor
  • Marriage and family licensed therapist

Career choices for Doctor of Psychology graduates may include:

  • Counseling psychologist
  • Clinical licensed psychologist
  • Experimental psychologist
  • School psychologist
  • Organization and industrial psychologist

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:

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