Master’s in Counseling vs. Master’s in Psychology What’s the Difference?

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Those who are interested in being a part of the mental health services field have invariably discovered that there are a number of paths to choose from when it comes to earning an advanced degree. Many may be wondering what the best option is when it comes to pursuing a master’s program. What are the potential benefits to earning a master’s in counseling? How do those differ from earning an advanced degree in psychology? We explore those below.

What Are the Similarities?

Counselors and psychologists share one common goal: providing relief to people who may be struggling with mental health issues or disorders. Individuals involved in the mental health field can offer significant results for others who are dealing with emotional problems, offering actionable advice to their families, partners, roommates, spouses, and coworkers using their unique training in psychotherapeutic interventions and counseling techniques.

What Are the Differences?

While the fields of psychology and counseling have a lot of overlap, they are by no means the same. Earning your master’s in either counseling or psychology will unlock a wave of career opportunities, but psychologists and counselors have distinct differences both in their training and in their scope of practice.

While counselors and psychologists must each obtain a minimum of a master’s degree in order to practice in their respective fields, one major difference is the scope of the research included in the coursework. Counseling degree programs focus on teaching students how to consume research and use that information to inform their future practice. In essence, their research is essential to innovating how they handle patient care.

Psychologists, on the other hand, heavily focus on research in order to complete their degree programs, and many continue on to doctoral programs in order to move forward in their chosen career path. The differences in their education allow counselors and psychologists to perform distinct functions after they graduate from their chosen field of study.

Counselors can work with a variety of demographics, ranging from school-aged children to the elderly, helping them to overcome addiction; plan for their future; mend their relationships; and help them more easily manage mental health conditions like PTSD, anxiety, and depression.

In contrast, psychologists are mental health professionals with specific training in clinical psychological research regarding human behavior. Their day-to-day activities can include administering tests, performing clinical research, and prescribing treatments to those who might benefit from their help and expertise. As such, psychologists are more likely to use their clinical background to work with those who suffer from severe mental illnesses and work to develop cures to new diseases.1

While both fields are immensely rewarding, they vary in the amount of education and training required, and at the end of the day perform very different functions in the mental health world.

For those hoping to learn more about the counseling profession and the steps necessary to earn an advanced degree in counseling, read additional articles here, or get more information at Wake Forest University’s online Master’s in Counseling program page.

Additional Reading

The Role of the Counselor in Addiction Recovery
The Critical Role of Counselors in PTSD Treatment
Why Become a Family Marriage Counselor?


Online Psychology Degrees, What are the Major Differences Between a Counseling Degree and a Psychology Degree?