What Is the Difference Between a Psychologist and a Counselor?

CounselorIf you’re considering a career in the social sciences, you may wonder what is the difference between a psychologist and a counselor. In fact, psychologists and counselors have a lot in common, but there are a few key differences in training that can make a big difference in those in these two professions do.

Defining the Careers

Both counselors and psychologists work in the social sciences, and to some degree, both careers are involved with mental health, according to Counselor-License.com. Counselors, however, do not always have diplomas or certificates in psychology, and many of them work with medical patients and families in crisis. While there are specific certification requirements for counselors, most of them have master’s degrees but not doctorates.

On the other hand, most practicing psychologists either have or are pursuing doctoral degrees. Many psychologists practice counseling, but they are more likely to work with individuals who have severe mental health issues. Psychologists often work for or consult at mental hospitals and nursing homes. In addition to treating mentally ill clients and counseling, psychologists can choose a variety of other specializations including research, occupational therapy, and recreational therapy. Other psychologists may choose to go into academia.

Types of Counselors

Counselors get their degrees in a number of different fields. Pastoral counselors often have backgrounds in theology and biblical studies as well as in family or individual counseling. Licensed practical counselors can be psychologists with master’s degrees in counseling or social workers with equivalent social work degrees. Recently, many individuals in the healthcare profession have also been embarking on careers in medical counseling. Often these individuals will have academic backgrounds in nursing or a related field as well as a degree in social work.

Types of Psychologists

There are many more types of psychologists than there are counselors, but the field is far more competitive. Doctoral programs in psychology only accept a small percentage of applicants, and admission is often based on participation in undergrad research projects as well as grade point average and test scores. Psychologists can practice industrial psychology without the completion of a doctoral degree, and the same rule applies to a few other specialties such as occupational psychology and recreational therapy.

In clinical psychology, the branch most often confused with counseling, psychologists do practice psychotherapy and counseling. However, they are often called upon to do short-term work and assessments on individuals, unlike counselors who generally work with their clients for a longer period of time. Psychologists often use test such as IQ tests to assess the mental condition of individuals for clinical purposes and even for legal purposes.

The Future of Psychology and Counseling

Both psychology and counseling are growing rapidly. Counseling is currently growing more rapidly than the field of psychology. However, partially due to the more specialized nature of the job, psychologist tend to earn more than counselors.

Related Resource: Community Counselor

If you like helping people find solutions to their problems, a career in the social sciences might be good for you. Counselors tend to help average people cope with day-to-day problems while psychologists work more with those in critical circumstances or needing psychiatric assessments. Now that you know the difference between a psychologist and a counselor, which career path do you think you would prefer?