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Should I become a counsellor or psychologist?

By Emilly Parris

Are you looking to work in the mental health field as a counsellor or psychologist? Improving the mental wellbeing of society is a noble goal and there are many exciting career options open to you.

Counsellors and psychologists are among the most respected mental health practitioners in the industry along with psychiatrists and psychotherapists—because they have the knowledge and expertise to help people make positive changes in their lives.

Whether you decide to become a counsellor or psychologist will depend on a number of factors and in this SkillsTalk article, we’ll cover some of the main differences between these two mental health professions and what qualifications you’ll need to get started.

What is the difference between a counsellor and a psychologist?

couple receiving counselling

Psychologists assist patients who are dealing with mostly complex mental health conditions. But as experts in human behaviour, they can also help mentally healthy people to improve in other areas of their lives. A psychologist is qualified to evaluate a patient’s mental health and through diagnostic or psychometric testing, administer therapeutic care and treatment. Psychologists can also work in an academic environment performing research in their area of specialty.

Clinical psychologists, counselling psychologists, forensic psychologists and sport and exercise psychologists are just a few examples of specialty areas that psychology students can enter into. The Australian Psychological Society website is an excellent resource if you’re looking for more information about different types of psychologists and what each role entails.

To become a psychologist in Australia, you will need to complete an accredited undergraduate psychology qualification and a postgraduate degree or internship program before becoming registered with the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA). You must also be registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency in order to use the professional title of psychologist.

Counsellors help patients who are struggling to cope with a specific problem or are having trouble in their everyday lives. A counsellor’s role is to guide a patient through their problems and help them understand how their behaviours and emotions have an effect on their outcomes. Counsellors often work with issues related to addiction, relationships, work-related concerns, grief, trauma and abuse.

Counsellors typically specialise in one field such as family therapy, social work or behavioural disorders. Counsellors can also work in case management, referring their clients to other services such as housing support or welfare where it’s needed.

Not all counsellors receive formalised training, but counselling courses in Australia such as the CHC51015- Diploma of Counselling can equip you with the right tools to be able to help people from all walks of life.

Psychologist salary

A psychologist’s salary will vary depending on their experience level and area of expertise. According to PayScale, a clinical psychologist in Australia earns an average annual salary of $80,134, while a counselling psychologist earns an average salary of $64,924. 

Counsellor salary

woman counsellor listening to elderly patient

PayScale data shows that mental health counsellors earn an average annual salary of $61,348 in Australia. Obtaining an accredited qualification in counselling and specialising in one area can boost your credibility and make it easier to negotiate a higher salary.

Interested in a career in mental health?

If you’re an empathetic individual who’s passionate about helping people cope with life’s challenges, the mental health field is where you’ll have the most impact. As a counsellor or psychologist, you can change another person’s life for the better.

There are many more opportunities in the mental health field where you can make a difference.

If you’re still not sure about which role you’re most suited for, you can chat to one of Upskilled’s education consultants by calling 1300 009 924.
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