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Neuroscientist vs. Psychologist: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

Neuroscientists and psychologists are both professionals who study the human brain. However, their focus and areas of expertise differ. If you’re interested in a career in neuroscience or psychology, it’s important to understand the similarities and differences between these two fields. In this article, we compare and contrast neuroscientists and psychologists, and we provide information about what you can expect from each profession.

What is a Neuroscientist?

Neuroscientists conduct research on the nervous system to better understand how it works. This can include studying the brain, spinal cord and nerves. They use a variety of techniques, including electrophysiology, behavioral analysis and molecular biology. Neuroscientists often specialize in a particular area, such as development, degeneration, plasticity, regeneration or tumorigenesis. They may also study a specific nervous system disorder, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis or autism. Neuroscientists typically work in laboratories and use computers to analyze data and run simulations.

What is a Psychologist?

Psychologists conduct research on human behavior and mental processes, then apply their findings to help people improve their lives. They work in a variety of settings, including colleges and universities, hospitals, clinics, private practices and government agencies. Psychologists typically specialize in a particular area, such as child psychology, clinical psychology or industrial-organizational psychology. They use a variety of methods to collect data, including interviews, surveys, observations and psychological tests. Psychologists use their findings to diagnose and treat mental, emotional and behavioral disorders.

Neuroscientist vs. Psychologist

Here are the main differences between a neuroscientist and a psychologist.

Job Duties

Neuroscientists and psychologists share some job duties, such as conducting research and analyzing data. However, their daily tasks differ because of the different areas of study for which they are responsible. For example, neuroscientists may spend time in laboratories where they test subjects on various stimuli to record responses and measure changes in brain activity. They also develop theories about how the brain functions and apply this knowledge to improve treatment methods for neurological disorders.

Psychologists use their research findings to inform clinical practices that help people with behavioral issues. They may conduct therapy sessions with clients or administer standardized testing procedures to assess a person’s mental health. In addition, psychologists often work closely with patients to establish treatment plans and goals that they can achieve together.

Job Requirements

To become a neuroscientist, you need to have at least a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience or a related field. However, most research positions require a doctoral degree. A Ph.D. in neuroscience typically takes four to six years to complete, while a Psy.D. in psychology generally takes five to seven years. During their studies, neuroscientists and psychologists take classes on topics like the brain and behavior, research methods and statistics. They also complete internships or practicums to gain hands-on experience working with patients or conducting research.

After completing their education, neuroscientists and psychologists must obtain licensure if they want to work in clinical settings. To become licensed, they must pass an exam administered by their state’s licensing board. Some states also require professionals to complete continuing education credits to maintain their license.

Work Environment

Neuroscientists and psychologists both work in a variety of environments, including hospitals, schools, research facilities and private practices. However, neuroscientists typically spend more time working in laboratories or other settings where they can perform experiments on their patients. They may also work with researchers to develop new methods for diagnosing and treating brain disorders.

Psychologists often work in offices, but they may also visit patients at home or in nursing homes. Some psychologists specialize in particular areas, such as sports psychology or criminal psychology, which means they may travel to different locations to meet with clients.


Both neuroscientists and psychologists use scientific skills to study the brain and behavior. This includes designing research studies, collecting data and analyzing results. Both groups also need critical thinking skills to interpret their findings and draw conclusions.

Neuroscientists tend to focus on the biology of the brain and nervous system, while psychologists typically focus on the psychological factors that influence behavior. As a result, neuroscientists often have more training in biology and chemistry, while psychologists usually have more training in psychology and sociology.

Both neuroscientists and psychologists use communication skills when writing papers or presenting their findings to colleagues. However, psychologists may use these skills more frequently as they often work directly with patients and must be able to explain complex concepts in layman’s terms.


The average salary for a neuroscientist is $100,486 per year, while the average salary for a psychologist is $97,727 per year. Both of these salaries can vary depending on the type of work you do, your location and your level of experience.


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