Most, if not all prospective college students are familiar with a major in psychology. The Princeton Review pegs psychology at #7 on the list of Top 10 College Majors. The most current data from the National Center for Education Statistics (2015-16) reported 1,920,718 bachelor’s degrees earned, of which 117,440 were in psychology. The categories of business, health professions, and social sciences had more graduates with bachelor’s degrees.

What is Psychology?

Psychology is the study of the mind, as well as the behavior of humans from early childhood to old age. The science has evolved over the millennia from the Greek philosophers, namely Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Preceding these famous people was Pythagoras (6th Century BCE), who is credited with coining the word – philosopher. Known for his mathematical prowess, notably his theorem for calculating right triangles, Pythagoras was also a holistic practitioner and therapist, particularly music therapy. Through experimentation, he concluded that stringed instruments provided the most soothing effect, as opposed to a wind instrument, such as the flute.

Philosophy is a type of social science, like sociology or psychology. Ancient philosophy examined how one should live within society.

The evolution of psychology created many branches. Examples are clinical, abnormal, forensic, child, geriatric, social, experimental, general, and cognitive psychology. The field can take you into applied psychology, psychophysics, the psychology of religion, neuropsychology, and neuroscience, and more. Students can begin specializing in one of these areas during their undergraduate studies.

What is Psychological Science?

There are subtle differences between psychological and psychological science. The latter involves the study of behavior, communication, and dealing with people. Therefore, the major may be of interest to anyone pursuing a career that requires frequent interaction with others.

The Association for Psychological Science publishes its Psychological Science journal based on empirical research that encompasses a range of topics in the science of psychology. The articles cover social, cognitive, developmental, and psychology behavioral. A perusal of reports published in 2019 in the journal appears to cover the same or similar subjects one would expect in a psychology journal. For example, a study examined individual emotional responses to traumatic events, such as natural disasters and terrorist attacks. Another research report addresses the influence of violent video games on aggressive behavior.

Similarities and Differences

  • Psychological science is rooted in the study of the concepts of psychology.
  • The curriculum of each includes a concentration of courses in topics relevant to the science of psychology, i.e., behavioral aspects.
  • Each offers areas of specialization, as mentioned in the above material. Some of the concentrations may differ. For example, one titled Clinical Psychological Science delves in a series of courses whose first two words are Psychology of – followed by religion, suicide, adult life, sexuality, prejudice, and others. More on this later in the post.
  • Both provide opportunities to proceed to a master’s degree in psychology. There is a Master of Science in Psychological Science available that explores research practices and applied psychology.
  • A master’s degree in either major may require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Otherwise, you may have to complete specified prerequisite courses.
  • Both majors prepare graduates for careers in psychology-related professions. The settings include mental health agencies/departments, non-profits, counseling, hospitals, teaching, and research.
  • Individuals who prefer a Bachelor of Arts program should focus on psychology as their major. Generally, this option has more liberal arts classes in the General Requirements, instead of natural sciences and math.
  • Psychological science typically has at least one lab class. The Bachelor of Arts in Psychological Science at California State University-San Marcos has two lab courses from a list of seven. Their B.A. contradicts the previous bullet as the curriculum does have mathematics and natural science in the General Requirements. Admission also stipulates that students should have four years of high school English and three of mathematics.

psy vs psych sc

In the third bullet above, we referenced concentrations in psychological science. Western Kentucky University (WKU) offers a Bachelor of Science in Psychological Science (PSYS) with a choice of eight specialties. Examples are Developmental Science, Quantitative Psychology, Biobehavioral Psychology, and Applied Psychological Science. Some of the courses in the latter involve sport psychology, motivation, history of psychology, decision-making, and psychology of prejudice.

The WKU curricula of the eight concentrations mirror those offered in most B.S. programs in psychology. The common subjects are social psychology, abnormal psychology, mental processes, psychotherapy, language, and cognition. Psychological science degrees tend to provide more courses in research and statistics in psychology.


As you scrutinize the two majors, you may find that there are minor differences. The institution’s coursework affects faint differences. Therefore, it is prudent to direct your attention to the specific classes and electives. Then choose the major that aligns with your employment aspirations.

Additional Resources:

What is the Benefit of a Ph.D. in Psychology vs. a Psy.D?

What are the differences in an Online vs Campus Master’s Degree in Psychology?

What Are the Different Kinds of Psychology Degrees?

What is a degree in Psychology?

What Government Jobs are there with a Degree in Psychology?

What is the Benefit of a Master’s vs. Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology?

What is the Difference between a Degree in Psychology and Sociology?