With a master's degree in psychology and state license, it is possible to begin a career as a social worker or counselor. Social workers help individuals with issues that may range from serious illness to substance abuse. Counselors help individuals identify their problems and then try to counsel or support them through addressing those issues.
Those who graduate with a master's degree in general psychology are qualified to work as social workers or counselors. Within each field is the opportunity to specialize in a particular area, helping people to cope with issues such as substance abuse or marital and family challenges. While both professions involve counseling people, social work focuses on the person's environment as well.
|Career Title||Social Worker||Counselor|
|Education Requirements||Master's degree||Master's degree|
|Other Requirements||Licensure required||Licensure required|
|Projected Job Growth* (2014-2024)||12%||8% (school and career counselors)|
|Median Salary* (2015)||$58,560 (social workers, all other)||$53,660 (school and career counselors)|
*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Social Worker Career Information
Social workers tend to work in a specific area, like child and family social work, school social work, medical and public health social work or substance abuse and mental health social work. While job duties vary, social workers in general help patients to cope with and resolve issues that are interfering with their everyday lives, such as drug or alcohol abuse, domestic conflicts or marital problems. Social workers also might help clients with physical disabilities or diseases, as well as those with social or financial problems, including unemployment or lack of adequate housing.
While students with a degree in social work might be favored for social worker positions, many employers also accept applicants with a degree in psychology. Master's programs can prepare graduates for both entry-level and advanced positions in social work, and choosing a minor or specialization in social services, administration or social work can be particularly beneficial. Additionally, an internship in a position related to social work can help psychology students demonstrate their experience to prospective employers.
In all 50 states, social workers need a license or certification to work. The majority of states require a minimum amount of supervised work experience, generally two years, to qualify for licensure.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), career opportunities for social workers are expected to increase by 12% between 2014 and 2024, which is faster than the national average for all careers. The BLS also reported that as of May 2015, the average salary among social workers was $58,560.
Counselor Career Information
Occupational settings and job titles for counselors vary greatly. Specializations include high school counselor, career counselor, family and marriage counselor, mental health counselor, substance abuse counselor and elementary school counselor. While job duties of each position vary, counselors in general work with patients to identify life or mental health problems and then assist them through support services, such as individual or group counseling sessions, advocacy or mediation.
A master's degree is the minimum level of education needed to become a licensed counselor. A general psychology degree might be a good choice for a prospective counselor due to the mental health aspects of the counseling vocation. Psychology students who aspire to become counselors might benefit from a minor in a specialized field, such as marriage and family therapy, education or rehabilitation counseling. Additional training for new counselors typically is offered by employers.
Licensure and Certification Information
Licensure requirements vary by state and specialty area. Generally, counselors working for public schools must have state licensure, as must family and marriage therapists. Additionally, the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) offers several voluntary credentials, including National Certified Counselor, National Certified School Counselor, Certified Clinical Medical Health Counselor and Master Addictions Counselor.
The BLS expects a 8% increase in employment for school and career counselors between 2014 and 2024. This statistic is about the same as the national average for all occupations. Educational, guidance and career counselors earned an average income of $53,660 per year as of 2015.
Social workers and counselors both serve individuals facing issues in their lives. Their roles may include helping these individuals find resources and support for the situation they're in, or counseling them through the process of dealing with their problems. Counselors can expect to see an 8% increase in the number of jobs in their field from 2014-2024, while social workers will experience a 12% increase in jobs during the same time period.