Master's in Counseling Vs Social Work

Although somewhat similar, master's degree programs in counseling and Master of Social Work (MSW) programs can prepare students for different career paths. Continue reading to discover more about these programs and career outcomes. Schools offering Addictions & Social Work degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Master's in Counseling vs Social Work

Master's Degree in Counseling

Master's degree programs in counseling often consist of around 60 credit hours of coursework and include practicum requirements. Students may choose to pursue a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling if interested in clinical counseling positions, or may choose to pursue a Master of Arts in School Counseling if interested in counseling in school settings. Depending on their chosen program, students can typically finish in two years if studying full time. Programs usually require students to have earned a bachelor's degree with a specific undergraduate GPA, but don't typically require students to have studied a particular subject during their undergraduate program. Clinical counseling programs often include courses such as family counseling, psychopathology and addictions; school counseling programs may include courses in behavioral problems of children, human development, and foundations in school counseling. Those working in private practice must then be licensed.

Master of Social Work

Master of Social Work programs are often available as traditional tracks for students with a bachelor's degree in a field outside of social work and as advanced standing tracks for students who have a bachelor's degree in social work. Traditional programs typically consist of around 60 credit hours (2 years full time) while advanced standing tracks are often 30 to 40 credit hours (1 year full time). Students from either track may be able to choose an area of concentration, depending on their program, such as marriage and family, child welfare, mental health, and school social work; customized tracks enable graduates to be more thoroughly prepared for related social work roles. MSW programs consist of multiple practicum experiences along with coursework, which may have online and on-campus components. Common courses in MSW programs include research methods, social justice, social work with families, diversity, and human behavior in the social environment. Depending on the state, holders of an MSW who want to work mainly in counseling might need to earn additional credits and complete extra clinical hours. Licensing is a requirement for clinical social workers.

Degree Program Program Length Program Requirements Related Careers
Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling 2 years *undergraduate degree *Mental Health Counselor
*Substance Abuse Counselor
Master of Arts in School Counseling 2 years *undergraduate degree *School Counselor
Master of Social Work 1 to 2 years *undergraduate degree *Child and Family Social Worker
*School Social Worker
*Mental Health Social Worker

What Can You Do with a Master's in Counseling or Social Work?

Child, Family, and School Social Workers

Child and family social workers help families and children find assistance and may also intervene when there is possible abuse or neglect, while school social workers work in school settings helping students develop social and academic skills. Although some positions may require a bachelor's degree, a master's degree in social work enables applicants to provide more services to clients with less observation. Other duties that these social workers may be responsible for can include researching resources, maintaining case records, program development, and psychotherapy.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers

Many mental health and substance abuse social worker positions are considered clinical social worker roles and require applicants to have earned a Master of Social Work. These social workers are responsible for a variety of tasks, which may include diagnosing and treating issues, providing psychotherapy, and providing support in crisis situations. Mental health and substance abuse social workers may also provide referrals to support services such as sobriety and other support groups.

School and Career Counselors

School and career counselors work with students, administrators, parents, and teachers to help students improve social and academic skills. Their duties may include counseling students individually and in groups, evaluating students through interviews and assessments, and reporting potential cases of abuse and neglect. School counselors typically need a master's degree in school counseling, and career counselors often need a master's degree in counseling with a career development concentration.

Social and Community Service Managers

Social and community service managers may oversee social workers, community organizations, and social service programs. They may review program effectiveness, search for program opportunities and needs, and create funding proposals. Some positions require a master's degree and experience in social work, counseling, or a related field.

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

Substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors work with people who suffer from a variety of behavioral and mental health issues. They may counsel clients, provide referrals, develop treatment goals, and work with clients through their recovery processes. Candidates with a master's degree in counseling or clinical social work are often preferred by employers and are able to provide more services with less supervision.

Job Title Median Annual Salary (2018)* Estimated Job Growth (2018-2028)*
Child, Family, and School Social Workers $46,270 7%
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers $44,840 18%
School and Career Counselors $56,310 8%
Social and Community Service Managers $65,320 13%
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors $44,630 22%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Students can earn a master's degree in counseling or a Master of Social Work in two years or less of full-time study. Counseling and social work programs often enable students to concentrate their education based on career interests in areas such as school, family, and mental health.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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