Master's in Social Work Vs Master's in Mental Health Counseling

Master's in social work or master's in mental health counseling? What are the differences between the programs, how long do they take, and what careers might they lead to? Find out more in this article. Schools offering Mental Health Counseling degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Master's in Social Work vs Master's in Mental Health Counseling

Master of Social Work

Master of Social Work (MSW) programs typically consist of clinical practice and coursework, which may be completed on campus, online, or a combination of both. Students typically need to have a bachelor's degree in any field for traditional programs, or an undergraduate degree in social work to complete advanced standing program options (where available). Traditional tracks typically take around two years and may consist of around 60 credit hours, while advanced standing tracks may be completed in a little over one year, waiving some of the foundational social work courses and generally consisting of under 40 credit hours. Courses included in an MSW program may include social welfare, mental health and addictions, diversity, and practice with families and individuals. Graduates of an MSW program can pursue a variety of careers including child and family social worker, school social worker, mental health social worker, and healthcare social worker.

Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Programs for a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling may include coursework, practicum, and internship components as well as prepare students for counselor licensure. Programs require students to have earned a bachelor's degree and may prefer or require candidates to have a specific undergraduate GPA and some qualifying prerequisite coursework (such as general psychology). Students who study full time can often complete mental health counseling programs in two or three years and may take courses in psychopathology, human behavior, ethics in counseling, and research in psychology. Mental health counseling program graduates may qualify to work as mental health counselors, school counselors, or rehabilitation counselors.

Degree Program Program Length Program Requirements Related Careers
Master of Social Work 1 to 2 years (full-time) *undergraduate degree
*qualifying GPA
*Child and Family Social Worker
*Healthcare Social Worker
*Mental Health Social Worker
Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling 2 to 3 years (full-time) *undergraduate degree
*qualifying GPA
*Mental Health Counselors
*Rehabilitation Counselors
*School Counselors

Careers for Master's of Social Work and Master's in Mental Health Counseling Graduates

Child, Family, and School Social Workers

Child and family social workers work with families and children and may help clients to apply for benefits as well as intervene in unsafe home situations. School social workers work to help students succeed socially and academically by collaborating with parents, administrators, and teachers. In order to provide clinical, full-range services, applicants need to have a master's degree in social work along with experience

Healthcare Social Workers

Healthcare social workers work with patients to help them understand their medical diagnosis and make necessary changes in their lifestyle. They may also refer clients to support services and provide doctors with feedback about how diagnoses affect patients' lives. Many healthcare social workers are required to have a master's degree in social work and clinical experience, such as that obtained during an internship.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers

Mental health and substance abuse workers refer clients to support groups and help them to cope with their illness. These social workers often work with clients who suffer from addiction and/or mental illness and usually need a master's degree in social work to work independently. A master's degree in social work prepares students through hands-on practice with various populations and the knowledge to understand and effectively treat these illnesses.

School and Career Counselors

School counselors work with students, teachers, and parents to help students succeed in school while career counselors help people find suitable careers or career paths. School and career counselors are typically required to have a master's degree in their area of counseling. A graduate of a mental health counseling program may qualify to work as a school or career counselor if they have some relevant experience, such as during an internship.

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors work with people who suffer from various behavioral and mental problems, which may include anxiety, grief, and addiction. Many positions may require candidates to have a master's degree, certification, and experience. A master's program in mental health counseling provides experience through internship components, develops student clinical counseling knowledge, and may also prepare students for the counseling certification exam.

Job Title Median Annual Salary (2018)* Estimated Job Growth (2018-2028)*
Child, Family, and School Social Workers $46,270 7%
Healthcare Social Workers $56,200 17%
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers $44,840 18%
School and Career Counselors $56,310 8%
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors $44,630 22%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Master's in social work and master's in mental health counseling programs take around two years to complete and consist of hands-on practice experiences. Graduates of an MSW program are qualified to work in a variety of social work positions while graduates of counseling programs may be able to work as licensed counselors.

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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