The fact that some Social Work professionals can provide Counseling services to clients often skews the opinion of this field from people that have had little experience with it. There are differences between Social Work professionals and Counselors that should be considered in order to comprehend how these fields differ.

Reviewing Counseling vs. Social Work

Degree Requirements

Students that are interested in becoming licensed Counselors can begin with a Bachelor’s in Psychology, Counseling, or Social Work. These undergraduate programs can prepare learners by teaching the most basic elements of the brain and the mental processes associated with emotional and behavioral development.

Completion of the undergraduate program can then lead into Master’s of Counseling programs, which are the minimum degree requirement for licensure in Counseling. This 2-3 year program can include aspects focused on assessing needs and providing individualized therapy services, as well as some aspects related to group Counseling.

During a master’s program in Counseling, students may be expected to explore some of the most common – and some uncommon – mental health disorders in society. Exploration of these disorders can then lead into a study of biological and environmental influences, as well as prevalent treatment methods for each.

The Master’s in Counseling can also include a supervised clinical experience that can allow students to see licensed professionals applying the concepts learned during their degree program. This experience can be vital to the development of the Counselor and is required for licensure in all states.

In addition to the in-program clinical experience, graduates of Master’s of Counseling programs may be required to participate in post-degree experience for 1-2 years in the field. Completing this field requirement is a component to receiving licensure in most states.

If you were to begin with a Social Work bachelor’s program, you could obtain a license in your field at this level. However, Licensed Bachelor’s Social Workers are not qualified to provide Counseling services, only case management services related to Social Work roles.

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Students in Social Work programs that are interested in becoming Counselors must complete a minimum of a Master’s in Social Work prior to establishing the credentials for Counseling. Completing the MSW program and obtaining licensure can allow graduates to provide Counseling services while under the supervision of a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

Those interested in providing independent or private practice Counseling services in Social Work can participate in longer supervision periods and a board examination on their path to the LCSW distinction. Receiving licensure at this level can lead to the ability to provide Counseling services without supervision and in multiple settings and populations.

Career Options

Counseling degree programs and licensure training can include a focus into different types of career paths throughout your career. One of the most intriguing aspects about Counseling is that you can choose a degree concentration to help solidify your involvement in certain treatment areas in society.

Some of the most popular career options for Counseling professionals may be Clinical Mental Health Counseling, School Counselors, Marriage and Family Counselors, and Career Counselors. Most mental health positions can be found in local Counseling agencies or individuals working in private practice.

School Counselors can be employed by school systems for students in various age ranges. This type of career option could involve working directly with students as they navigate the educational system and develop plans for transitioning into adulthood.

Career search agencies, military branches, and social service agencies may also employ Counselors to provide direct services to their clients, which can be beneficial for upcoming professionals interested in providing treatment to specific groups within the community.

If you were to pursue a career in Counseling through a Social Work degree program, you could have access to more versatile career options during your work experience. Since MSW holders can provide Counseling services, you could also have access to the same groups as Counseling graduates, as long as you had the required supervision without the LCSW credential.

Social Work graduates that move on the the LCSW certification can work in private practice – providing Counseling services to the general public or to specific groups according to their specialization. This is one of the most preferred certifications for upcoming professionals in Social Work.

Social Work professionals can also work with social services agencies – even holding dual roles within their organization. The court systems, rehabilitation agencies, and geriatric care facilities are a few more options that can benefit from the services of Social Work professionals.

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The unique nature of Social Work positions can allow graduates in this area to explore career options that include components of both Counseling and Social Work in the general job description. Some professionals at this degree level can even move on to supervisory positions responsible for the oversight of work completed by Counseling professionals.