Which is better – Master of Social Work or Master’s in Counseling?

Earning a Master of Social Work or masters in counseling ultimately boils down to ultimate career goals. Both programs are a common path for individuals interested in improving the lives of others, but social workers take on more of an advocacy role while counselors work in a clinical setting. Experts predict above average industry growth for both professions, so employment prospects are favorable for both degree holders.

Degree Description

The University of Southern California (USC) explains that a Masters of Social Work grooms students for specific areas of social work. Bachelor classes consist of generalized topics, while sample graduate topics include Community Organization and Advocacy. Programs combine traditional class work with onsite clinical exercises to deliver a hands-on experience in their desired field of interest. Data indicates that most social workers do not proceed with doctoral programs after completing their master’s studies.

A master’s degree in counseling prepares students to conduct individual and group therapy sessions in diverse settings. Counselors help people cope with personal stressors. Traditionally, they do not work with individuals who display signs of serious psychological problems. Unlike social work, where most positions require a bachelor’s degree, aspiring counselors MUST earn their masters degree for licensure. Sample classes include Introduction to Addictions and Foundations of Family Therapy.

Industry Overview

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), social workers earn an average annual salary of $42,480 United States dollars (USD). Experts predict 25 percent industry growth until the year 2020, faster than average when compared with other occupations. Counselors average approximately $39,710 USD per year with expected growth of 37 percent until 2020.

Professional Advice

According to a piece written for the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), good social workers and effective counselors share similar personality traits. Candidates all have the capacity for empathy, or the ability to recognize emotions in another person. Acceptance and the ability to see the best in everyone are additional qualities that make the job beneficial to practitioners and effective to their clients.

Other Concerns

Additional problems exist behind the scenes for one degree. Social workers tend to burn out quickly due to heavy caseloads and long hours. A 2012 article for Community Care states that social workers spend up to 80 percent of their day performing data entry instead of interacting with clients. People working as counselors tend to work schedules that are more traditional and endure less staggering caseloads.

Making a Decision

Prospective students need to think about what each degree entails and what they want for their lives. Social workers have shorter careers due to burnout, but counseling jobs are only available to individuals with graduate studies. If a person can immediately attend graduate studies, then counseling offers a longer career with the potential for more advanced positions within the medical field.

The selected degree depends on long-term goals. A masters program in social work is perfect for individuals who abhor the thought of extensive schooling but desire employability. People interested in establishing a long-term medical career should pursue graduate counseling programs.


Counseling or Social Work

Half of social workers have seen colleague quit over caseloads