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Should I Get a Social Work Degree or a Psychology Degree?

While both degree types help prepare you for a career devoted to improving people’s lives, it’s helpful to look closer to find the ideal match for your interests and goals.

The fields of social work and psychology attract professionals who are motivated by a desire to facilitate positive changes in people’s lives. In practice, social workers and psychologists use their degrees—and the different skills and knowledge that come with each—to address and solve diverse problems.

Social workers enjoy connecting individuals or families in need with resources and services that improve their circumstances and help them achieve social equity. Psychologists study the human mind and the normal and abnormal behaviors that the brain can produce. They use their expertise and knowledge of human behavior in many ways to help individuals, families, groups, students, employees, and businesses make positive behavioral changes.

Should I Get a Social Work Degree or a Psychology Degree?

The Role of Social Workers

Social workers’ clients may suffer from a range of highly stressful life issues, including poverty, unemployment, inadequate housing, mental health conditions, chronic illnesses and disabilities, and abusive family situations.

Professionals with a social work degree are employed in a variety of settings—hospitals and healthcare facilities, schools, social services agencies, mental health clinics, and private and nonprofit organizations. They advocate for their clients and connect them with social services designed to help alleviate their challenges.

Choosing the Right Online Social Work Programs

A Bachelor of Social Work is a great choice for those who wish to enter the field of social work. As a social work practitioner with a BS in Social Work you can provide mentoring and supervision, advocacy, and collaboration activities to a wide range of audiences.

Several of the online Master of Social Work (MSW) degrees provide opportunities to gain hands-on experience with on-site residencies and supervised internships. Students may also choose a master’s degree in social work with one of several elective clusters like addiction; crisis and trauma; children, families, and couples; and other concentrated populations.

Job Growth for Social Workers*

Employment of social workers is projected to grow 16% from 2016 to 2026, a faster-than-average rate for all professions. The median annual wage was $47,980 in May 2017, and the top 10% earned more than $79,740.

The Role of Psychologists

The term “psychologist” usually refers to a clinical psychologist with a doctoral degree, like a PhD in Psychology. Most people picture a psychologist counseling individuals or couples in private psychotherapy sessions, helping them deal with emotional issues and psychological disorders.

In reality, being a clinical psychologist is only one of a wide spectrum of career options for professionals with a psychology degree (whether earned online or on campus). A general MS in Psychology degree, for example, can prepare you for a variety of nonclinical careers ranging from college professor to human resources manager to organizational consultant and more.

Choosing the Right Psychology Degree Programs

A psychology degree can prepare you for a fulfilling career in private practice, healthcare, education, government, and business environments. With an MS in Forensic Psychology, you can be a forensic psychologist in the criminal justice system. If you’re earning a degree because you want to be a business psychologist or organizational consultant, you’ll have the right credentials with an MS in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. If being a clinical psychologist is your goal, an MS in Clinical Psychology will provide the foundation and prerequisite for your clinical psychology doctoral degree studies.

Job Growth for Psychologists*

Employment of psychologists is projected to grow 14% from 2016 to 2026, an average rate for all professions. The median annual salary was $77,030 in May 2017, and the top 10% earned more than $124,520.

Whether you choose a psychology or social work degree, you can look forward to a rewarding career spent making a positive difference for individuals, families, and communities.

Walden University’s online psychology degree programs and social work degree programs to launch, advance, or change the direction of your career. Earn your graduate degree in a convenient online format that fits your busy life.


*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Social Workers, Psychologists, on the Internet at www.bls.gov/ooh/home.htm.

†Career options may require additional experience, training, or other factors beyond the successful completion of this degree program.

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