In general, social workers and counselors are both driven by compassion and a desire to help people in need. They work in similar settings, including home health agencies; hospitals; health clinics; various social services agencies at the community, city, and state levels; the criminal justice system; and private practice.
Social workers who graduate from a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree program help people in distress solve and cope with problems that arise from the many complications of poverty, unemployment, advanced age, physical ailments, mental illness, child and spousal abuse, and other serious issues. The two types of social workers are:
Direct Service Social Workers—Social workers have the skills to advocate for their clients. They can tap into the network of social services offered by government agencies, religious organizations, and nonprofit organizations to connect their disadvantaged clients with social, healthcare, and financial services such as:
As advocates for their clients, direct service social workers and clinical social workers often document and report situations of neglect and abuse in a family setting. They help place at-risk children in foster homes and abused women in shelters.
With Master of Social Work (MSW) elective clusters, students can focus on areas of interest like addiction; children, families, and couples; crisis and trauma; forensic populations and settings; medical social work; and military families and culture.
Employment of social workers is projected to grow 16% from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all professions. The median annual wage was $47,980 in May 2017, and the top 10% earned more than $79,740.* Licensed clinical social workers in private practices have the opportunity to earn a median annual salary of $50,000 by the age of 35–44, with the top 10% earning $130,000.†
Specialized counseling degree programs online provide graduates with a variety of career options:
|Job Market for Counselors‡|
|Specialty||Job Growth 2016–2026||Median Annual Wage||Top 10%|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder and Mental Health Counselors||23%||$43,300||$70,840|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||23%||$48,790||$81,760|
|School and Career Counselors||13%||$55,410||$91,960|
Whether you choose a social work degree or a counseling degree, you can prepare yourself for a rewarding career—and to making a real difference in improving the lives of others. Explore Walden University's online social work degree programs and counseling 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.
Career options may require additional experience, training, or other factors beyond the successful completion of this degree program.
*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012 Edition, Social Workers, on the Internet at www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm#tab-5.
†National Association of Social Workers, Center for Workforce Studies & Social Work Practice, Social Workers in Private Practice, on the Internet at www.workforce.socialworkers.org/studies/profiles/Private%20Practice%20Solo%20and%20Group.pdf.
‡Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012 Edition, Mental Health Counselors; Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors; Marriage and Family Therapists; and School and Career Counselors; on the Internet at www.bls.gov/ooh/home.htm.