This post will examine some of the advantages of a degree in social work over opting for a major in psychology. There are instances where the latter degree is beneficial. We will look at this scenario also.
A Personal Choice
A career in either field is altruistic. You have made the decision to help others, assuming you choose a role with either degree to help others. Of course, there are differences; however, most of these exist in the application of this help.
These professionals provide clinical therapy for patients who struggle with various emotional and behavioral problems. The therapy sessions can vary in length depending on the severity of the mental disorder. Some patients may need regular visits with the psychologist to manage their emotional issues. Clinical psychologists may also specialize in psychological testing and diagnosis of mental disorders.
Social workers perform a different role as they help individuals deal with their well-being. They address the clients’ concerns regarding issues related to society. Essentially, a clinical social worker counsels their clients as they struggle to cope with every day challenges. In this function, they can act as a liaison for the psychologist. The care process may begin with the social worker who refers the individual to a clinician.
Both begin with a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. Psychology remains as one of the most popular college majors, therefore, you have numerous choices of both online and campus programs. In this major, you have the choice of a Bachelor of Arts or Science. The latter, at some schools, allows the choice of a concentration in Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience, Developmental, Social, or Clinical and Behavioral Health.
For social work, you can begin with a Bachelor of Science in Social Work, a Bachelor of Social Work, a Bachelor of Arts, or a Bachelor of Arts in Social Welfare. The latter involves the study of how culture and the society affect human behavior and practices.
Considering the degree choices, they both provide the benefit of selecting a program that suits your career goal. However, to improve your marketability and profitability, you need to earn a master’s degree.
If a master’s degree is your plan, then how can you minimize the cost and time to earn a graduate degree? One method is a B.S./M.S. combined-degree. This allows you to graduate with a Master of Science in Psychology in five years. This cuts off at least a year.
The same benefit of a combined degree applies to social work. The bachelor of science/master of social work (BS/MSW) program offered at Springfield College’s Department of Social Science is one example. This dual degree is for students who are already majoring in social work-related fields and who wish to pursue a master of social work. Another choice is Quinnipac University’s Dual Degree in a B.A. or B.S./M.S.W. program. Students can complete their 3+ 2 year format in five years.
Instead of completing two degrees consecutively, you reduce the time and tuition by one year. This method may also impress prospective employers who admire your initiative and desire to enter the workforce.
So far, one degree does not appear to be more favorable. What about potential income?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the median salary for social workers at $47,980 with a master’s degree and 2 years of post-master’s experience in a supervised clinical setting.
The BLS reports the median salary of a psychologist at $77,030 with a projected growth rate of 14% through 2026. The quoted salary likely refers to individuals with a doctorate, since one must have this terminal degree before she/he can use the term: psychologist.
A prominent employment site, Payscale, reports the national average for an MSW at $44,000 based on a survey of 7,456 individuals in the profession.
According to Salary.com, a Master’s degree in psychology earns between $82,860 and $89,087. They maintain a database of current salary statistics from firms who compile wage data.
For consistency in the source, Salary.com reports an MSW’s average salary at $62,657. Assuming the methodology is the same for both professions, the field of psychology with a master’s benefits from a higher average wage.
Salary Recap by Profession, Degree, and Source