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Clinical Social Work vs. Clinical Psychology

There’s more to psychotherapy than sitting back in an armchair, nodding at what people say and taking notes in a journal. The professionals who practice psychotherapy actively work with their clients to diagnose and treat their problems. These careers include clinical social work and clinical psychology, but the paths to become one or the other are not the same.

Education and Training

Overall, clinical social workers will have four to five years of post-bachelor’s education and training and are required to have a master’s degree. They attend graduate school in social work and earn a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. Upon graduation, they may apply to take the Licensed Graduate Social Work (LGSW) exam. They then complete two to three years of supervised clinical work and may apply to take the advanced level licensed clinical social work exam. All clinical social workers must be licensed in the state in which they practice. The Association of Social Work Boards has information about social work licensure boards by state on its website.

Clinical psychologists, on the other hand, will have five to seven years of post-bachelor’s education and training and are required to have a doctoral degree. They attend graduate school in psychology and earn a Ph.D. or a Psy.D., after which they complete one to two years of supervised work with patients. They must also be licensed in the state in which they practice. The Association of State Provincial Psychology Boards has information about psychology licensure boards by state on its website.

Skills and Duties

Both clinical social workers and clinical psychologists study human behavior and psychotherapy. Clinical social workers diagnose and treat mental, behavioral and emotional disorders and provide therapy to individuals, couples, families and groups, as well as focusing on community resources, such as support services. They may help their clients become productive in society through housing and employment and work with other health professionals. Their work environments include hospitals, mental health clinics and substance abuse clinics or they may work in private practice.

Like clinical social workers, clinical psychologists also diagnose and treat mental, emotional and behavioral disorders in individuals, couples, families and groups. However, clinical psychologists focus more on research and scientific methods, including statistics and assessment, and are more qualified to perform psychological testing for their clients. They work in many of the same environments as social workers, but a larger percentage are self-employed. In two states, clinical psychologists can prescribe medication.

Salary and Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects growth for both social workers and psychologists. Nationally, social workers earn an average salary of $44,200, with healthcare social workers earning $49,830. Overall employment for social workers is expected to increase 19 percent by 2022, which is faster than average for most professions. Healthcare social workers and mental health and substance abuse social workers, in particular, are expected to see considerable growth, with 27 percent and 23 percent increases, respectively. Clinical social workers are afforded the opportunity to work in both of these expanding areas.

In comparison, clinical, counseling and school psychologists earn an average salary of $67,760. However, employment for clinical, counseling and school psychologists is expected to increase only 11 percent by 2022.

Earn Licensure and Make a Difference

The online Master of Social Work from the Catholic University of America’s National Catholic School of Social Service prepares you for licensure in clinical social work and a career as a social worker. For more information about the online MSW program, call 855-295-5711 or click here for more information.