Careers for Social Good: Do You Want to Be a Counselor or a Social Worker?

If you have decided that you would like to pursue a career helping others, both social work and counseling would be great career choices. While they are similar in some ways, they are also quite different. In this post we will explore the differences between counseling and social work, and help you gain insight into both career paths.

What Is Counseling?

A student who wants to pursue a career in counseling has several specializations to choose from when defining a career path. A few common examples of counseling careers are school counselors, career counselors and clinical counselors; although, there are a number of other specializations that a counselor can choose.

A counselor works with clients in a therapeutic setting, aiming to help them achieve a better understanding of issues and problems in their lives with the ultimate goal of making improvements and significant changes. Counselors work in a number of different settings, including schools, mental health facilities, hospitals, private clinics, drug treatment and rehabilitation facilities, businesses and any other setting where confidential advice services may be needed.

A counselor’s work options are quite varied. A career counselor will help and advise clients in finding a career, transitioning between careers or helping a client change a current career path. On the other hand, a drug and alcohol counselor will work with clients who have addiction problems, advising them on how to overcome their addiction. Other career options include:

  • Clinical counseling
  • Counseling research and studies
  • Marriage and family counseling
  • Mental health counseling
  • Pastoral counseling
  • Professional counseling and private practice
  • School counseling
  • Trauma and crisis counseling

Counseling or Social Work?

With a counseling degree, you have the option to get involved in a number of different kinds of counseling, but you usually have to decide what you would like to specialize in before or during your education so you can take the proper coursework that will prepare you for that specialty. Social work, on the other hand, provides more variety in day-to-day work, sometimes requiring counseling and sometimes requiring other skills.

It’s also important to keep in mind that social workers can work as counselors, but counselors are not able to work as social workers. Both require licensure in your specific state and each has different requirements for licensure.

Want to learn about other Careers for Social Good? Here’s another post you might enjoy:

The Difference Between Human Services and Social Work