Career Resources

Psychology, Counseling, and Social Work


Psychology, Counseling and Social Work Overview

Psychology, Counseling and Social Work Overview

Psychology, Counseling, and Social Work are fields grounded in empathy, care, and transformation on individual, organizational, and/or structural levels. Deemed ‘helping professions,’ these fields are populated with individuals who desire to work for the betterment of others.

Psychologists and counselors have the opportunity to work in clinical, industry, counseling, education, or community service settings. The two main types of psychologists are clinical and counseling, both of which require either a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) to practice. Psychologists typically run their own independent or joint practices, teach at the college or university level, or work in private industry. Counselors tend to have a Master of Arts or Master of Science in counseling psychology, and conduct individual or group counseling at a clinic or agency, serve as guidance or academic counselors in K-12 schools or colleges, or focus on career or life counseling in a variety of settings. Both psychologists and counselors can be concerned with the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental disorders, but preparation for these fields contains training in both the clinical and the relational aspects of the job.

While social workers can be involved in many of the same settings as psychologists and counselors, their job tends to be more holistic. Generally speaking, these individuals are tasked with ensuring the positive life outcomes of clients, which can include anything from securing public assistance for a homeless person to ensuring the successful transition into foster care for a child in need. A Master of Social Work (MSW) degree is often the minimum requirement for a sustainable career in this field. Social workers are involved in a variety of settings, like youth organizations, family-focused centers, correctional facilities, hospitals, and private practice (for those who are licensed).

For more information on the similarities, differences, and various paths between and within these related fields, visit the Psychologists page and the Community and Social Services page on the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook site. Here, you will find an in-depth look at what it takes to get into these careers as well as the Bureau of Labor Statistics' forecast for growth in each sector. 

Psychology, Counseling and Social Work Job Search

Since psychologists, counselors, and social workers are hired by a variety of companies, the hiring process varies by organization and field. On the mental health side, hiring is done on an as-needed basis, with companies filling just one or two openings at a time. While schools at both the K-12 and higher education levels tend to have a much more structured hiring process, the structures and timelines are different. Hiring in the K-12 world is typically from May through September since this is when districts and schools know their needs for the upcoming school year. The hiring practices of colleges and universities, however, are similar to those of mental health organizations.

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Last updated June 2015