Social Work vs. Psychology: What Degree Should I Get?

By Melanie Mann


    Social Work

On a fundamental level, psychologists study the individual, sociologists the study the environment, and social workers study the person in their environment. Social workers draw upon other fields, as well as generating their own theories, in an effort to empower disadvantaged populations and to solve social problems. Social workers with a BSW assist clients who are mentally ill, impoverished, disabled, abused, delinquent, elderly, grieving–experiencing just about any social problem or vulnerability. Social workers with MSWs are qualified to provide therapy, and all social workers are expected to work on a macro level to influence communities and policies to create a more socially just environment.
• Social workers are versatile and able to work in many different settings.
• Less education is required to work as a clinical social worker than as a clinical psychologist.
• There are more job opportunities available to someone with a bachelor’s degree in social work than a bachelor’s degree in psychology.


Psychologists have a much more science-based perspective of human behavior than social workers. Rather than studying environmental influences on human behavior, psychologists focus on the way physiology and personal experience affects individuals. Psychologists can find work in research, diagnostic testing, and mental health. Comparatively, clinical psychologists focus on mental health assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and symptom alleviation, while social workers in the mental health field are more concerned with teaching clients how to cope with symptoms effectively, providing access to resources, and advocating for policies that promote mental health within communities. Both clinical social workers and clinical psychologists can provide therapy services.
Benefits of a Psychology Degree
• There is more opportunity to earn a higher income as a psychologist.
• An undergraduate psychology degree can allow access to both Social Work Master’s programs as well as medical school.
• Psychology curricula are more statistics- and science-intensive.