Masters's in Social Work or Master's in Counseling...which one..which Online Pr?

Updated on February 23, 2013
R.M. asks from Cedar Park, TX
13 answers

I have a Bachelor's in Elementary Education but am considering going back to get a master's at age 44. I feel I missed my calling by picking the wrong degree. I am wondering your thoughts on which degree will be a better choice in the long run. Are there more job opportunities for a social work degree or a counseling degree? Which online program is really good and reasonably priced for these programs?

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers



answers from Boston on

I have MSW and independent license, it is great but I don't know a lot about online schools and honestly would choose a candidate for my positions that I fill that went to a school in reason, just a bias of mine.

More Answers



answers from Washington DC on

Just as Sarah and Robert E. mentioned, you should speak with a career advisor at any institution you consider to further determine which field lines up with your goals. Social work has a HUGE burnout rate and the pay is pretty terrible. With a counseling degree (and licensure) you can go into various programs to offering counseling whether it is group, individual, etc.

Another thing to consider with the online courses, go with a reputable institution. A lot of employers are looking more at actual existing universities that have online programs as more reputable, not just "online colleges". According to a family member in HR, an applicant with an online degree from a known college vs. an 'online' college will get first crack. Just a consideration and don't know if this holds true for all, just something to think about.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Great answers so far, and I feel bad piping in because many of the answers are opposing each other so I don't know how much it will help!!

I have an masters in counseling, masters level counselors can absolutely bill insurance for services, so not sure of the circumstance described below. Been there, done that. It may refer to licensure- insurance companies like licenses, not necessarily PhDs. This could vary state to state, I suppose...

Definitely talk to the career advisor. My experience is that MSWs tend to have more latitude in career choices. You could be an actual social worker, and MSWs also practice counseling as well. Masters in Counseling would not probably get you a job in a social work agency (at least you'd have to get past all of the MSWs first!! But counseling degrees do get you into many non-profit agencies do that type of work.

Check into the philosophies of these fields as well. For me, counseling was more in line with my way of thinking and wanting to practice than social work. Just a better fit for me, not saying it's better.

As for the college. The world is changing so quickly. The biggest thing to check on is accreditation, very important. A few companies may appreciate the recognizable name of the brick and mortar college, but most progressive companies realize they are missing wonderful candidates by not interviewing all candidates of reputable schools- online only or not. So I wouldn't worry about that.

And finally, you will need to do internships and practicums. If a school does not require this- run. It is a lot of work, but SO important and valuable, I can't even tell you. Ask your potential schools if they have relationships with agencies to help you find placement, and if these are good programs. Many times internships can lead to jobs, so you don't want a crappy one. And you want a decent internship so that you have something to brag about in interviews later!

Hope I didn't overwhelm. I also got a post-master's degree in psychology from a strictly online school and it was fab. Let me know if you have any more questions!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I would start by meeting with an advisor at your local university. They can go over programs and possible career opportunities with you. You may be able to complete some of the coursework online but probably not all of it. Whatever you decide make sure you get your degree from an accredited university. Most employers don't put much stock in online only degrees/certificates, as a matter of fact some of those online "schools" are worthless in the real world.
Good luck!!!



answers from Grand Forks on

hi sweetheart....good for you for going to back to school! :)
i considered the same field, in fact, i'm in that field just at a bachelor's degree level. anyway, i think a SW degree is better just because you can still counsel w/a SW degree & to me it just has more clout. :)
if i were to return to school it'd be for SW degree. to me it just *seems* counselors have less respect than SW.
i would LOVE to be a masters social worker, really. the poster below is semi-correct in regards to pay, etc. everyone in this field knows prior to getting into that pay won't be of that as a business/marketing person, BUT the rewards are indescribable. i absolutely LOVE what i do as a caseworker for homebound clients. counseling won't be a piece of cake either. to me dealing w/insurance, payments, etc. is not something i want to do.
this is obviously just my lil 'ol opinion & i haven't THOROUGHLY researched it (or online programs, etc), it's the just feel i've gotten from being in this field for 10 yrs, but like i said, on a little bit lower educational level. i'm SO proud of you for knowing this is your calling more than teaching. i went to teacher's training, actually got certified to teach a few different grades/subjects but NEVER got called for even an interview. FINALLY, i was called for this current job & i'm so glad it didn't work out for me in teaching b/c *this* is my calling. in fact, that's how i refer to this field for me..."it's not a job, it's a calling".
sorry for long post, but i had to share.
good luck in whatever you decide! :)



answers from Kansas City on

I also have a Bachelor's Degree in Elem Ed. I got a Master's in Counseling and did my Internship/Practicum in the school setting (Elem and High School). I also had people in my program that did their Internship/Practicum in a drug/alcohol center, prisons, and counseling centers. They were hoping to get a mental health counseling job and I was hoping for school counseling. I love kids and the school schedule! I am currently a SAHM, so I have not used my counseling degree.

I did a face-to-face program, so I can't help you with online choices! Good Luck!



answers from Seattle on

I would go for the MSW. It will give you a bigger selection of career choices. Counseling/therapy is just one of many. Also if you have an MSW you are more likely to get hired by a hospital or the government, and these jobs pay relatively well. I have an MSW (LICSW) and work at a hospital emergency room. I don't know about online degrees, but another option is limited residency. My MSW program was limited residency, so you took classes on campus for s short period and the rest was done in your hometown.



answers from Detroit on

In general a person needs a PhD in counseling and/or psychology in order for insurance companies to reimburse for services. An MSW can bill directly for services and services are reimbursable from most insurance carriers, including Medicare. Facilities don't hire providers that can't generate revenue independently so they tend not to hire people at the masters level in counseling and/or psychology, irrespective of your desired population, children, chronic, aging, marriage and family, etc.

I hold a MS in clinical psychology and if I had it to do over, I would pursue the MSW. And I can't agree more with the point about the accreditation. Any future employer will require that your programs include a hands on portion such as an internship or externship for a prescribed number of hours in order to obtain licensure and that is something that can't be accomplished online. Stay away from the diploma mills for sure. I hope this is helpful and best of luck in all your endeavors. :-) S.



answers from Philadelphia on

I have an MSW and work in private practice as a therapist/counselor. I have a colleague who has a MS in Counseling. The thing you need to remember is that the Degree is only part of the story. In order to practice you need to be licensed which requires taking a licensing exam (or two). Then, if you want to work as a therapist you also need to accrue clinical hours under supervision before you can practice independently. Licensing requirements vary by state. As an LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) I can work independently and I am in network with major insurance carriers and Medicare, so clients can use his or her insurance to pay for my services. My colleague is a LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) and is in network with most insurance companies though her degree/license is not accepted by Medicare or Tricare (military insurance). We otherwise do the exact same thing. The primary concern I have with online degree programs in these fields is twofold: you must attend an accredited program in order to even be eligible for licensing and the fieldwork/internship is a required component to meet the degree and licensingrequirements. Do the online degree programs you are looking at offer assistance in locating fieldwork? If not and if it is not accredited, you may end up spending a lot of money for a degree that you can't use. So, whatever you decide, be sure to do your research. Best of luck!!



answers from Oklahoma City on

When I was in college a MSW was the better degree because you are licensed in the entire USA, even some countries oversees accept that degree. As a practicing MSW you can do 3rd party billing.

All other degrees were state to state. If you moved to a different state that had different requirements for their Masters degrees in any area you might have to go back to school and take the classes you missed for that state's requirements.

My FIL has a masters in education for developmental disabilities or mental retardation. He moved from MO to OK and was not allowed to even teach at regular school. The general ed. requirements for a BA in that field were different and he would have had to go back to college and take 3 general ed classes.

As a Masters in counseling you have to have a PH. d supervise you in clinical work. Also with this degree you would not be able to do 3rd party billing so you could not practice therapy or any sort of counseling in a private practice. Even if you went to your school admin office you would not be qualified to be the school therapist. You "could" work under the school psychologist and do some case management type stuff but the psychologist would be totally the head and what they said would go, if you had a different idea you would still have to follow the psychologist's lead or it could cost you your job.

If your state has an LPC degree that would be the better degree for a masters in any psychology masters programs as far as I am concerned. As an Licensed Professional Counselor you might have the ability to bill 3rd party insurance but it is entirely up to your state laws pertaining to that degree and how much status they give it. You can open a private practice and not have anyone telling you to do this or that. I like that kind of autonomy.

So if I had my choice I'd do an MSW any day of the week. Then if I were only going for a Masters I would have to goal for the LPC. I would not stop at a Masters in psychology for any other degree. They just don't have the status/weight/freedom/autonomy that the other 2 degree's have.


answers from Dallas on

I don't really know because I got my degree many years ago in similar field, but my gut says go for the counseling degree. I think you would have more choices when done.



answers from College Station on

Most of my friend/family who have social work/counseling degrees are either no longer in the field or wanting to get out of it. It is a field with a very high burn out rate. You will have to love whatever it is you finally decide.
Good Luck



answers from Boston on

Many counselors have MSWs. I am an LICSW in Ma and u can work with any population from kids to elders in schools, hospitals etc. I am surprised u can do it online bcthe practicum and supervision in the field is the most valuable part of the degree.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions