What’s the Difference Between Social Work Versus Counseling?

The need for social workers and counselors cannot be overemphasized. As we go about our lives daily, we encounter issues that may need the attention of social workers and counselors. There has been confusion over the years about the difference between social work versus counseling. Many people feel that there is no difference between the two careers, but there are many differences.

We shall explore the differences between social work versus counseling in this article.

The Difference between Social Work versus Counseling


Counseling involves the use of professionals called counselors, which are the first contact for the people with need for support psychologically and emotionally. Counselors can be found working in several places like universities, hospitals, schools, the military, privately, and in facilities that cater to people’s mental health.

The clients of counselors come from several facets of society, which makes their clientele diverse. Counselors in training find it easy to pick their area of specialty. One cannot become a counselor without getting a master’s degree of arts in counselling. This opens up opportunities for the student to become a professional counselor after getting their license.

Social Work

Social work as a field involves broader horizons than counseling. People that work in this field are called social workers. They can work in several places like governmental organizations, research institutions, public policy bodies, medical settings, and even schools. The main duty of a social worker is to find problems in social systems and provide solutions to those problems.

Social workers assist even small communities that a faced with such systemic issues. The programs involved in social work focus on helping students prepare for roles of leadership. The programs also train students to take care of various numbers of people, from large communities to small communities to individuals.

Social workers handle complex cases, they perform assessments, take care of their clients, and educate people. Social work is more suited for people who desire to make wide changes in institutions and systems. People who want to work with communities and individuals at the same time usually appreciate social work as it affords them this opportunity.

Counseling and social work, though they have differences, overlap in several aspects. However, they are separate disciplines. Counseling can be considered as an aspect of social work, but social workers cannot perform the duties of a counselor unless they have a license to be a counselor.

The educational requirement before applying for the license is usually a master’s degree in counselling. However, counseling can be considered as one of the tools at the disposal of social workers in helping their clients and designated communities. Counselors, however, are more specialized in their training relating to psychology and trauma. Counselors treat clients directly in order to help them deal with their issues. That is why counselors need at least a master’s degree.

Counseling and social work are integral parts of our society no matter their distinctions or similarities.