How Do I Choose Between Social Work and Psychology?


Martha Robinson

Are you considering a career in the helping professions but aren’t sure if social work or psychology is the right fit for you? Both fields offer opportunities to make a positive impact on people’s lives, but they differ in their approaches and areas of focus. In this article, we’ll explore some key considerations to help you make an informed decision about your career path.

Education Requirements

One of the first things to consider when choosing between social work and psychology is the education required for each profession. Social workers typically need a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work (BSW) or Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW), while psychologists usually need a doctoral degree (Ph.D. or Psy.) in Psychology.

Tip: If you’re not sure which degree program is right for you, consider reaching out to current students or professionals in each field to learn more about their experiences.

Areas of Focus

Another factor to consider is the areas of focus within each field. Social workers tend to focus on helping individuals and communities overcome challenges related to poverty, inequality, and social justice issues. They may work with clients on issues such as housing instability, food insecurity, mental health concerns, or addiction.

Psychologists, on the other hand, tend to focus on understanding human behavior and mental processes through research and clinical practice. They may work with clients on issues such as anxiety, depression, trauma, or relationship problems.


Consider what types of issues you are most passionate about working on when making your decision about which field to pursue.

Career Paths

Both social work and psychology offer diverse career paths that can lead to meaningful work. Social workers may choose to work in settings such as hospitals, schools, non-profits organizations or government agencies. Common job titles include case manager, therapist or community organizer.

Psychologists may choose to work in settings such as universities, hospitals, research institutions or private practice. Common job titles include research psychologist, clinical psychologist or forensic psychologist.

Tip: Research the job market and potential career paths for both fields to get a better sense of which one aligns with your long-term goals.

Salary and Job Outlook

Salary and job outlook are important factors to consider when deciding on a career path. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for social workers was $50,470 as of May 2020. The BLS also projects that employment in social work is expected to grow by 13% from 2019-2029.

For psychologists, the median annual salary was $82,180 as of May 2020, with employment projected to grow by 3% from 2019-2029.


Keep in mind that salaries can vary based on factors such as location, level of education and experience.


Choosing between social work and psychology can be a difficult decision, but taking into account factors such as education requirements, areas of focus, career paths and salary can help you make an informed choice. Ultimately, the most important factor is finding a career that aligns with your values and passions so that you can make a positive impact on those around you.