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How To Switch From A Career in Psychology to Social Work

Psychology and social work are both incredible career paths that require strong communication skills, patience, and empathy.

In working towards improving the lives of others, psychologists and social workers tend to find their work meaningful and fulfilling. Given they are closely related fields though, both students and qualified professionals will often find themselves pondering whether making the switch from one career path to the other could bring them additional joy.

Fortunately, there are a few schooling avenues for graduates with a degree in psychology to switch to social work.

Some degrees, like an online advanced standing MSW program, will take industry experience into account, meaning you can shorten the length of your degree by a considerable amount. 

The coursework for a psychology degree can also be very similar to that of a social work degree, meaning there is potential to speak to the head of the social work department at your school to see if a program can be arranged whereby you do not need to repeat certain classes.

Before taking the plunge and switching careers though, it is important to understand the differences between psychology and social work, as well as the specific requirements to practice in each.

Understanding the difference between psychology and social work

Although considered relatively similar career paths, there are a few differences between psychology and social work that need to be considered when making a switch. 


Employment opportunities vary slightly between psychologists and social workers.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment of psychologists is projected to grow six percent from 2022 to 2032. There will be 12,800 openings for psychologists projected each year, on average, over the decade. 

Overall employment of social work is projected to grow at a slightly higher rate of seven percent from 2022 to 2023. There will be 63,800 openings for social workers projected each year, on average, over the decade. 

For both psychologists and social work, employment growth represents a faster growth than the average for all occupations. Many of the openings are also expected to result from the need to replace workers who exit the workforce or, from those who transfer to different occupations. 

If you are looking to make the switch from psychology to social work, it will likely be easier for you to find more openings and opportunities than if you were to remain in the psychology field. 


The licensing requirements will also differ between psychologists and social workers.

Psychologists will typically need a doctoral degree in psychology to practice, however, in some instances a master’s degree is sufficient. Most psychologists will also need a license via their state’s licensing board with at least one criterion being a minimum number of supervised clinical hours – requirements will vary from state to state though. 

Social workers will typically need a bachelor’s or master’s degree in social work from an accredited program by the Council on Social Work Education. Social workers will also generally need a license, with specific requirements again varying from state to state. Oftentimes this will include a minimum number of work and field hours which is generally completed as part of your degree.

If you intend to switch from psychology to social work, be sure you check and fulfill the specific requirements for your state as they are unlikely to be the same for the two fields.

Day-to-day activities

Both psychologists and social workers assist people in coping more effectively with their life issues and mental health, however, how they provide this service will differ.

A psychologist will focus on the mental and emotional well-being issues of their clients that may have a damaging effect on their lives. There are five major approaches in psychology – biological, psychodynamic, behavioral, cognitive and humanistic – that each explain human behavior differently. A psychologist may use different research methods and therapies to investigate these behaviors and help provide treatment to the client.

A social worker will also work on a client’s mental and emotional well-being, however, they will address it via ‘outward’ problems rather than the internal issues a psychologist would analyze. This may be via a holistic approach that includes practical support like finding appropriate housing, assisting with everyday living tasks, finding appropriate mental health care or helping build communication skills. A social worker is also more involved in the systems a person must navigate to receive the help they need, such as how to access adequate health care, how to get mental health or social support or how to gain access to healthy food resources.

Your work will take up a big portion of your life, so it is important to seek enjoyment or satisfaction from it where possible.

If you are experiencing burnout, a lack of interest in your job, stress, exhaustion or a sense of stagnancy in your career, it might be time to take the plunge and make the switch to reassess, re-engage and relight the passion.


World of Medical Saviours (WOMS) is a website formed by a group of medicos who are embarking to provide facts, tips and knowledge related to health and lifestyle. This website proves to be a great platform for the medical enthusiast and also for those medicos searching to outgrowth their knowledge about the medical field.

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