Master’s in Social Work vs Psychology

masters in social work vs master's in psychology
One in five Americans experience mental illness in their lives and nearly 80% of adults who suffer from depression experience hardship at home, at work and in social situations as a result of their illness. The prevalence of mental illness in our society is no secret, and these statistics may seem to paint a stark picture. However, they can also show that many of the people who have mental illness share common ground with others, as well as inspire social work and psychology professionals to help those affected at individual and societal levels.

These experts can make a positive impact not just on mental health, but on many aspects of society, from influencing how we talk about mental illness, deal with issues like cyberbullying and look at encouraging better mental health in the workplace. Both social workers and psychologists are needed in a variety of settings, from community environments like schools and hospitals, to more individualized one-on-one appointments with their clients.

Social Worker vs. Psychologist: Both Necessary with Different Approaches

Psychologists and social workers differ in how their fields approach a given problem. For instance, a psychologist would be focused on diagnosing and providing guidance for treating a mental illness. Psychologists also receive extensive education in a variety of clinical approaches for treating conditions, and can offer many different forms of therapy, depending on their client’s needs While certain types of social workers (e.g. Licensed Clinical Social Workers) can offer strength-based counseling or therapy for mental illness, their focus would be more on helping their client with their daily lives and connecting them with resources, which may include referring them to a psychologist.

While some overlap exists between the two professionals, understanding the difference between a social worker and a psychologist can help you plan for a more fulfilling career that matches your passion. Psychology in particular is a highly dynamic field that can range from having your own private practice, to roles in business that require an understanding of human behavior.

Master’s in Social Work vs Psychology

Master’s in Psychology

A master’s degree in psychology provides a comprehensive education that covers psychological principles, as well as their applications in both the workplace and to treat clients.

Psychology master’s students study the biology of behavior in addition to human growth and development. A thorough understanding of individual and family development will be essential, and many master’s in psychology programs will leave graduates with a unique understanding of how these personal attributes can be applied in a professional setting. For example, understanding workplace power dynamics between men and women can help HR leaders minimize incidents of sexual harassment or help other professionals to be more conscious of how these dynamics affect behavior and performance. Similarly, business leaders who understand psychological principles like priming can use these techniques to make a more comfortable and more productive work environment.

Master’s in Psychology Curriculum

Coursework involved in a master’s degree in psychology typically covers areas of psychological theory, research, current practice, social justice and advocacy as well as ethical professional development. While not all degree programs prepare students to be clinical psychologists, they do equip aspiring psychology professionals with the know-how to apply psychology principals in a variety of settings. The curriculum often covers courses like advanced social psychology, advanced statistics, assessment and psychobiology.

Some master’s in psychology programs even offer tracks specific to business settings. For example, Lynn University’s Master of Science in Psychology offers an industrial/organizational track with courses that prepare students to train and develop employees, successfully evaluate the performance of individuals and the organizations in which they work, as well as optimize work-life balance initiatives.

Related content: Career Opportunities in Psychology

The wide scope of applied psychology principles covered in this degree program allows graduates to apply their skills in business development, marketing, human resources, criminal justice or a career in clinical or industrial/organizational psychology.

Professionals with a master’s in psychology commonly achieve the following job titles and salary ranges:

Psychology Careers

Job Title Avg. Salary
User Experience Researcher $94,632
Talent Acquisition Manager $80,718
Market Researcher Manager $77,540
Clinical Director $69,609
HR Manager $64,188
Behavioral Analyst $56,742


Master’s in Social Work

A master’s degree in social work teaches students to develop a keen ear for listening to individual’s stories and how their experiences relate to the bigger picture in society. However, the importance of psychology in social work can’t be understated as students will also learn to become advocates for their individual clients in addition to the various agencies they may serve.

Master’s in Social Work Curriculum

Coursework involved in a master’s in social work degree program typically includes a history of social welfare, human behavior theories as they relate to social work, and research techniques applicable to the field. Many programs offer licensure options as well, which will alter the curriculum accordingly.

The curriculum prescribed for this degree program teaches students how to understand policy as it relates to the individuals and clients they will serve. Graduates must be prepared to deal with policy changes at the municipal, state and federal levels. For example, if a current proposal to cut food stamps for more than 750,000 people goes into effect, social workers and the agencies with which they are employed will need to reevaluate their strategies for helping individuals who will no longer receive this aid.

Fieldwork placements offered by many graduate-level degree programs in social work provide students with opportunities to gain first-hand experience at organizations such as child welfare agencies, mental health clinics, hospitals, schools and youth service agencies.

Career Opportunities in Social Work

Social workers have a myriad of career paths available to them, especially if they are licensed. These professionals can apply their expertise in areas such as child welfare, substance abuse, rehabilitation and more in clinics, community agencies and schools.

Professionals with a master’s in social work achieve the following job titles and salary ranges:

Social Work Careers

Job Title Avg. Salary
Clinical Director $75,856
Social Work Supervisor $61,496
Social Services Director $59,381
Licensed Clinical Social Worker $53,667
School Social Worker $50,491
Mental Health Therapist $43,566


The Online Master of Science in Psychology (MS PSY) at Lynn University

Lynn University offers an entirely online MS PSY program that can be completed in as little as one year. With general and industrial/organizational tracks available, students can tailor their degree accordingly without putting their careers on hold.

The passionate researchers and educators who comprise Lynn’s MS PSY faculty are eager to share their real-world experience across the lifespan in professional, individual, and clinical settings with their students.

Ranked among the “Most Innovative Colleges” in the nation according to U.S. News & World Report, Lynn University is the premier place to develop expertise for solving some of the biggest challenges facing the criminal justice system.

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