Psychology and social work are closely related fields, and many students who major in one discover they would like to work in the other. Fortunately, through more schooling, there are avenues for graduates with a degree in Psychology to make the switch to social work.
Those who pursue a bachelor’s level degree in social work may become licensed through the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) and immediately begin working in the field. Unfortunately there is no way to become licensed with bachelor’s degree in Psychology. The good news is, there are a number of overlapping classes.
Those with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology can apply to get a second bachelor’s degree in Social Work. Many programs in the field will accept Psychology students, since they are very similar fields. The coursework for a Psychology degree is often similar to that of a Social work degree, significantly reducing the amount of time it will take to graduate. Try talking with your adviser and the head of the Social Work department at your school to see if a special program can be arranged for you.
Master’s level programs in Social Work accept applicants from a number of different educational backgrounds, including Psychology, provided they are related to the social sciences.
A master’s degree in Social Work is considered a professional degree rather than an academic degree. Many people who get this degree start as social workers out of undergraduate school and come to a master’s program to advance their careers. Thus, most master’s programs in Social Work require approximately one year of experience in the field for their applicants. Fortunately this does not exclusively include social work.
People with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology can find work as case managers or direct care workers in residential treatment facilities, such as domestic violence shelters, centers for behaviorally or mentally challenged children, retirement homes, and addiction recovery centers. There are also direct care positions available in hospital and clinic settings. Volunteer work is another great way to show your dedication to the field, but most programs want to see at least some work experience.
A doctorate in Social work prepares students to work in policy development and research for non-profits and government programs. Ideally candidates will have a master’s degree in Social work, but those holding a master’s in Psychology can apply as well.
These programs usually require significantly more experience from their applicants. You should be working in the social services field in a professional capacity and also get experience in research and research analysis. Leadership positions in your organization, such as becoming a licensed counselor or a supervisor at a clinic or residential center will make you a stronger candidate. Consider spending some time looking into law making and lobbying to create an even stronger application.
There are a number of places where the job of a social worker and that of a psychologist overlap. If you are looking for the work environment more than the degree, then you may not need to become a social worker for your career goals. Licensed counselors and licensed clinical social workers often work side by side with the same client populations.
A degree in Psychology can be an excellent path to becoming a social worker, provided you get the work experience you need to advance your degree.