Masters in Clinical Psychology or Social Work for becoming a Masters Level Licensed Counselor?

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Feb 13, 2018
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Hey everyone, I'd like a bit of wisdom please.
I'm currently attending classes at a local community college, working towards an associates degree to transfer to a university and eventually a masters program.
My end goal is to become a licensed counselor focusing on giving psychotherapy for treatment of depression, anxiety as well as children who receive abuse at home. I plan on eventually opening my own private practice eventually as well.
I am planning on only going to the Masters level, and completing certification to become a licensed counselor through 3,000 hours of supervised practice.

My original plan has been to get a general transfer degree in Arts and Sciences with a focus on psychology to get a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology at the University of Washington, then doing on to a Masters in Clinical Psychology at the University of Washington.

Recently a family friend who works in this field introduced to me the idea of doing a Bachelors of Arts in Social Work, then a Masters of Social Work (and becoming a LCSW) to reach the same end goal.
I was told that the Social Work route would offer me more opportunities and could get me employed with a higher wage before I finish my Graduate program and get licensed as a Counselor.
I was also told that for a Masters Level counselor, a Masters in Social Work is more desired and can get me a job working in a Hospital, while a Masters in Clinical Psychology could not.
On top of that... I was informed that doing the entire program through the University of Washington meant a 1 year Masters Program instead of 2.

All of this sounds rather appealing and almost makes sense to be a better option. Given my end goal, what would be the better route to take in this situation? I'm nearing completion of my Associates Degree, and the prerequisites for both Social Work and Psychology are rather similar, so I could go either direction without needing to take more than maybe... 1 extra class.

I'm also having a little bit of difficulty understanding the differences of these two routes for becoming a Licensed Counselor. Is my understanding correct that both these degrees are rather broad and requires a specific focus, but a Social Work degree gives me more options for my end goal?

Thank you in advance.

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Feb 5, 2018
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An MSW is more versatile in my experience because the MSW curriculum prepares you for a variety of clinical jobs outside of just psychotherapy if you choose a clinical track. However, even in my clinical track I took other coursework like policy and leadership. I know many social workers who work in hospitals, for insurance companies, in hospice facilities, etc. and these are the areas that make higher salaries than therapists in community mental health centers. In my area (southeast), I have noticed these types of jobs usually do not list licensed psychologist or LPC as acceptable licenses for the job. In general, I see very few job listings accepting LPC or at the least they state "LCSW preferred". My understanding is LPCs cannot bill Medicare so that is probably one of the reasons. You should look around at job listing in the area you hope to practice.

If you obtain a BSW you can attend any university that offers an "advanced standing" MSW program and finish the MSW more quickly which means lower costs. Typically you complete 3 semesters of coursework (summer, fall, spring) instead of 4 (fall, spring, fall, spring) and only complete 1 field placement instead of 2. Although, the specifics of each advanced standing program may vary.

Another consideration should be supervision for your license. In my area, there are fewer LPCs and they are more strict on requirements of qualified supervisors (5+ years licensed and MHSP designation) so it is harder to find a supervisor. There are a lot more LCSWs in my area and supervisors only need 3+ years as an LCSW to supervise. I am unsure of supervision requirements for licensed psychologist, but I assume it must be another psychologist. I encourage you to browse around each profession's board website for your own state.

You should also look at curriculum and the set of values and ethics for each profession to find which fit you best. Social work is heavily about social and economic justice. I've seen many get frustrated in classes with that because they personally do not share a lot of the values of social work, but thought of it as "a quick way to be a therapist". I also know many who get upset at some of the statements the NASW release because that person is politically in disagreement with the profession.

Hope this was helpful! Good luck!
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