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Difference Between Psychologist and Social Worker

The differences between these two terms is directly connected to their professions, namely, clinical psychology and social work. It should be noted, though, that social work can further be categorized into social work and clinical social work. Clinical social workers are more similar to psychologists than social workers, so the main accent throughout the article will be placed upon the differences between a psychologist and a social worker, though some important distinction between clinical social workers and psychologists will be briefly covered.

Both of these professions include interacting with people and helping them solve certain problems. Therefore, they both require very high social and communication skills. The educational requirements are a little different, however, and, while a psychologist is required to have a Ph.D. and at least 1 year of experience. Professional social worker gains master’s or bachelor’s degree (clinical social workers are required to have the master’s).

Salary differs depending on the area of specialisation.


What is Clinical Psychology?

Difference Between a Psychologist and a Social Worker

Since the late 19th and early 20th century, due to Freud’s groundbreaking work in the field of psychoanalysis, psychology field started moving from the pseudoscientific area towards a legitimate, scientific area that includes many theories and clinical knowledge.

Clinical psychology, in particular, focuses on using that knowledge and information obtained from different clients in order to help them in different manners – usually by detecting and analysing different psychological disorders or other similar problems and then coming up with a way to help the client cope with those problems.

Psychotherapy is the most representative process that stems from clinical psychology. The client usually lies down on a bed or couch (which is a tradition that Freud first implemented and it serves the purpose of relaxing the client, making him/her more open and enable to go deeper into the essence of the problem). Client then can talk about different things. Psychotherapist guides clients and carefully follows and analyses the background of what the he/she is saying. psychotherapist also detects the root of the the problems and provide guidance to solve them. These therapies can last weeks, months, or even years, depending on the individual.

The main characteristics of clinical psychology (or psychologists) would be:

  • Incorporates theories and clinical knowledge.
  • Implements that information and tries to detect, analyze and come up with a solution to the possible mental issues.
  • The most representative process is psychotherapy.
  • Requires a Ph.D. or a doctorate in clinical psychology and at least one year of experience.
  • The pay rates range from $42,000 to $49,000 per year, depending on the specialisation.


What is Social Work?

Difference Between a Psychologist and a Social Worker-1

Social work is also connected to solving individuals’ problems, but it’s not limited to  social psychology. It incorporates knowledge from psychology and theories and information from other fields such as sociology, law, and economics.

Its focus lies “outside”, meaning it’s not concerned solely on the individual’s mental status but also other external factors such as socioeconomic status and etc. Social workers might also deal with family, group or individual counselling. In this case the role of the social worker will be similar to psychologist, but the psychological approach will still be focused on the “inner” side, emotions and subconscious of the client, whereas a social worker’s approach will be directed to the client’s communication or other similar issues.

The job of the social worker is to improve the overall well-being of the client by finding external resources to help the client’s situation. Since this job can sometimes overlap with other healthcare professionals, social workers function in collaboration with other professionals.

The distinctive characteristics of social work are:

  • It aims at improving the overall well-being of its clients.
  • Social worker’s role incorporate theories, knowledge and empirically-obtained information from other fields, such as sociology, psychology, law and economics.
  • Clinical Social work usually comes in the form of counselling.
  • There are different types of counseling – for couples, families, groups or individuals.
  • A master’s or bachelor’s degree is required.
  • Pay rates range from $45,000 to $55,000

Difference Between Clinical Psychology and Social Work

  1. The fields it incorporates knowledge from

While a psychologist will only incorporate knowledge from clinical psychology, a social worker will implement theories and information from several areas, including sociology, psychology, law, economics, political sciences, etc…

  1. The educational level and experience required

While a psychologist is required to have a Ph.D. or a doctorate, a social worker can become a professional with bachelor’s or master’s degree.

  1. The pay rates

The pay rates varies depending on the areas of work, area of specialization and number of years of experience.  Social worker’s salary varies anywhere from USD $ 40,000- 70,000 whereas psychologist earn anywhere from USD  $50,000- 110,000.

  1. The focus

While a social worker will focus on “outward” problems, such job, housing, living condition, and medical care. A psychologist will focus on the mental and emotional issues that a client might have.

Clinical Psychology vs. Social Work


Social Worker

Implements knowledge and information from clinical psychology in order to help the client. Incorporates knowledge and information from psychology, sociology, law, economics, political sciences, and other areas in order to help the client.
Has a Ph.D. or a doctorate, and at least one year of experience Has a bachelor’s or master’s degree
Pay rates range between $50,000- 110,000 Pay rates range between $$ 40,000- 70,000
Focuses on the “inner” side of the client – emotions and subconscious Focuses on the “outer” side of the client – communication, career planning, job, housing, family support and etc…


  • These jobs incorporate knowledge from different areas, with a social worker having to implement a broader spectrum of information.
  • Education and pay scale are different – a psychologist is required to have at least a Ph.D. or a doctorate, as well as 1 year of experience, while a social worker can have a bachelor’s or master’s. Psychologists get paid more than social workers.

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References :

[0]Weissman, Myrna M., et al. "National survey of psychotherapy training in psychiatry, psychology, and social work." Archives of general psychiatry8 (2006): 925-934.

[1]Goldstein, Eda. Ego psychology and social work practice. Simon and Schuster, 1995.

[2]Harré, Rom. Social being: A theory for social psychology. Rowman and Littlefield, 1980.

[3]"Image Credit: http://www.postpartumprogress.com/8-types-of-psychotherapy-for-postpartum-depression-treatment"

[4]"Image Credit: http://theconversation.com/social-workers-should-be-paid-and-trained-like-doctors-27730"

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