When looking at the many options of social work careers in therapy and counseling services, it is easy to get confused with the roles of a school social worker and a school counselor. There is some overlap in these two professions, but there are also distinct differences as well.
Understanding how each one affects the lives of students and the educational process will provide insight on the duties of these two critical industries.
Working as a School Social Worker
School social workers address the social and psychological issues that affect the academic process. The National Association of Social Workers explains that school social workers pick up where the teachers leave off with counseling, crisis intervention, and prevention programs.
Social work is an industry with over half a million trained professionals, and about five percent of them specialize in school social work.
They focus on problems in schools that put kids at risk such as:
- Physical disabilities
- Gender identity issues
- Sexual orientation
- Mental disabilities
The school social worker job description requires them to create a link between home, school, and community to help students find academic success. They work with administrators and community leaders to develop school policies, intervention strategies, and other types of support services.
The Evolution of the School Counselor
The American School Counselor Association points out that the role of the school or guidance counselor has changed significantly over the years. Counselors used to simply help students with schedule changes or forms for college. Today’s counselor serves as a member of the education team to guide students in their overall development.
A counselor collaborates with parents, staff, and administration to set goals and develop programs designed to help students build on skills and competencies for academic achievement and personal growth.
What is the Difference Between These Social Work Careers?
There are some obvious similarities in these two social work careers. Both a counselor and a school social worker strive to improve the lives of students by delving into complex subjects such as:
- Behavioral problems
- Developmental setbacks
They both help manage the obstacles that stand between a student and academic growth. Social workers take their concerns outside the school walls, however, to look at family dynamics and life issues that affect the quality of a child’s life. A school social worker learns how to advocate for entitlements that improve the family’s situation like Medicaid and low-cost health insurance.
Educational Differences Between Social Work and School Counseling
Another primary difference between a school social worker and a counselor is their academic studies and degrees. A school counselor has an advanced degree that includes specific courses, according to the American School Counselor Association.
- Human growth and development
- Individual or group counseling
- Social and cultural foundations
- Research and program evaluation
- Professional orientation
- Career development
- Supervised practicum
- Supervised internship
Each state also provides a list of educational requirements to work as a school counselor. School counselors are required to be certified by the state education department before working in the public school system.
School social workers must have a degree in social work. A social work study program offered by Our Lady of the Lake University online focuses on the basic needs of individuals to live a healthy and safe life beyond the school environment. The courses cover personal issues such as food and shelter to improve a student’s performance at school.
Choosing Between Social Work and Counseling
The U.S. Department of Labor states that both these industries will grow over the next decade providing more job opportunities. School counseling will see a growth of about 12% by the year 2022 and school social work about 15%. Deciding between these two career paths will depend on your interests and current career path.
Students who see themselves working with community services to improve the lives of individuals and families should consider continuing their education and advancing rewarding social work careers. A student who wants to focus more on academic guidance is well suited to work as a school counselor.