Can You Be a Social Worker with a Psychology Degree?

Social work and psychology are two closely related fields that both seek to improve the lives of individuals, families, and communities. While social work tends to focus on helping those who are facing difficult situations or challenges in their lives, psychology is concerned with understanding human behavior and development.

Can You Be a Social Worker with a Psychology Degree?

If you have a degree in psychology, you may be wondering if it’s possible to pursue a career in social work. The good news is that it is indeed possible, but there are some important considerations to keep in mind.

Understanding the Differences Between Social Work and Psychology

To begin with, it’s important to understand the differences between social work and psychology. While both fields share some commonalities in terms of their goals of improving people’s lives, there are some key distinctions.

Social workers focus on helping vulnerable populations such as children or elderly people who may be facing neglect or abuse. They also work with people who struggle with poverty, addiction, or health issues. Social workers aim to empower people by identifying their strengths and finding ways for them to flourish.

Psychologists, on the other hand, tend to focus more on diagnosing and treating mental disorders such as anxiety or depression. They use different therapy techniques to help individuals overcome these challenges so that they can lead more fulfilling lives.

Requirements for Becoming a Social Worker

If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a social worker, there are several paths you can take. The basic requirement for becoming a licensed social worker in most states is obtaining at least an undergraduate degree in social work (BSW). A BSW program usually lasts around four years and includes coursework in topics like human behavior, research methods, ethics, social policy, and fieldwork experience.

Once you have your BSW degree completed requirements vary depending on your location but often include submitting an application for licensure along with proof of education completion from an accredited program plus supervised practice hours.

However, if you already have a degree in psychology, you may be able to pursue a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. An MSW degree program is usually two years long and includes coursework in advanced social work methods, policy analysis, social welfare strategy, and either an internship or field placement.

Advantages of Pursuing a Social Work Career with a Psychology Degree

There are several key advantages to pursuing a career as a social worker with a degree in psychology:

  1. Transferable Skills: The skills you gained during your psychology studies, including knowledge of human behavior and development, research methods, ethics, and critical thinking can apply to many areas of social work such as case management or policy analysis.

  2. Increased Employability: Having both degrees can make you an attractive candidate for employers who value multidisciplinary approaches to complex issues that intersect with mental health.

  3. Opportunity for Specialization: A background in psychology could open career paths towards specialized sub-fields like school social work or healthcare case management.

  4. Higher Salary Potential: Earning an MSW degree can significantly increase the income potential for social workers compared to those with only BSW Degrees.

Limitations of Pursuing a Social Work Career with ONLY a Psychology Degree

While it is possible to pursue a career in social work with ONLY a psychology degree there are some limitations worth considering:

  1. Licensing Challenges: Depending on your state’s licensing regulations its possible your transcript will need additional coursework requirements before applying for licensure without completing the full BSW or MSW degress required.
  2. Lower Starting Salary: Those entering the field with just an undergrad degree will not qualify for many higher-paying specializations.
  3. Fewer Career Opportunities: Without holding any sort of license beyond their undergraduate curriculum graduates may find fewer opportunities available for them.
  4. Limited Scope of Practice: An individual without additional education via licensure won’t be able to provide counseling or therapy services that are often found within social work positions.


In conclusion, it is indeed possible to pursue a career in social work with a psychology degree, and doing so can offer many advantages such as transferable skills, increased employability, specialization opportunities, and higher salary potential for those who earn their MSW degree. However, individuals considering this path should also weigh the limitations including licensing challenges, fewer job opportunities without additional education beyond the undergraduate level as well as more limited scope of practice. Ultimately each individual will have their own unique circumstances and goals when deciding if this option is right for them.


Can a person with a psychology degree become a licensed social worker?

Yes, it is possible for someone with a psychology degree to become a licensed social worker. However, additional education and training in social work may be required.

What are the advantages of having both a psychology and social work background in the field?

Having both degrees can give individuals a broader understanding of the issues that clients face and more tools to help them effectively cope with their problems. It also allows for greater flexibility in job opportunities.

Are there any particular specializations within social work that would be ideal for someone with a psychology degree?

Specializations such as clinical social work or school-based social work may be particularly suited for individuals with a psychology background due to their focus on therapeutic interventions.

Can you practice therapy as a social worker if you have only studied psychology?

In most states, only licensed clinical social workers are authorized to practice therapy independently. However, some positions may allow individuals without an LCSW license to provide therapy under supervision.

How does holding both degrees benefit working in certain fields, like mental health care or education?

Having knowledge of both fields can allow practitioners to better understand the complex interplay between psychological factors and societal issues when working with clients in mental health or educational settings.

Would getting a master’s in social work after earning a bachelor’s in psychology be redundant?

Not necessarily – obtaining an MSW provides further specialized training in case management, counseling, and advocacy that goes beyond what is covered in many undergrad psych programs. Additionally, licensure requirements often mandate an MSW degree specifically.

Can having a background in psychology help prepare someone for graduate-level study in social work?

Yes – many core concepts from undergraduate-level psych courses overlap with those in social work programs. In addition, psychology coursework may have already touched on aspects of clinical assessment and therapy that are central to social work practice.

Are there any disadvantages to having a background in psychology when pursuing a career in social work?

It is possible that having a strong psychological perspective may lead to over-focusing on individual-level diagnosis and treatment rather than broader systemic change. However, this can be mitigated through training and awareness of how societal factors impact individuals’ wellbeing.

How do salary expectations compare for social workers with and without psychology degrees?

While it varies depending on the specific position, data suggests that having a graduate degree (in either field) generally leads to higher earning potential for social workers. However, prior education in psychology does not necessarily predict significantly higher pay rates as compared to those with only an MSW.

Can you become an LCSW with just a bachelor’s degree in either psychology or social work?

No – while certain levels of licensure exist for bachelor’s-level positions (e.g., LBSW), the title of “clinical” social worker mandates an MSW degree and additional supervised experience in direct client care.

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