Comparing Social Service Degrees

Several graduate degrees satisfy the qualifications for positions related to social services. These degrees represent a variety of academic disciplines, including social work, counseling, mental health, health education and public health. If you’re considering a career in social services but are confused by the wide variety of social service degrees available, it helps to gain an understanding of each discipline.

Social Work Degrees

Although entry-level social work positions may only require a bachelor’s degree, a Master of Social Work (MSW) is needed for advanced administrative and supervisory positions. An MSW is a two-year graduate degree that prepares students to practice social work in their respective state. Clinical social workers, who are licensed to treat emotional, mental and behavioral issues, must hold an MSW. An MSW gives professionals the tools to assess the effects of social environments on mental health and to implement changes through counseling and therapy. Opportunities also exist in advocacy, social policy and program planning for graduates of a MSW program. An MSW is considered a terminal degree in that no further education is necessary in order to find work as a professional social worker.

Sponsored Online Social Work Programs
Sponsored Online Social Work Programs
School Program Description
University of Denver
  • Research-driven faculty dedicated to making an impact on social problems
  • Prepares you to apply social work skills across practice settings
Fordham University
  • Four areas of focus: Individuals and Families, Organizations and Community, Evaluation, and Policy Practice and Advocacy
Simmons University
  • Four Clinical Specializations: Child and Family, Trauma and Interpersonal Violence, Mental Health and Addictions, and Health and Aging
  • Three program tracks: Traditional, Accelerated, and Extended
Case Western Reserve University
  • From Case Western Reserve University’s top-10 ranked School of social work
  • Traditional and Advanced Standing tracks available
University of Southern California (USC)
  • Offered by USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck Shool of Social Work, a top-ranked graduate School by U.S. News and World Report
  • Features virtual and in-person field education in or near student's own communities
Baylor University
  • Ethically integrates faith and social work practice
  • Specialize in clinical practice or community practice

Sponsored Online Social Work Programs

Counseling Degrees

A Master of Arts or Master of Science in Counseling focuses on preparing students for careers in counseling individuals and families. These professionals often work in schools and mental health facilities and help clients combat their emotional and psychological problems. The focus of this degree is to train students to work closely with individual cases and use clinical skills to help improve the lives of their patients. Unlike social work, this degree does not focus on the use of means outside of individual counseling to help people. A Master’s in Counseling is not always a terminal degree and may be earned as a prerequisite to a Doctor of Psychology or a Ph.D. in Counseling. After completion of this degree program, students can look forward to many challenging yet rewarding career options. Many find work as mental health counselors, addiction counselors, family/marriage counselors and school counselors.

Mental Health Degrees

The field of psychology has several graduate degrees that lead to rewarding careers in mental health. The Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, which takes five-to-six years to earn, includes training in the treatment of individuals with moderate to severe mental health issues. Clinical psychologists also conduct research and teach in colleges and universities. Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology) also provides training in clinical skills, but there is less emphasis on research. The degree generally takes three-to-five years to complete. The M.D. in Psychiatry is earned by medical doctors who specialize in mental health during their three-year residencies. A psychiatrist may have less training in therapy than a psychologist but, as a medical doctor, is able to write prescriptions. Psychiatrists often work with patients who have severe mental conditions that have a physical component that can be treated with medication, such as schizophrenia, psychosis or severe depression.

Public Health Degrees

The field of public health focuses on implementing programs and policies to prevent the spread of disease, protect against environmental hazards, respond to health emergencies and promote healthy behaviors. The field is also concerned with ensuring that all segments of the population receive equal access to quality health care. A Master of Public Health (MPH) prepares professionals for careers related to public health. Recent natural disasters, including hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, have focused the spotlight on the important role social services play in public health. Those with a degree in public health often find themselves in administrative positions within hospitals or health-related government and non-government organizations. These individuals spearhead public health initiatives and help initiate major policy changes within the sphere of public health.


Public Administration Degrees

A master’s degree in public administration primes public service professionals to become influential leaders on a local, state, and federal level. While it is traditionally aimed toward government employees, the demand for MPA graduates from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and nonprofit organizations has been emerging over the years. This means greater practicality and versatility for those thinking of entering other service focused industries.

Our sponsored program, MPA@UNC delivers a graduate degree that prepares students to be an effective leader in public service. Students benefit from customizing their curriculum through concentrations and cross-university courses to focus on their professional interests. Whether a student’s passions lie in managing and leading local, state, federal government or nonprofit organizations, MPA@UNC can help build upon their skills and expertise.

Further Reading

Social Work License Map offers current information on Master of social work degrees online with high-tech virtual learning environments. Students are granted more flexibility without having to quit, or relocate their careers and families. A Masters degree in social work online is a great option for those who want to advance their career in social work. Those people, who are already in this profession and want to expand their knowledge and skills, may also opt for this online Masters degree in social work. A Masters degree in social work covers a wide range of specialized areas. At Social Work License Map, we guide you through the necessary steps to earn social work licensure in your state. Knowing what type of career you aspire to will be the primary factor in the choice of the online social work degree. More in-depth training projects and specialized certification programs will help you to become more skillful and open the doors for more rewarding career options.