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5 Differences Between a School Counselor and a School Social Worker

5 Ways a School Counselor and a School Social Worker Differ

  • Identification of Skills and Competencies
  • Collaboration with Other Professionals
  • Educational and Licensure Differences
  • Linking Students with Community and Academic Resources
  • Addressing Issues that Affect a Child’s Development and Education

Many people are involved with the education of children and knowing these five differences between a school counselor and a school social worker could help a person understand the American education system better. Becoming familiar with the differences in these job functions could also help a person decide whether they want to study social work or psychology. These are five key differences between school counselors and school social workers.

1. Identification of Skills and Competencies

A school counselor identifies a child’s skills and competencies. For example, they might administer a reading assessment. The school social worker may identify social skills or a lack thereof. If a teacher identifies that a student refuses to talk in class, the school social worker might step in and find out why.

2. Collaboration with Other Professionals

School counselors typically collaborate with other school staff members. This includes teachers and the principal. A school social worker also collaborates with teachers, but they primarily collaborate with others in the community. For example, they may reach out to nonprofit organizations, the school resource officer or local healthcare clinics.

3. Educational and Licensure Differences

A counselor has a minimum of a master’s degree. They may have additional training in education. Many counselors have a doctoral degree. Some states require counselors to have a specific license. Social workers may have a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree. They are usually required to maintain a license as a clinical social worker. This also requires continuing education units. To work in a school, both professionals have to pass background checks.

4. Linking Students with Community and Academic Resources

Counselors may link students with learning resources to help them catch up with their peers or develop their skills. The counselor might provide resources for tutors in a particular subject in which a child has a poor performance. A social worker in a school may link a student with resources to help them avoid problems such as truancy or excessive absences. For example, a student who is homeless may have a difficult time getting to school. The social worker could link the student and their family with relevant community resources.

5. Addressing Issues that Affect a Child’s Development and Education

According to The Classroom, school counselors address issues that affect a child’s psychological development. They may address issues such as dyslexia or other learning disabilities. On the other hand, social workers in schools address social issues that affect a child’s development and education. For example, the social worker would address bullying or a lack of resources for school supplies. Both of these professionals would build upon a teacher’s assessments of a child.

Related Resource: 50 Great Small Colleges for a Bachelor’s in Psychology

Knowing the differences between counselors and social workers within a school system makes it easier to know which one of these career paths would be a better fit. This information could also help a family member or educator know who to turn to when they need additional support for a student. Understanding these five differences between a school counselor and a social worker allows a person to make an informed decision about what to study for their bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree.

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