So you are tossing around the idea of becoming either a psychologist or social worker. Both are amazing opportunities to help people. But there is a huge difference in terms of not only the responsibilities of the job, but also in common personality styles, temperaments, giftings and worldviews that psychologists and social workers often display.
We’ll be delving into that, and also take a look at the practical side of each career and most specifically, the methodology that each employs in their craft. We’ll get you ready to launch by helping you develop a strategy to win in the career you choose.
Personality style, temperament, giftings and worldview
When it comes to a job as an LCSW or a Psychologist, personality matters.
The personality type that is best suited to be a psychologist is one that is very relational, analytical and believes that a person has a particular psychology and mindset due to two main causes -- the events or traumas that happened in their past or the story (beliefs) about themselves. So the field of psychology holds that a person’s development is shaped by family dynamics, relational traumas, self-knowledge and stories that they tell themselves about themselves.
A social worker, on the other hand, typically believes that a person is the way that they are because they have been shaped by the society around them and the influences it impressed on them. Sociology holds the societal factors, government policies, dominant industries in a certain town, “income inequality” and the role in society that you were born into, have strong causal power over people’s lives, and any problems or disadvantages that they might have.
So in a nutshell, a psychologist believes psychology shapes a person, while a social worker believes sociology shapes a person.
So, what type of person is best suited for each job?
A person inclined to being a psychologist is someone who (a) believes that family dynamics, past traumas and beliefs shape people. They also believe that individuals can grow and become the person/people they want to be by introspective therapy, bringing one’s subconscious into the conscious awareness, and rewriting the story they keep telling themselves.
A person who is inclined to being a social worker is someone who believes that a person’s social dynamics and conditions cause the person to be shaped in certain ways. Furthermore, this type of person believes that they can improve a person’s well-being by improving their social situation.
Organizational Structure of Psychology and Licensed Clinical Social Workers
That was a broad overview of psychologists and social workers. Now, let’s delve a bit deeper into both.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
LCSW’s tend to work in hospitals and psych wards. However, they may also work in other settings, focusing on substance abuse, public health, school social work, medical social work, marriage counseling or children and family therapy. They operate in medical capacites and treat all issues as having “medical” causes and treatments. LCSW will do most of the care in these facilities, and they are required to refer their patients to psychiatrists for the actual drug prescriptions,
LCSWs are the official state-approved channels for dealing with these medical issues. Their average salaries are about $58,918, with starting salaries at 44k ranging up to 79k.
LCSW’s treat the health of the human person in terms of conditions such as depression, chemical dependence, depression, loneliness, stress, poverty, phobias, and other “mental disorders.” They view these as problems caused by structural societal forces. Furthermore, the effects inside a person from these social causes, called disorders, are treated, according to the LCSW school of thought by medical, or chemical reactions.
This is why you typically see LCS Workers in behavioral health wards of hospitals, treating conditions such as those mentioned above, like depression, chemical dependence with medical/ chemical treatments, as opposed to a psychologist who will treat these conditions through different methods.
Licensed clinical social workers work in partnership with other social institutions in order to help improve their patients' function in society. A psychologist, on the other hand, focuses more on a patient’s heart, mind, and family to help the patient improve their conditions. Let’s look further at psychologists.
Psychologists treat many of the same conditions as an LCSW, but not with a chemical or drug. Rather, they work to treat patients through a change in thought, behavior and action.
Counseling Psychologists (average salary: $72,540 per year) tend to work in private practices, and usually do not revert to medical drugs that require a psychiatrists’ prescriptions, although they sometimes do provide some additional support to the patient. However, they also work in hospitals and mental health clinics as part of a patient’s larger treatment.
Clinical Psychologists tend to work more with psychiatrists for the goal of preventing or treating mental illness. They tend to work in hospitals or mental health clinics. As of March 1, 2021, the average annual pay for a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in the United States was $107,167 a year.
While many psychologists are solo practitioners, there are also a variety of psychologists within organizations and institutions.
- Performance Coach Psychologists (average salary tends to be higher than other psychologists and commensurate with performance), like in the tv show Billions, work on individual business performance.
- Engineering Psychologists (Average Salary: $79,818 per year) will work to improve systems of people and how they work together to achieve specific goals. They tend to be hired by companies, firms or even the military on a contract basis.
- An industrial-Organizational Psychologist works on structural organization and performance of a firm or industry, along with workplace dynamic issues and HR departments. A typical starting salary for a graduate with a masters degree is around $40,000. Meanwhile, the starting salary for a doctoral graduate is approximately $55,000 (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Employment Statistics. 2019).
What a typical week is like for LCSWs vs Psychologists
A psychologist is often seen working for themselves, while a licensed clinical social worker works for a large organization, usually state run or financed. By now, you’re probably seeing the parallel structure of these two professions -- one tends to work in a small business, or as a solo-practitioner while the other works as part of a larger system or institution.
Since LCSW’s typically work as part of a larger treatment team, they tend to attend meetings and confer with colleagues regarding their patients’ progress and treatments, sharing their findings and gleaning information from their colleagues. Patients will come into their offices, or sometimes LCSW’s will also visit patients in their homes. They will also keep track of patients via periodic checkup phone calls to make sure they are taking their medication and are staying connected to other organizations.
A psychologist will work directly with patients and is responsible for the entire treatment (non-medical) treatment. It tends to be more personal (in a professional way). Psychologists will typically see 5-7 patients on an day, generally in the evening after normal work hours, or at lunch, or before work. These private practice psychologists typically have offices in business areas making it convenient for clients. They are almost entirely solo practitioners.
Psychologists may plan their schedules around their clients and client’s treatment plans. If a patient is not doing well, they attempt to be available for them as much as possible.
Since LCSW’s are part of a larger team and share notes with colleagues regarding patient progress, it may be easier to take time off and recharge.
What job is right for you--psychologist or LCSW?
When choosing any career path, you need to come up with a plan to help yourself figure out which direction to go.
To start out on the right path, ask yourself these questions:
1. Do I tend to think that a person’s problems are more caused by some societal issue and external issues, or an internal psychological issue?
2. Do I like to work as part of a team to solve problems and help people, or do I tend to like working solo and helping others connect to their real selves?
3. Do I like being a part of an organization / institution, or being a solo-practitioner?
4. What do I believe about the human condition? Does it align more with sociology or psychology?
As you respond to these questions and begin to clarify your own approach, values, skills and work styles, you can start to uncover the perfect people-helping profession for yourself. Regardless of which you choose, if it aligns with your values and you are able to do what you love, you are on your way to careerbliss.
Speaking of careerbliss, our team of experts have helped a lot of people find the jobs they love by identifying the happiness factors that really matter for on-the-job satisfaction, and providing resources to help job seekers identify the factors that matter to them and find jobs that meet those standards.
Whether you are an LCSW or a psychologist in training and at heart, we’ve got you covered. Be sure to check out our job board at careerbliss.com to find your next happy, fulfilling job, or take another step forward in your career. We’re excited to help you get to that next phase, whatever it might be for you.
The CareerBliss Team
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