School Social Worker vs School Counselor: 7 Key Differences

Tell me, wouldn’t it be great if you could understand the key differences between a school social worker and school counselor?

If yes, then you are right where you should be……

There are many social work career pathways available for services such as youth justice, mental health, community social work and medical social work or for those wishing to work with older people, children and families.

However, if you wish to empower students to reach their full potential by providing evidence-based interventions to improve academic performance and behavioral outcomes, then a school social worker might just be your ideal social work field.


Who is a school social worker?

School social workers are uniquely trained to address the social and psychological issues that can block learners’ academic progress.

The school social worker does this by identifying and addressing complex issues affecting the individual’s learning and academic performance.

By identifying issues that may block a learner’s academic progress, a school social worker can then work on intervention strategies.

They connect students, families, and staff to community resources. And assist students in anger management and conflict resolution.

Related reads:

School social workers are also part of the special education eligibility process.

This is because they prepare the social or developmental history part of the report which ties in to the whole eligibility process.

They provide a lead role is crisis intervention in relation to a child outside of school.

Where there are issues with a child’s behaviour, school social workers support teachers with behaviour management.

In addition, they help with identifying and reporting child abuse and neglect.

Many school children and teens go through significant obstacles when learning such as suicide, domestic violence and other personal crisis as well as dealing with school issues such as not feeling great, emotional issues, lack of motivation in school.

School social workers work alongside teachers, counselors, administrators and community members.

They work very closely with a school counselors.

School counselor

school social worker vs school counselor

School counselors are trained to work with all students.

They provide small group, entire class and individual counselling.

School counselors handle class scheduling and graduation requirements.

They may also write recommendations and provide career advice.

They are also responsible for planning individual student academic programmes.

In addition, they advocate for students at individual education plan meetings, student study teams, and school attendance review boards.

School counselors work very closely with a school social workers and school psychologists.

School psychologist 

school social worker vs school counselor

Their primary function is special education and evaluation.

They administer assessments and carry out cognitive tests or IQ tests.

School psychologists sometimes assess academic and social, emotional functioning through rating scales or other means.

They help determine eligibility for special education services.

Social psychologists may also have the responsibility for conducting functional behaviour assessments.

Remember that responsibilities may vary depending on where you work.

There may be differences in policies, regulations, along with different school culture and expectations.

So explore the responsibilities of each job role in the places you want to work. This will help you understand what they expect of you should they should offer you the role.

So what are the key differences between a school social worker vs school counselor?

School Social Worker vs School Counselor: 7 Key Differences

school social worker vs school counselor

The differences between a school social worker vs school counselor is not distinctly clear.

There appear to be many similarities.

However, the difference between school counselor and school social worker is the amount of schooling and the issues that can be addressed by the professional.

Here are seven key differences:

1. Different requirements

Although the skills are similar, the requirements are quite different; for instance, to become a school social worker, a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in counseling, social work, child development, or psychology are required, and research State requirements are also necessary.

To become a school counselor, an advanced degree with specific and focused coursework is required.

School counselors will also need a supervised practical section of the course and internship to complete their degree, and an application for a state social work licensure.

2. Goals and objectives

school social worker vs school counselor

A school social worker and a social counselor might collaborate with the same professionals, but they never work towards the same goals or objectives.

School counselors’ specialise in providing guidance, while social workers focus on different capacities of therapy, depending on their licensure.

3. Working to solve different issues

As we already mentioned before, these two trained professionals work to solve different issues. While each case is different, there is always a pattern; this means that a school social worker with experience has already solved a similar case, and so has a social counselor.

A school social worker will not have the same experience as a social counselor, and that’s why they’re two different figures; they’re equally important, and they should both be valued and respected.

4. Annual salary

school social worker vs school counselor

The salary information for social work vs. counseling can vary depending on the particular career, the setting, certifications, educational background, and experience level. In general in ranges between $47,000 – $57,600.

Based on salary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a school social worker makes 44,380 dollars per year, while a social counselor, depending on the field, makes about 49,470 dollars per year.

The also highlights that school counselor can expect to earn a salary in the mid five figures in the first few years of practice. On the other hand, a school social worker brings in approximately $80,000 annually.

5. Different approaches

A school counselor and a school social worker have different approaches to how they work.

A school social worker is expected to understand what resources are available in the community in order to connect students, staff, and families to services.

On the other hand, the school counselor does not need to know what resources are available in the community.

The school social worker is responsible for connecting students with resources to help them with various problems and issues.

6. Career focus

school social worker vs school counselor

School counselor’s focus on grades, schedules, and ways to help the student in their school.

School social workers focus of behavioural aspects, mental health, family and community.

7. Place of employment 

Every public school employs a school counselor, but not every school employs a school social worker.

School counselors are employed at a particular school, while school social workers are usually district/county employers, so a school social worker may cover 2 or 3 other schools.


School Social Worker vs School Counselor: 7 Key Differences

Here are seven key differences:

  1. Different requirements
  2. Goals and objectives
  3. Working to solve different issues
  4. Annual salary
  5. Different approaches
  6. Career focus
  7. Place of employment


Social work and school counseling resources

Available at



school social worker vs school counselor

Social Work Got You Losing Your Mind?

Download Your Free Mental Capacity Assessment Sample Now

Leave a Comment