Difference Between a Counselor and Social Worker

Counselors and social workers play an important role in the positive transformation of society. They assist those who are in vulnerable positions and help them create a better situation for themselves.

Although both the titles have extensive differences between them when closely examined, on the surface, they may seem to be the same thing. However, a major factor that distinguishes them is the aim with which they perform their duties.

Counselor vs Social Worker

The main difference between a counselor and a social worker is that a counselor provides help to vulnerable people who are in need of emotional or psychological support whereas a social worker helps clients improve the way they function in a social setting as well as reinforce social change on a larger scale.

Counselor vs Social Worker

A counselor is the first responder to a vulnerable person who requires emotional or psychological support before, during, or after a serious situation occurs.

At times, counselors may even be referred to as therapists. They work on a small scale by being in direct contact with the client in order to provide assistance individually.

A social worker encourages clients to cultivate a better social understanding so that they can function justly in social situations.

They also help in fighting systematic problems and aid communities that are affected by them. Social workers work on a broad scale most of the time however, they may also pursue direct contact with individual clients.

Comparison Table Between Counselor and Social Worker

Parameters of ComparisonCounselorSocial Worker
MeaningA counselor is often the first responder to a client who requires emotional and psychological support.A social worker is a professional who helps communities and clients solve social problems and vulnerabilities.
AimCounselors aim at providing support and guidance to people who need it.Social workers aim at improving social situations on an individualistic or societal level.
ScaleCounselors work individually with clients.Social workers work on a large scale by providing services to a broad section of society.
EducationA counselor must attain a master’s degree in the respective field.A social worker must attain a bachelor’s degree for entry-level work and a master’s degree for further work.
Practice SettingsA counselor generally works in a personalized office.A social worker predominantly works outdoors but may also have a personal office.

What is a Counselor?

A counselor is a trained professional who acts as the first responder to a vulnerable person who is in need of emotional or psychological support.

Counselors provide their services to a large number of people who come from different backgrounds and require different kinds of proceedings. They work on a small scale by handling each client individually.

Counselors are sometimes even referred to as therapists. They provide solutions and support to people involved in various situations including addiction, disabilities, employment needs, trauma, family problems, mental health issues, and much more. They even dispense academic, career, and marriage counseling.

A counselor may practice in various areas depending on what type of counseling is provided.

For example, a career counselor works in a school, a drug and alcohol abuse counselor works in a rehabilitation centre and a mental health counselor works in a hospital. 

In order to practice legally, a counselor must acquire an educational degree, certifications, and a license to work.

Counselors are first supposed to achieve a master’s degree in their respective field so that they can further get a certification and license.

During the period of studies, the counselor is even allowed to practice in a clinic to gain real-world experience.

What is a Social Worker?

A social worker is a trained professional who helps clients and communities solve social problems and promote positive change.

Social workers advocate social change, cohesion, development, and empowerment of people as well as various sections of society. Their aim is to improve the overall well-being of a patient.

Depending on their specialty, social workers may work in the outdoors and sometimes even indoors.

In some cases, many legislative procedures require their involvement, because of which new and improved social policies are formulated.

Their training teaches them certain values and principles which are combined with thorough academic research. Based on this, they carry out their work which involves addressing social problems and barriers.

Some of these problems may be poverty, discrimination, unemployment, crime, and much more.

Most of the time, social workers adapt to a new way of practice depending on the social background of the community that they are dealing with.  

Social workers practice their work in almost every field of community life that one can imagine. Some of these include hospitals, schools, mental health clinics, elected offices, prisons, military, and even senior centres.

They may even join private or public agencies that provide social services to various people and communities.

Main Differences Between a Counselor and Social Worker

  1. A counselor provides emotional and psychological support to a client whereas a social worker provides solutions and aid to socially affected people.
  2. A counselor provides individual services while a social worker provides services to people and as well as communities.
  3. Counselors aim at helping their clients emotionally while social workers aim at improving the overall well-being of a client as well as bringing social development in a society.
  4. Counselors work indoors in personalized offices while most of a social worker’s practice is carried out outdoors.
  5. Counselors can only practice with a master’s degree while social workers can practice with a bachelor’s degree as well.
Difference Between a Counselor and Social Worker


Both counseling and social work are respectable fields of work that have the same goal of providing help and aid.

However, the kind of clientele that both deals with as well as the services they provide have major differences.

Counselors work individually with clients to help them deal with certain situations that affect them emotionally and psychologically.

On the other hand, social workers work on a larger scale while handling individual clients as well as communities. Social workers also aim at bringing about social change and development.

While counselors are only allowed to practice if they have a master’s degree and license, social workers are allowed to practice at entry level with a bachelor’s degree.

Some organizations even provide on-the-job training for social work employees.




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