The role of the counselor with whom children cross paths in school has changed significantly in the last decade alone. In the past, they performed administrative duties and generally helped the student with things like applying to colleges and plotting a manageable course load while juggling responsibilities outside of school such as work and family obligations.

School counselors now juggle a wide variety of responsibilities and work with the student’s teachers and administrative staff to assist the student in meeting academic and personal goals. A school social worker collaborates with the surrounding community, from parents to employers, to set goals and develop programs to ensure the student can thrive.

School Counselor Evolution

A professional school counselor works with the school staff, from teacher to principal, and with the parents of the child to build on skills and competencies that the student has in place. The goal is not only academic achievement but also personal growth and a strong sense of confidence. They are an important and valued member of an education team that is put in place to guide students in their overall academic and personal development.

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School Social Worker

A school social worker addresses the psychological and social issues that can affect a student’s academic progress. While teachers are on the front lines of a student’s social and psychological needs or deficiencies, a school social worker offers more support. They build off of the teacher’s original assessment and provide tools and a deeper valuation of the child’s needs.

Future of the Social Worker Field

This industry has more than half a million professionals who are trained to assess and help people. Only about 5 percent of those trained have a focus in school social work, making this a much-needed and specialized position.

The industry continues to expand as school districts realize the importance of early intervention for children who need support and counseling.

At-Risk Issues

School social workers help children and teenagers navigate social, cultural and situational issues. Some of the at-risk problems that children face that require the intervention of a school social worker include:

  • Gender identity issues
  • Homelessness
  • Mental disabilities
  • Physical disabilities
  • Sexual orientation

Duties of a School Social Worker

The job position requires social workers to reach out to the community for support for each child. They create a link between the school, home environment and community as a whole to ensure that the student can achieve academic success. To do this, they work with school administrators and leaders within the community who can specifically aid the child in the quest to overcome obstacles and get credit for school.

Together, they create school policies and set up useful support services and intervention strategies that are tailored to the student’s needs.

Difference Between School Counselor and School Social Worker

The line between the two can seem blurry. There are many similarities between social work and counseling. 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.

An advanced degree with specific and focused coursework is required to be a school counselor. School counselors will also need a supervised practicum and internship to complete their degree. The school counselor list of classes includes:

  • Human Growth and Development
  • Social and Cultural Foundations
  • Research and Program Evaluation
  • Theories
  • Individual or Group Counseling
  • Career Development

A school social worker requires a social work degree that covers overcoming personal issues, how to create relationships with community resources and more.

School Social Worker vs. School Counselor Salary

A school counselor can expect to earn a salary in the mid five figures in the first few years of practice. A school social worker brings in approximately $80,000 annually.

About the Author

Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business trends and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at www.vegaswriter.com.