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How do I decide between getting a lcsw or lmhc/lpcc degree?

I have a BS in psychology and want to go back to school to work in the mental health field with the chronically mentally ill, as of now. It would be easier for me financially to get the counseling degree, but I know that the social work degree offers more variety in terms of careers, and it is possible I could change fields I want to work in.

Thank you comment icon One more perspective to consider; are you more interested in: -Providing therapy, individual or group? -Case Management? Mary Jean Eggleston

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Klaus’s Answer

Hi Brittany,

There is no right or wrong in choosing whichever path as long as you understand what you are up against in those situations. Personally, I would suggest that you take care of yourself financially first because I value the ease of mind a lot, and I have seen many talented colleges who managed finances poorly and ended up making bad decisions under financial pressure. Get the counseling degree and land a job to start building your finances. At the same time, you continue learning and preparing yourself for your school application using time outside work. You are still young and have a long career ahead of you, delaying the social work degree a year or two will not change you life by much. But if you put yourself in a bad financial position, it could haunt you for many years.

Hope my answer helps you.
Best of luck.
Thank you comment icon Thank you Jianming. I appreciate your response & insight. I had not considered postponing the degree until I am better prepared financially. I was just planning on getting one or the other, and the counseling degree is one I could afford now. Brittany
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Boyd’s Answer

Hello,

I know you said it would be easier financially but if it is doable you might consider it. The reason I say that is because if the degree is more versatile for you and IF it earns you more money than the other, it might be worth it to just complete that one now, versus going back to school again for the additional degree, additional licensure etc etc. That will take additional time and money, and if you really want that other degree path, it may be worth it to you in the long run. As you get older you find that sometimes life happens and you may not be able to get back to school as easy. Not always the case but it does often happen that way. Ultimately, it’s what you really want to do. If you really want that other degree, it’s probably worth it to get it now instead of later.

Hope this helps.
Thank you comment icon Thank you Boyd! I appreciate the advice you've provided. Brittany
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Hannah’s Answer

I am a LCSW. The journey was not easy, but I feel as though I made the right decision. I work in community mental health and supervise interns while managing a full caseload.
I wear many different hats as a social worker, and the learning never stops. You must prioritize yourself and seek support when you need it. Boundaries are a must.
Social workers are pretty wonderful people. The world needs more of us.
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Kim’s Answer

Brittany,

Have you ever worked around the chronically mentally ill? I ask this because too often, as young people, we are outsiders looking in. Now that you are part of our family here on CareerVillage, ask some more questions of people who already hold those positions. "What do you wish you had known about this job prior to pursuing this career path? What do you like the most about it? What do you dislike about it?" Every job looks different once you are actually doing it.

But, I DO want to thank you for your interest in working with the mentally ill! People with mental illness have been a part of my life, in one way or another, for the past 40 years, and, it's sad to see how much further we need to go.

I sort of like the idea of finding a job, any job, in the field you are interested in, some place that has tuition assistance, and then working on the degree. Or, consider going into the military, which, would also help you with your tuition. As Boyd noted, "life happens." (thanks Boyd!)
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mark’s Answer

Hi Brittany,

Regardless of cost, I would suggest you get the advanced degree that most closely aligns with your strongest interests. I do believe in the notion that if you follow the path that motivates you the most, the money will follow. I would also say that the counseling degree might make it easier for you to work directly as a therapist, whereas the social work degree would be especially important to work in community psychology and mental health settings. As the other respondents have said, it is ultimately up to you to decide what is best for you. This may sound corny, but I encourage you to follow your heart when making your decision and don't talk yourself out of doing what you really want to do. Also, keep in mind that it is possible to get both degrees if you so choose.

I wish you all the best. Take care.

Mark V.

mark recommends the following next steps:

Talk with professionals in your fields of interest.
Check job postings to see where the demand for people pursuing your areas of interest.
Thank you comment icon Thank you for your thoughtful response Mark! I appreciate the advice and really needed that reminder to follow my heart as my mind is splitting off into all these different avenues of possibilities for my degree, career, & life. I plan to talk with a social worker soon about her experience & I recently spoke with a counseling student about to graduate. I have so much information but still feel confused about my own personal path & what I truly desire, so I think I need to take some time off to also do that & listen to my inner voice. I see you are a licensed professional counselor so it's no wonder you give such great advice haha. Thank you again & all the best to you as well. Brittany
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