5 Differentiating Features Between a Social Worker & a Family Therapist

5 Differentiating Features Between a Social Worker & a Family Therapist
Social worker

Individuals associated with different professions contribute positively to people’s lives. They help people to deal with financial and mental health issues by providing them required assistance. Social workers and family therapists are those professionals that help people in different ways. But people often confuse their duties and roles due to a lack of knowledge. Both of these professions offer human services but in a different way. Their work nature and qualifications are entirely different from each other.

The responsibilities of social workers and family therapists come with different challenges. To successfully fulfill your duties, you have to understand the problems of people in each role. You also have to analyze which position will be the perfect fit for you. It is essential to do proper research about social worker and family therapist roles, so you can opt for the right qualifications and polish your skills accordingly. Let’s find out some differentiating features between a social worker and a family therapist.

Qualifications and Education

One of the significant differences between social workers and family therapists is their qualifications and education. Social workers need to earn at least an honors degree. Most undergraduate degrees are full-time for three years, and postgraduate courses are of two years. You need to get some experience in social work to get a postgraduate degree.

On the other hand, you can be a family therapist by getting job training or volunteering yourself in college courses. Employers prefer candidates having professional experience as family therapists. It would be better to know the comparison of mft vs msw to understand better the qualifications difference between social worker and family therapist. You can also find different online courses related to family therapy. Individuals having master’s level degrees in family therapy have the edge over others.

Nature of Work

Family therapists directly work with families to address their mental or personal issues. The primary job of family therapists is to tackle family-related problems. They directly ask family members what type of issues they are facing and the root causes. By directly interacting with families, therapists can conduct impactful sessions that help them to address family issues effectively.

Therapists work closely with family members to help them figure out issues in their behavior patterns. It allows families to bring positivity to their behavior and achieve mental wellness. In training, family therapists learn about different techniques that help them deal with different family-related issues linked to marriage and children.

Social workers work with third parties to offer their services. They take a person-centered approach to understand the issues of their clients and what they need. It helps them know that either they need financial assistance or have any other problem. Social workers address different social issues, from working in family support programs to raising voices for women’s rights to violence in society.

As compared to family therapists, the nature of the job of social workers is not one-dimensional. Also, they work at different levels of society to raise voices for people belonging to different colors, creeds, and ethnicity. They do this, so the government and relevant authorities can prevent other issues of society. Social workers aim to help individuals achieve their independence in a stable and safe environment. From young individuals to children to older people, they work with people belonging to different age groups. They mostly meet with people at any safe place or their homes. Then by collaborating with third parties, they create care plans to achieve their identified objectives.

Job Opportunities

Professional roles for family therapists and social workers vary. Job opportunities for social workers are available according to the size of the local population and the area of work you choose. Most social workers work in independent agencies, social service departments, children’s homes, private nursing sectors, and health service trusts.

On the other hand, family therapists mostly fulfill advisory duties in education settings, youth agencies, faith-based organizations, and voluntary care agencies. When it comes to salary for both roles, it depends on your area of specialty, experience, and skills.

One of the important things to consider is that experience is a key factor that sets you apart from others, whether you are a social worker or family therapist. With more experience, you can deal with the complex nature of problems and resolve them efficiently. Organizations also prefer such individuals who have hands-on experience working in their respective fields. You should be aware that working in social services or as a family therapist is not typical employment. You have to go through many difficulties, so having experience is necessary to find suitable job opportunities.

Working Methods

Social workers schedule their time according to their daily visits and meetings with clients. They manage and plan their work accordingly as they often have to visit social service departments and other places.

On the other hand, a family therapist’s work is primarily office-based. Families or couples mostly visit the therapist’s office for consultation during business hours. Therapists can even assist families via video calls or phone. You may also have outbound visits to charitable organizations, rehab centers, and other workplaces as a therapist. But you do not have to visit these places regularly as you have to do as a social worker.

Career Advancement

When it comes to a well-educated and highly-trained social worker, you can opt for different roles in different areas. You can choose to become a mental health social worker, homelessness officer, healthcare social worker, and day-care social worker. It entirely depends on how you learn new skills to make progress in your professional career by taking senior positions.

Career advancement for family therapists requires specialization in particular areas. You can also choose to take cases related to grief and mental health as it will increase your worth in the eyes of employers. Working in supervision and strategy-building roles also provide you a good experience as a therapist, so you should also consider these options.


Family therapists and social workers are two different jobs. While choosing any role, you should have a clear idea of the responsibilities and challenges of both these positions. It will help you pursue the relevant education and to enhance your skills accordingly. Both these professions bring tough challenges, so you have to mentally prepare yourself while becoming a social worker or a family therapist.

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