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Should I study social work or psychology?

22/08/2023 |

Are you passionate about changing lives, improving communities, and making a difference? Both Social Work and Psychology centre around people with some key differences.

Social work is a discipline that works with people to help address social injustices, support vulnerable populations, and empower individuals, families, and communities. Social workers primarily focus on providing holistic support, advocacy, and resources to address the social and environmental factors affecting individuals and communities.

By comparison, psychology is a broad discipline that explores the intricacies of the human mind and behaviour, delving into topics ranging from cognitive processes and emotional experiences to social interactions and mental health and more. Though psychologists can work in a variety of contexts, including businesses, the military, and schools, for the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on clinical psychologists. Clinical psychologists specialise in diagnosing and treating mental health disorders.

While both degrees help prepare you for a career devoted to understanding and improving people’s lives, it’s helpful to consider some questions to find the ideal match for your interests and goals.

Take our quick quiz to find out which career may be best suited to you.

1) What best describes you?

A. I want to empower individuals and communities to address social issues and promote social change.

B. I want to better understand the brain and human behaviour to understand how this affects mental health and wellbeing.

2) What type of work environment do you prefer?

A. I want to work in a community setting and collaborate with a diverse group of people to address societal change.

B. I want to engage in research, psychological assessments and provide therapeutic interventions in a clinical setting.

3) My ideal working style is:

A. Working closely with individuals and communities to address their specific needs and challenges.

B. Working with people one-on-one to help them through any mental health issues they may be experiencing.

4) Which statement resonates with you most:

A. I am passionate about advocating for social justice and working towards a more equitable society.

B. I am passionate about mental wellbeing and am interested in exploring the complexities of the human behaviour.

5) What is more important to you?

A. Understanding how psychosocial factors can affect individuals, families and/or communities. 

B. Understanding how individuals and their behaviours impact society.

Mostly As: Social work

As a social worker, a key part of your day will include connecting individuals or families in need with resources and services that improve their circumstances and help them achieve social equity. You will also take a holistic approach to address psychosocial issues that clients may face, which can be related to social, behavioural, economic or health related problems.

A degree in social work will equip you with the knowledge and training to tackle a diverse range of issues that people facing difficulty may encounter, and working with them towards positive change.

A career in social work will also allow you the opportunity to work with individuals, families, groups, organisations and communities to advocate for change on several issues causing societal disadvantages, and strive to bring forth positive change at both the community and policy level. Social work is a challenging yet rewarding profession, which attracts passionate and dedicated professionals who desire to make a positive impact on the lives of others. As one of the top 10 fastest growing areas of employment, social work is a great option for those passionate about advocating for members of the community.

Find out more about our social work degrees.


Mostly Bs: Psychology

Psychology, as a comprehensive and diverse field encompassing areas such as cognitive psychology, personality, organisational psychology and developmental psychology, aims to delve into the complexities of the brain and behaviour, shedding light on how individuals perceive the world and navigate life. Pursuing a psychology degree at UWA exposes you to an expansive array of theories and practices spanning various disciplines. This education equips you with the skills to assess psychological capacities, comprehend the impact of aging, brain injury, and illness on psychological processes.

The Bachelor of Psychology offers a solid foundation for diverse careers within the field. For instance, aspiring clinical psychologists embark on an educational journey beginning with an undergraduate psychology degree, followed by honours and subsequent postgraduate studies. As a clinical psychologist, you have the opportunity to guide patients to address potentially detrimental mental health issues and work with them to understand these feelings.

Find out more about our psychology courses

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