Nursing vs. Social Work (the never ending internal debate)


[h=1]I am currently in a nursing a program and it seems that so much of it is based on medications/pharmacology. I love working with people. Particularly I found a passion in working with at risk youth. I am also very much interested in working in the area of eating disorders. I also really enjoy topics like psychosocial health. I originally thought nursing and working as an eating disorder nurse or within the schools. Can anyone enlighten me more on the role of a nurse and social worker? What are the pros and benefits of both careers?[/h]


54 Posts

I am still a prenursing student but I will chime in my two cents. First things first, for Social Work you need atleast a Masters to get into the field. Where as with Nursing you can find work with an ASN Degree ( A lot of hospitals do want BSN Degrees, but in my area ASN is still accepted) Now you will take a huge cut in pay if you do social work. The Average for Social Work is 50 thousand dollars a year, were as for Nursing its around 70 thousand dollars a year. Remember this is starting out. (I used for the averages)

Now both professions help people. And I too am thinking which route to take. But Since you are already in a Nursing program I would advise you to finish it, try it out for a year or two and if you dont like it go on for your Masters in Social Work.

Specializes in School nursing.

Well, I'm a school nurse and definitely handle psychosocial health everyday. I work in close contact with our school student support and counseling team and many of student's psychosocial issues present to me as physical symptoms. I love my job and will admit that I feel that it is kinda a blend between nursing and social work sometimes :).

To be a school nurse, most districts require a BSN. You can also become nationally certified and/or state certified (state requirement differ across states).

Specializes in Critical Care, Education. Has 35 years experience.

If you're more interested in the psychosocial aspects of care, nursing probably is not the best fit. Nursing practice is holistic, but - outside of behavioral health environments, our focus is on physiology & counseling/therapeutic intervention is managed by other disciplines. Take eating disorder treatment for instance; nursing care is usually limited to inpatient programs in which nurses are responsible for 'medical' interventions (IV therapy, tube feeds, etc), dietitians manage nutritional status, and behavioral health professionals (psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, etc) direct those services. Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners function in a very broad role, both directing behavioral health & medical care... but that will require at least Master's degree in nursing.

I have never heard of a school-based eating disorder service. It sounds like a great idea, but currently, school districts are hard-pressed to even afford a qualified RN school nurse.


5 Posts

Thanks for your insights. Would mental health nursing be more geared to psychosocial health or would it be more medication management?


12 Posts

I'm facing the same debate as you (and it's a never ending internal debate for me too) I may not be much help but I'll chime in anyway.

Take a look around your local area on job boards, etc. Are there psychosocial nursing related positions? In my area there is lots of social work type Nursing Jobs and the trend seems to be going that way as far as I can tell...because I think we are starting to realize a lot of people's social problems stem from physical problems as well so it's valuable as a professional to be able to have a conversation about one's social AND physical well being.

Nursing pays more, there is more career may have to pay your dues in an area you are not passionate about for awhile, but once you find your niche I think you may find it more can always volunteer at social services agencies on the side if you are very passionate about eating disorders and at risk youth.


26 Posts

Specializes in N/A.

Hi Bake,

I agree what others have mentioned previously! Nursing a great profession and you can take into any direction whether you want to do counseling or more medication management or both. I have a MSW and I am transitioning into nursing for more opportunities for my career and financial stability! In the current economy, even LCSW's those who have a Masters and 2 years post masters have a difficult time finding work and substantial pay! You will make at most 50k plus you will be limited in your scope of practice to just counseling folks with eating disorders instead of adding a "unique" niche to your craft by consulting on the physiology of what an eating disorder could result into like depression, body image, lack of nutrition etc. Even if you go into private practice, it will take you some time to gain your clientele and your business; in the meantime you have to take care of your needs! Plus, I have to say that other professions do not have or have limited respect for us because our profession is based on liberal arts education and “soft skills”, whereas nursing is based on the “science & art” of caring for a patient or client. If you become a Psych NP (MSN specialty in psych) you can definitely write your own ticket and provide "holistic" care to patients who represent the demographic you want to work with! Just food for thought!


2 Posts

Not sure where Fisherpe was looking with a max salary of 50K for MSW, Indian Affairs, VA, and most organizations will start you OFF at 55K, with License, and I see jobs, however, it is true that you can do ANYTHING in Nursing, get much more PRESTIGE with your job title, respect from individuals, never ending job opportunities, schedules. I have done EXTENSIVE research as I want to work with mental health, and here is what I have found. Masters Counseling ($55K Average, slim jobs) Masters Psychology ($55K, slim jobs, some states wont even license this as therapist) Masters Social Work ($62K Average, Good job prospects) Masters Physician Studies - Psychiatric ($95K, GREAT job prospects, High Demand) Masters Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner ($115K, Highly Needed, GREAT job prospects, LA/NY may pay up to 200K)....So. Yea..I want to help people, but I also want my kids to be able to go to the best schools, live in a nice neighborhood and enjoy nice things in life. My wife is going to school for logistics, I refuse to be bringing in $50K as a Social Worker with a masters degree while she brings in $70,000 with a bachelors in supply chain/logistics. Its ridiculous.


1 Post

I will graduate with my MSW in six weeks. I already have an MPA degree. I never wanted to do nursing, due to the long shifts and having to deal with difficult doctors more closely. Nurses make great money. However, after you become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker it is easier to obtain federal jobs that pay really high. This can also lead to management positions and the ability to work overseas, for the federal government, with an increased cost of living allowance. Good luck to everyone. I commend those of you who majored in both fields. Federal jobs have really good pension, continuous raises, and plenty of job choices.


412 Posts

Sounds like you would be great for mental health. I know someone who worked in a youth addition treatment centre. Sounds like that could be a good fit