Yesterday, the Department of Counseling provided Deaf Vee Journal the following official statement:

Citing dwindling enrollment and limited faculty resources and support, the Gallaudet University Department of Counseling has made the difficult decision to put its master’s degree programs on hold. The department has already closed its Summers and Online School Counseling Program, and is not recruiting new students for its School Counseling or Clinical Mental Health Counseling programs. Current students will be able to complete their programs, and faculty may assume other roles within the university. A process will be created for program alumni who need information for certification and licensure. 
The Department of Counseling, established in 1971, has a storied history and has graduated over 1,000 students. Says department chair Kendra L. Smith, “Over the years, the dedication and investment of current and past faculty and staff members of the Department of Counseling has been without equal. Our hearts have been invested in our students, alumni, programs, and department from the beginning.”

Following the publication of our previous article on the shutdown of Gallaudet University’s graduate counseling programs for both clinical mental health counseling and school counseling, there was widespread concern that this meant Gallaudet University would no longer be producing behavioral health clinicians for the Deaf and hard of hearing communities.

As Deaf Vee Journal has come to find out, this is not true.

Deaf Vee Journal received formal confirmation from the Office of University Communications at Gallaudet University that the Master of Social Work program is not affected and their operations will continue. With the Master of Social Work program, graduates have the option of providing behavioral health services in a wide range of settings for Deaf and hard of hearing communities, either under clinical supervision or as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

A few current students or recent graduates from the Clinical Mental Health Counseling track informed Deaf Vee Journal that some of the internal discussion going on recognized that both the Department of Social Work and the Department of Counseling has been competing for students over the years. “Some might argue that the Social Work program appears more appealing to potential applicants,” one anonymous source said.

What’s the similarities and differences between counseling and social work, then?

Counselors can do school counseling, marriage and family therapy, clinical mental health counseling, substance abuse counseling, rehabilitation counseling, and/or vocational or career counseling (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). You can find counselors in schools, colleges, hospitals, behavioral health facilities, and private practice. Training for counselors tend to be more specialized.

Social workers can provide school counseling, counseling for relationships and families, clinical mental health counseling, substance abuse counseling, and/or rehabilitation counseling as well; in these sessions, one key difference is that social workers often provide a combination of therapy and assistance with access to community resources (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Career options for social workers are much broader. You can also find social workers in child and elderly welfare, patient case management for health care services, social services, public policy work, human subjects research, private practice, or in advocacy organizations working towards solutions to systemic issues that contribute to the ongoing oppression and marginalization of their communities. Training for social workers are broader, and they have the option of pursuing specialty certificates (i.e., a Pupil Personnel Services Certificate as a K-12 school social worker).

So why might a MSW program be more appealing to applicants compared to a Counseling program? Answering this question does not mean that the field of Counseling is any less worthy.

Choosing a Master of Social Work program offers applicants the option of broader career options to fall back on if they decide at a later time they are no longer able to do counseling for individuals, relationships, or families. Likewise, MSW graduates who might not be interested in doing counseling right away have the option of switching jobs and later earning licensure in clinical social work because they would already have their degree.

A second reason is the difference in pay scale. According to PayScale, the average salary for a clinical social worker is $57,099 whereas the average salary for a mental health counselor is $42,701. PayScale also shows that the average salary for a licensed clinical social worker is $58,509 compared to the average salary for a licensed professional clinical counselor at $49,040. Of course, the salary differs from state to state, from city to city, and also it depends on the said applicant’s experience.

It would be remiss not to acknowledge that this topic has many interacting factors. Funding is one such factor, as it is highly competitive. The Department of Counseling has regularly applied for funding with the intention of using funds as scholarships and/or stipends for their own students, and there were years where the department couldn’t provide any scholarships or stipends for students because they weren’t awarded any additional funding. It is also possible some applicants may be opting for a graduate program in counseling or social work at a different university.

Although Gallaudet University’s Master of Social Work program continues, it does not change the fact that Gallaudet University remains as the only university across the United States and Canada to provide a graduate program that specifically prepares students to provide behavioral health services for the Deaf and hard of hearing communities.

The number of qualified Deaf and hard of hearing counselors and social workers in the behavioral health/substance abuse treatment field for schools, residential services, and outpatient services who are fluent in ASL, BASL, LSM, ISL, and other sign languages continues to be low across the United States and Canada.