What is the Difference Between an LCSW and an LPC?

Students wonder about the difference between a licensed clinical social worker and a licensed clinical professional counselor. It is a great question to ask prior to entering a program as there are a variety of similarities; both professions require a master’s degree at minimum, state certification is required, and both tracks can lead to private practice. However, there are some differences between the two professions, which will be addressed below, along with a brief introduction into both of these specialties.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

A licensed clinical social worker, known as an LCSW, is a professional who works within the social work paradigm to provide their clients with mental health therapy. They are highly skilled individuals who work tirelessly to ensure that their clients are given the best therapy possible to move forward in whatever process they may find themselves in. Most of these professionals work with children and adolescents, as well as families, within the foster care system; they may also work in schools or in juvenile workplaces to provide a balanced perspective on an individual’s well-being.

Licensed Professional Counselor

A licensed clinical professional counselor, known as an LPC, is a professional who works within the psychology field in order to provide their clients with a variety of mental health therapy practices that are designed to improve their lives. They are well-educated professionals who must undergo a lengthy process in order to become licensed in their state and they can work in both private practice or as part of a workplace setting, such as a hospital or within the correctional system. They are tasked with providing individuals and groups with personal and, at times, legally required therapy in order to help them overcome problems so that they can lead productive lives.


The main difference between a licensed clinical social worker and a licensed clinical professional counselor is their practice. While it is possible that an LPC may provide their clients with reports and suggestions in terms of a legal case or as part of addiction and recovery situations, they are less likely to be directly involved with issues that pertain to legally mandated changes in personal lives. An LCSW works within the social work field and are often empowered by the court to either provide children and adolescents with court-mandated therapy or to make the decision to remove a child from the care of their parents. This is the biggest difference between the two professions and one that must be considered by any student who is looking to become a part of either field.


Another major difference between LCSWs and LPCs is the application of their profession. Simply put, a licensed clinical social worker has less mental health therapies at their disposal than a licensed clinical professional counselor. This is due to the difference in fields; social workers tend to work mostly with children, while counselors work with a variety of individuals. Because the latter works primarily in psychology, they are trained in more forms of therapy than a social worker, whose primary goal is to protect and mandate changes in children’s lives.

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There are many similarities between the LCSW and the LPC, including salaries; Forbes notes that both professions can bring in six-figure salaries once a professional has at least 15 years of experience. But for all of the similarities, they are distinctly different career courses. Students will need to choose one track over the other as early on in their education as possible in order to begin their training in their chosen field.