Should I get a counseling or social work degree in Oregon?
July 23, 2013 11:43 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I are contemplating a move to Oregon in the next few years. I will have a masters in conflict resolution but would really like to become a mental health counselor. All the research I've done thus far points to a master of social work as I can be a counselor and have more job availability/flexibility. Part of me would like my second masters to just teach me the theory and effective skills of counseling rather than everything that comes with a MSW. I worked at a women's center and studied feminism as an undergrad so I am well aware of privilege and oppression in systemic form. If my plan was to settle in Oregon could I make it with a masters in counseling or are MSW's more easily finding jobs? This question is specific to the job climate in Oregon.
posted by madmartigan3454 to Society & Culture (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'll give you some generic advice. Most of what you learn in the MSW program is actually a 'practical' where you're out doing supervised social work.

You can be an LCSW, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, then you can hang a shingle and shrink heads until the cows come home.

What the job market is today, may change drastically by the time you get a new degree. Check out Linkedin and other job boards to see who is hiring an MSW. See if those are the kinds of jobs you think you'd like.

My Dad got a free ride at Berkeley for his MSW, so he could afford to actually BE a Social Worker. Do not go into debt for this.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:48 AM on July 23, 2013

Are you thinking Portland? The advantage is that Portland has a lot of services and non-profits that employ mental health counselors. The problem is that there is still a ton of competition for these jobs.

The clear advantage of doing the MSW is getting licensed. That will open up doors for you and give you a clear credential.

Otherwise, do you have a good deal of experience in counseling? If you have a lot of work experience actually counseling beyond just the master's, then you may very well do okay finding a job at one of the NPOs here. But it will probably take some time and networking. It's hard to move here with a specialized field in mind and just get a job in that field (with maybe the exception of tech or health). It's the sort of industry and of a size where everyone knows everyone. Which can make it tough at first to break into, without something like being a LCSW.

Being a LCSW also has the advantage of making it easier to get jobs in the DHS.

To get a feel for the market, the best place to find these sorts of jobs (beyond the NPO section of craigslist) is probably Mac's List.

My advice would, if you do it without going into debt, get the MSW.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:58 AM on July 23, 2013

Simple simple--Get an MSW. Credibility, mobility, skill acquisition, marketability and other "bilities". I am an MSW who, more importantly, was also in the position for 30+ years of hiring mental health professionals.
posted by rmhsinc at 1:02 PM on July 23, 2013

I don't live there anymore, but I have a serious number of friends who are in the social work field in Portland and are unable to find jobs. Many of them have quit trying, look wistfully at the MSW on the bookshelf occasionally, and go back to taking care of the children, because they can't afford daycare on the salary of a homemaker and a graphic designer. (Not kidding, real couple. I'm teaching her basic web work right now in the hopes that she can salvage some sort of income.) I remember when we were all in school that they even had problems finding internships without going away.

Jobs are more available in Salem and Eugene, if I remember correctly, but you wouldn't be living in Portland. If you live out of the Willamette Valley, or in the valley but south of Roseland, (with the notable exceptions -- to an extent -- of Ashland and Bend) you may as well move to Texas. Oregon outside of the Valley is strongly agricultural, with the requisite numbers of republicans and pickup trucks.

I would do whatever you think will give you the most flexibility to have an income if the job market is not as good as it looks from here. And start working on things before you move, if possible. I wouldn't move at all if at least one of you does not have a job before you move.
posted by SpecialK at 3:10 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, my wife works in mental health with a similar, but slightly different degree. She interacts and works with lots of social workers.

The hard part about the mental health/social worker job scene here in the metro area is that you've got several high quality schools cranking out graduates, and none of them want to move away from Portland. This lets agencies get away with paying very little for pretty high quality candidates.

But oregon is a pretty big-ass state.

If you want to live outside the metro area, this dynamic changes a bit, but not a whole lot from what I've heard (from people in the south valley and eastern oregon).
posted by furnace.heart at 4:23 PM on July 23, 2013

Response by poster: Wow, thanks so much for the helpful comments everyone. If it happens, we're leaning toward Eugene, Bend or Ashland/Medford. And I'll probably get an MSW before we move.
posted by madmartigan3454 at 11:38 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Keep in mind that Eugene and Ashland are also both university towns with psychology, if not social work, programs.
posted by SpecialK at 7:56 AM on July 26, 2013

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