Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) Schooling Guide – Become a Clinical Social Worker [2024]

Last Updated: June 23, 2024

What is Clinical Social Work?

Clinical social work is an exciting field for anyone that is happiest when helping others. This is a career for people that want to make an impact in the lives of others by making available the tools they need to succeed.

While all forms of social work are in assistance and care of others, clinical social work is more focused on dealing with the most serious types of problems that people face. Some examples of this can be helping others deal with serious health issues, mental problems or drug addiction.

Mostly, clinical social workers focus on the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of people dealing with serious emotional, mental or life issues.

Because of this, clinical social workers are more suited and aptly trained to be able to handle diverse aspects of human interactions that can be out of balance and hurt the person in their relationship with themselves and their community. Their scope of practice encompasses many different dimensions of human interactions. Because of this there is a great need of clinical social workers in many different fields and is a high demand career.

What Does a Clinical Social Worker Do?

A clinical social worker helps people who struggle with a variety of issues such as depression, anxiety, stress, addictions, trauma processing, low self-esteem, difficulties with their family of origin, marital troubles, eating disorders, self-harming behavior, workplace issues, guilt and shame, loss of loved ones, and any significant transitions in a person’s life.

They are qualified to treat individuals, couples, families, and other groups. Clinical social workers often have specific areas in which they specialize within their field. Ongoing training is a significant aspect of a clinical social worker’s career. A clinical social worker works to improve the life circumstances of his or her clients.

Clinical social workers are available to treat clients who suffer from a variety of psychological issues or who happen to be facing difficult circumstances. Their role is usually to listen and to provide emotional support, guidance, and validation of what a client might be experiencing. Depending on a social worker’s areas of interest, they have the capacity to operate from a multitude of different theories and approaches.

Social workers are taught to utilize a holistic approach and to focus not only on a person’s psychological state of being, but also systems in place that contribute to the issues a client is facing.

The ultimate goal for a clinical social worker is to help a client to make significant improvements to his or her life, emotionally, physically, and socially. For this reason, social workers will do a substantial amount of work with their clients to develop a plan that addresses issues in all areas of their lives.

Experienced clinical social workers can occupy a mentorship role in which they are responsible for supervising the practices of other more junior social workers. They also spend much of their time attending various seminars and workshops to stay up to date on the latest techniques.

Altruism and compassion are a foundational part of clinical social worker, as they focus on helping others achieve their greatest potential and lead happier, more significant lives. Clinical social workers can have a positive effect on the lives of children, adults and the elderly.

Clinical social workers make every endeavor to improve the lives of their clients as well as other community members, in their professional capacity. Social workers assist their clients in overcoming a variety of difficult situations, empowering their clients to upgrade their own life circumstances.

What are the Requirements to Become a Clinical Social Worker?

Clinical Social Worker Education

To become a clinical social worker you need to start with a Bachelor’s degree in social work or related fields, like psychology or sociology. This can ensure that you have the basic knowledge that you need to apply the more specialized skills that you need to apply as a clinical social worker. There are more than 600 schools in the U.S. that offer programs for your Bachelor’s degree in Social Work.

Many of the Bachelor’s programs for Social Work will require the student to start off as pre-social work major, taking classes focused on the liberal arts like Psychology, Sociology, Human Biology and other courses linked to humanities, natural and social sciences.

Once these classes are completed, the student is eligible to join the social work major. The Bachelor’s degree covers many areas that are essential for the practice of clinical social work like: child welfare, family issues, elderly issues and substance abuse.

In addition to the Bachelor’s degree, to be a clinical social worker you need a Master’s degree to practice Clinical Social Work. There are currently 225 Master’s degree program in the United States. Different schools can have different areas of focus and certain characteristics that serve a specific community or ethnic group.

Most programs seek to train skilled and committed social workers that will go above and beyond to be an active participant in the betterment of the individual within their family, group and community.

Emphasis can be made in these training programs to help the student understand the connection between the individual and society, understanding at a deeper level how these two interact and influence each other, giving them better clinical tools to intervene in specific mental health concerns.

Some of classes that can be in a course curriculum are:

  • Foundations of social work practice with diverse populations
  • Clinical practice with individuals, groups and families
  • Clinical practice with adult trauma

These are just a sample of the diverse and poignant courses that clinical social workers learn and focus on applying once they are working in the real world with real people.

The typical credit hour requirements for a Master’s program are 60 credits, although these can vary slightly from school to school, and can be reduced significantly if you actually have your Bachelor’s degree in Social Work.

Clinical Social Worker Training

A clinical social worker has to complete supervised field hours, which are at least a minimum of 900 hours, although this can increase depending on the school and their focus on the hands on approach.

Clinical Social Worker Licensing Requirements

The qualifications for being a licensed clinical social worker can vary from state to state, it’s important that you get to know what these are for the state where you plan to practice this career.

The first thing is to get your training in a CSWE (Council for Social Work Education) accredited program. This will make the process much easier as you are in an education program that follows the standards of current social work training.

Depending on your education level, you can acquire following licenses:

  • Licensed Baccalaureate Social Workers (LBSW): Once your have completed your undergraduate degree you can apply for an initial license as a bachelor or associate level first-time social worker.
  • Licensed Master Social Workers (LMSW): If you have completed Master’s degree work in social work and already hold a LBSW license, then you may be eligible for a masters license. You will be required pass an examination for this level of license.
  • Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW): This is a full professional Clinical License for practicing social workers. Master’s degree in social work is required for this type of license. Depending on the state you live in, you may be required to complete 3,200 hours of supervised work experience and a minimum of 104 supervised weeks.

For detailed requirements you should visit Association of Social Work Boards website.

Where Does a Clinical Social Worker Work?

The work environment can vary a lot depending on the practitioner’s main focus and interests. This field is very diverse, as this role can be applied to numerous settings that can include hospitals, mental health clinics, schools, government assistance offices and having your own private practice.

Clinical social workers usually work closely with other professionals to find the best solutions for their clients. This can especially happen when they are working in the hospital setting, in the child welfare field and other places where the problems that people face are multifaceted.

What Skills are Needed for a Clinical Social Worker?

A clinical social worker needs to have a specific set of skills that are complementary to the goals of their career:

  • Empathy
  • Caring
  • A genuine interest in helping people
  • Patience
  • Compassion
  • A positive attitude
  • Problem solving
  • Proactive approach

What is the Salary and Job Outlook for Clinical Social Workers?

The job outlook for social workers in general is very promising, as projections show that there will be a rapid growth in the need of social workers in the U.S. in the next decade. So, there will be an increasing demand for clinical social workers in the different settings in which play a role.

The salary can vary depending on what area you work in. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the median pay is $64,360 a year. When working in ‘General Medical and Surgical Hospitals’ it goes up to $71,680.

This is definitely an exciting and growing field in which you can make a positive difference in the lives of others by preparing yourself to helps solve some of the most serious problems that our society faces. If you feel that you are meant to be a force of change and positive transformation in the world, this just might be the career for you.

Related Reading

Further Reading

Copyright © 2024 All Rights Reserved. Program outcomes can vary according to each institution's curriculum and job opportunities are not guaranteed. This site is for informational purposes and is not a substitute for professional help.