LCSW Licensed Clinical Social Worker Requirements

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All About the Licensed Clinical Social Worker LCSW

A clinical social worker is a professional who helps people who are dealing with complex issues that affect their quality of life. This could be a family problem, unemployment, an illness, domestic abuse or a substance abuse problem. Each state has different requirements on how to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). However, it is almost always required to hold at least a master’s degree in social work. When completing this degree program, graduates demonstrate they have the academic and practical knowledge to perform their duties. The programs are available in highly flexible formats, including online. They tend to include a capstone project, usually a thesis, at the end.

There are also doctoral level programs, including the Ph.D. (research-based) and the DSW (clinical-based). To complete these programs, students will need to submit a dissertation. Most of the time, candidates already have to be an LCSW in order to be admitted to a doctoral program and they should also have completed a number of clinical hours.

The MSW (Master’s of Social Work)

When you complete your MSW degree, you should have the educational background and clinical training that you need in order to become licensed as a clinical social worker. You do need to make sure you check with the Board in your own state to see which requirements are placed on LCSWs. During your MSW, you will gain first-hand experience in the various services in which you may end up performing for your job. This includes government agencies, community care clinics and child services agencies. Additionally, some MSW programs focus on a specific area of social work.

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As a graduate social worker to be, you will learn about at-risk individuals. You will help to assess their needs and to steer them in the direction of programs to help them. You will also assist them to navigate the legal system, give them counseling where needed and provide them with the tools they need in order to enhance their quality of life. Usually, it takes 60 credit hours to complete an MSW degree, at least 30 of which are experience hours in field work.

Educational Prerequisites for the MSW

The exact admission prerequisites for acceptance tto an MSW program vary from one school to the next. But students will usually have to hold a liberal arts bachelor’s degree. Those who have a BSW (Bachelor’s in Social Work) and a very high GPA (usually at least 3.5) could be accepted to Advanced Practice Programs, which are more intensive but quicker to complete. In most cases, there are other requirements, such as letters of recommendation and a personal statement. Finally, most schools, although not all, will require a GRE/GMAT.

MSW Coursework

Usually, you will be able to take part in full-time or part-time MSW programs. Additionally, more and more schools now offer online and hybrid programs. These are more flexible, although there may be some synchronous coursework as well. You are also likely to have to complete a thesis project, usually in a specific area that interests you. This could be for topics, such as social and political environments, working with children and families or social welfare policies, for instance.

Career Options for an LCSW

Once you have graduated and passed the LCSW licensing exams required in your state, you are ready to get to work. There are many different industries in which you could find employment. You could become a group home worker, a case manager or a counselor, among others. Some interesting places of employment include hospitals, social service agencies, schools, domestic violence shelters and prisons.

Salary and Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is likely to be a 25% increase in demand for social workers between now and 2020. The average annual salary for social workers according to is $62,081. However, where you work and the amount of experience you have will have a great influence on your salary.


No matter where you live in the US, you must gain licensure in order to become an LCSW. This will usually require you to hold a master’s degree and to pass different examinations (a national exam through the ASWB and a jurisprudence exam, for instance).

Doctor of Philosophy

There are various doctoral programs for social workers as well. If you want to extend your clinical knowledge or become more focused on research, then these programs may be right for you. To complete a Ph.D. or DSW, you will first need to choose a specialization option. You will then have to complete around 50 hours of study before completing a dissertation. You will learn how theories are related to the practice and principles of the field itself. Usually, there will not be any clinical coursework with a Ph.D., as it will be expected of you to already be experienced. Usually, only LCSWs are accepted to doctoral programs.

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Throughout your course, you will look at data analysis, methods of research and a number of electives. You could choose electives in areas such as theories, pedagogy in social work, understanding human behavior, quantitative and qualitative research methods and more.

Once you graduate from a doctoral program, you will be able to take on more advanced LCSW roles. You could become a university professor, an executive director, a consultant or a clinical scholar, to name but a few. You will generally also be able to diagnose for patients.

About the Author: Ann Steele

This website is co-authored by Ann Steele, a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego with extensive experience with children and adolescents. Ann Steele attended American School Of Psychology & Argosy University Online. She especially enjoys using music therapy for mental and emotional well-being.

About This Site

We are an open forum for articles, manuscripts, unpublished thesis, and letters as well as a guide for job, career and program advice from like-minded Graduates. We are seeking submissions that will be of interest to the community.