Social workers that strive to provide their clients with the best quality of care should have the right type of certifications and licensing for the career they desire. One of the most sought after titles of social workers in the U.S. is the Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW).

LICSW Licensure and Careers

Incoming students interested in pursuing this title must make an effort to satisfy the educational and experience requirements expected within their state. Depending on where you live, there may be slight differences in these requirements, making research a tool for your future success.

Our team of educational experts has been researching educational programs and licensing for over a decade. In this guide, you can find more information about entry into this field, education requirements, and salary data relevant to the LICSW. Read more in the guide to learn about becoming a part of this major area.

Path to Becoming a LICSW

The first step in your journey to licensing in this field is finding a bachelor's program that aligns with your future goals. The most preferred bachelor's degree program for professionals in this field is the Bachelor of Social Work. This program can provide you with insight that can add to the quality of your learning in later degree programs, as well as when working in the field.

1. CSWE Accredited Master of Social Work Degree

The minimum degree requirement for licensure is the MSW, making it your next step towards a career as a LICSW. CSWE accredited MSW programs can be found in the traditional environment and online, making this stage extremely versatile for professionals in need of flexibility.

Your MSW program must be accredited by the CSWE in order to help you qualify for licensure, so be sure to analyze these factors prior to enrollment. CSWE-accredited degree program consist of the right topics for professionals and are also reviewed regularly for accuracy.

2. Clinical Experience

Some MSW programs integrate a clinical experience as part of their educational requirements. This can count towards your overall supervision requirement for licensure, which most students indulge in after graduation.

3. Supervision by a Current LCSW

The clinical experience requirement consists of around 2 years of training under the watchful eye of a licensed clinical social worker and allows you to apply what you have learned in a real-world setting. Most state require documentation of this experience at the time of application for licensure.

4. Licensure Exam(s)

The last component for certification and licensure in this area is an examination. Many students begin preparing for this exam while still enrolled in their degree program, so that they can successful navigate their experience in preparation for the final exam. Completion of this examination can allow you to receive your licensure after submitting all required documentation to your state's licensing board.

Education Requirements for a LICSW

LICSWs hold a lot of responsibility when working with clients in the field. The educational requirements for this line of work reflect the future responsibilities of these professionals, since they are organized and dense in terms of what is expected.

The minimum degree requirement for licensure at this level is the Master of Social Work. While this can solidify your completion of educational requirements, there are additional factors to consider before entry into your chosen program.

The MSW program that you choose must hold accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Each state requires that applicants for licensure provide proof of completion of an accredited degree program, as well as proof of a completed supervised clinical experience component.

How Long Does it Take?

The entry-level Bachelor of Social Work program can take you around 4 years to complete at a full-time rate. Programs are available both in-person and online, which could open the possibility of a quicker completion time if you are able to take classes at a more rapid rate.

After completing a BSW program, you can expect to spend an additional 2-3 years in a MSW program that can provide you with more focus into your specific career field and the advanced topics required for career success. Some students might engage in some clinical components at this level, which can reduce the amount of time spent in clinical experience after graduation.

The clinical experience component can vary depending on the state you live in, but most states generally require that graduates complete around 2 years of supervised clinical experience prior to receiving their certification in the field.

Clinical Experience

The clinical experience requirement for licensure was implement in order to improve the quality of social work professionals in the field. Implementing what is learned in degree programs and learning about different types of interventions and services are available can assist you in becoming a more effective professional in the field.

Students in MSW programs can arrange their clinical experience through local mental health organizations or social services agencies with LICSWs on staff. Supervisors for your experience must hold a license in the same field you are working towards to be considered valid for this requirement.

Most states require that students complete 2 years of clinical experience before receiving their license as a LICSW. After completing your degree program and gaining experience, you must also complete an examination to receive your certification and be permitted to work freely in the field.

Different Types of LICSWs

The influence of the LICSW can be widespread within communities all across the country. You interest in this field partnered with your education and training can help you land positions in many distinct areas in need of trained professionals. If you would like to see a few of the most popular career options for LICSWs, browse through the list of options below.

  • Clinical Therapist
  • Social Services Management
  • Trauma Counselor
  • Crisis Intervention Therapist
  • Community Therapist
  • Clinical Social Worker

Employment and Salary for LICSWs

Since the employment setting for LICSWs can be so diverse, you should follow your intuition when choosing a specialization for your career. Some professionals choose to work with certain age groups during their career, while others wish to work in certain service areas within their community.

Another added benefit of receiving your certification as an independent social work professional is that you can also engage in private practice. Clinical therapy is one of the most popular services provided by professionals with this distinction, making it a great consideration for you as you move into your dream career.

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What you earn as a LICSW can depend on many different factors, including the setting in which you work and the type of services you provide. Take a look below this section at some of the common earnings for professionals in this field. Consider the pay differences between each specialization as you browse through each.

Average Salary for LICSWs

  • Social Workers – all, other: $63,010 on average per year. 
  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers: $57,800 on average per year. 
  • Child, Family and School Social Workers: $54,880 on average per year. 
  • Healthcare Social Workers: $62,310 on average per year. 

Skills LICSWs Tend to Have

The LICSW can have many more tasks and responsibilities when compared to the LBSW. Since professionals at this level can conduct therapeutic services, it is necessary that professionals have extensive skills in communication, problem solving, and active listening.

Organizational skills and scheduling are some additional skills that could be helpful to professionals in this line of work, since a common work day often consists of several clients with different needs. Patience, understanding, and empathy can also be useful for upcoming social work specialists at this level.

Organizations to Know

NASW: National Association of Social Workers
If you are moving into the field of social work, you should get to know the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). This is the leading professional organization for social work professionals and can provide you with access to information about diverse specializations in your field, as well as networking opportunities for career success.

CSWA: Clinical Social Work Association
Additional organizations to consider becoming a member of include the Clinical Social Work Association, which is an agency that surrounds the need for additional learning and networking for professionals at this level. In this organization, you can gain access to literature about improvements in your field, learn new techniques, and be provided with advocacy when needed in your career.

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The goal of social work professional organizations is to give professionals access to continuing education during their careers, bring together common professionals, and encourage improvements to the field as a whole. Membership in these organizations can provide you with a great source of security and support throughout the lifetime of your career.

2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Social Workers (All, other; Mental Health and Substance Abuse; Child, Family, and School; and Healthcare) reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed March 2023.