The Master's in Clinical Social Work program is a degree option that can lead students into licensure as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, also known as LCSW. Since different states may have strict requirements for professionals asking for licensure, it may be important for degree programs to follow a certain set of guidelines to ensure their program fits the bill.

MSW in Clinical Social Work Degrees

The Master's in Clinical Social Work degree program is a popular choice for students that are interested in becoming a part of the clinical social field and possibly providing life-changing services to the clients that they serve. At a lot of different universities, the Master's in Clinical Social Work can be found in online format, a popular degree option for busy adult professionals seeking better paying positions for their lifestyles.

Clinical social work means you would work in a clinical setting. Hospitals, primary care facilities, mental health facilities and agencies are common places of employment for LCSW's. Those studying clinical social work learn about assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental, emotional, or behavioral disturbances.

CSWE Accredited Clinical MSW

In order to ensure that a degree program has what it takes, universities must first pursue accreditation for their programs. The accreditation agency of choice for these master's programs is the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). As you move forward on your search for the right program, be sure to check the accreditation status of your program prior to enrolling.

The specific MSW in Clinical Social Work program you choose should address topics that are relevant to clinical social work as a profession. The coursework in these programs may introduce you to topics that may be relevant when providing clinical services to your clients, such as advanced assessment methods, clinical settings and policies that must be adhered to in a normal work environment.

There are quite a few specializations, even within the Clinical Social Work program. The course work for your program can vary if you choose certain specializations for your program, so you should always review your school's curriculum so that you know exactly what to expect.

Online Clinical MSW Programs

In earlier years, transitioning into college was a huge life-changing step for high school graduates entering adulthood. Most people may be familiar with the standard brick and mortar institution with its dorm rooms and the picturesque scene of students arriving on the first day to unpack. In current society, more people may be finding it more reasonable to pursue more flexible options when seeking a college education. Technology has implemented options that can allow people from various socioeconomic backgrounds to take advantage of open programs available all over the United States.

Online Master's in Clinical Social Work programs can implement learning through the use of computers and technological means. If you choose to enroll in an online degree program, you can log in to your courses via the internet, submit assignments in an online drop box and communicate with instructors and class members through email and discussion boards. Students in online degree programs may be expected to engage in self-motivation beyond the scope of traditional programs.

While the social work degree programs still require that students engage in in-person internships, the introduction of online courses may have potentially made the journey towards master's education a reachable goal for even the busiest professionals.

If online education sounds like the right choice for you, you may be wondering where to find these types of programs. The truth is, these programs can be found all over the U.S.! The rise in popularity of these types of degree programs may have brought about change in the university perspective, since some schools are offering tuition rates that are the same whether you reside in its state or not.

In order to give you more information about these amazing degree programs, our team of educational experts has located some of the most popular ones and listed them below. Read more about these programs to see if they have everything you need for the career you desire.

Several Online Clinical MSW Programs

  • The University of Southern California: USC's online MSW program can be a primary choice for upcoming master's students interested in pursuing a career in clinical social work. Students can choose either the advanced standing or traditional path for their degree, which can be influenced by the type of bachelor's degree they currently hold. For most students, the standard track can take 2-3 years to complete. Advanced standing students that have a BSW can complete their program in just under 2 years.
  • Fordham University: Fordham University current has a top-25 ranking social work program at their university. Students accepted into this degree program can also choose between traditional and advanced standing tracks, which can help them with completing their degree program within the quickest timeframes. Degree specializations available at this university include Individuals and Families, Organizations and Community, Evaluation, and Policy Practice and Advocacy. If you are eligible to enroll in the advanced standing program, you may be expected to complete 33 credits for graduation. Students in the traditional MSW program must have 66 credits.
  • Simmons College: If you wish to pursue a career as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), you should pursue degree programs that can set you on track for this goal. Simmons College provides a clinically-focused online MSW program for students that wish to pursue this degree path. The program currently requires students to complete 65 credit hours, all of which can be completed in 15 months. Students may also be required to complete 2 field educational placement experiences totaling 1,120 hours in the field.

Length of the Clinical MSW

The Master’s in Clinical Social Work program can usually take around 2-3 years to complete for most students. Universities have different methods for assigning credit hour requirements, so you may find that these numbers do not match up when comparing universities.

Also, schools may vary on their internship requirements, with some schools requiring 2 internship requirements throughout the duration of the program and others simply stating 1,000 hours of internship are required before graduation can take place. Choosing a university that allows you to choose your own internship setting can also be a benefit when engaging in an online degree program.

Typical Coursework to Expect for the Clinical MSW

The university that you choose for your education may provide you with a curriculum that can set you track for success within your field. One thing to consider before enrolling into any online Master’s in Clinical Social Work program is the accreditation status of your program and the courses that you may be expected to take. The courses that you take during your program can help you to establish understanding with the people you work with, assist you in gaining trust and give you a foundation of knowledge in the policies and regulations that are current within your field. When you take the time to learn more about what is included within these degree programs, you might have a better experience preparing yourself for what is to come.

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Our team of experts has reviewed some of the top schools for Clinical Social Work degree programs. Throughout their research, they were able to review the curricula of these programs in order to provide you with some insight into the courses involved in each one. Some of the common topics found within these programs included those that placed focus on the assessment of individuals and groups, courses that focused on providing accurate evaluation of symptoms and establishing treatment plans for clients in various settings. The list below has some of the most frequently found courses throughout this program. Read through them so that you can gain a better understanding of some of the topics covered in this degree program.

  • Human Sexuality and Social Work Practice: When working with individuals in a clinical setting, professionals may be expected to have a strong understanding of sexual perspectives, challenges and attitudes common in society. Within this course, students may take a look at human sexuality from the viewpoint of their future clients. Social and political influences may be targeted for discussion within this course, as well as cultural norms and societal expectations. The goal of this course is to enlighten students on the differing sexual perspectives in society and help them to overcome feelings of uneasiness that may arise when discussing sexual situations with clients.
  • Evidence Based Practice: In clinical social work, professionals may be expected to adhere to certain practical and ethical guidelines with each client. This course can provide students with skills and knowledge regarding interviewing techniques, communication and therapies within a wide variety of settings. Students may also learn the importance of applying evidence-based treatments and procedures when working with clients in the field. As part of this courses requirements, students may also be expected to apply their knowledge of interviewing techniques in practice scenarios.
  • Narrative Approaches to Social Work Practice: One of the main tools for clinical social workers to use in the field is communication. Using language techniques with individuals and groups can allow social workers to connect with their clients, establish trust and encourage openness during conversations. Students may also focus on social issues that are currently present in society at both the micro and macro levels.

What is Clinical Social Work?

Clinical social work is a growing field that may be popular for upcoming social work professionals. While most social work specializations typically have their own specific groups of clients, professionals in this field can work with people within any age range. There are several aspects about this program area that can set it apart from others, so you can read more about what is involved in this line of work in this section. If you feel like you could be a great provider of clinical services to people within your community, this may be the specialization for you.

Clinical Social Work Fields

In the field of Clinical Social Work, professionals may be responsible for working with a broad range of clients that may be struggling with mental health issues, family relationships, behavioral problems or even general social dismay. The curriculum that leads up to this career path includes topics in psychology, mental health, counseling, assessment and even evaluation techniques. Professionals that are employed in these positions may use this knowledge to evaluation, review and provide treatment plans for people that are experiencing issues in these areas.

Social workers in this specialization can work for a large variety of agencies, including those in human services and even healthcare. People that have been identified as potential clients may need support throughout long periods of times, while others may benefit from short term care. As a Clinical Social Worker, it may be part of your job responsibility to determine what type of need you client has, so that you can provide the most benefit.

Clinical Social Work Job Professions and Careers

The role of the Clinical Social Worker can be very important in the lives of clients. Clinical Social Workers can assist people with overcoming anxiety associated with social interaction, unstable relationships in the home environment and even psychiatric ailments that are interfering with normal functioning. With that being said, the services of the Clinical Social Worker may be required in several different professional areas in society. Some of the most popular fields for social work professionals may include those in social services, mental health, healthcare and education. These areas may all contain a high concentration of clients that may be in need of guidance through health-related concerns, instances of neglect or abuse or even educational support.

Our team of educational experts has years of experience with researching educational programs and the careers that can result from them. They have followed-up on graduates for Clinical Social Work degree programs in order to see what type of positions they have obtained in the field. Take a look below at a few of the positions noted in our team’s research.

  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker
  • Mental Health Specialist
  • Clinical Director
  • Clinical Social Worker – Crisis Prevention

What are the Licensing Requirements in Clinical Social Work?

Depending on your goals, you may find that the requirements may change depending on the type of career you choose. Students entering into online Master’s in Clinical Social Work degree programs may have the option to pursue a career as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), which may be one of the most preferred positions for graduates at this level. Take a look below at some requirements that may be included in becoming licensed within this field.

  • Graduate from an Accredited MSW Program: First and foremost, future LCSWs must enroll in and complete a CSWE-accredited MSW program. Programs that focus on Clinical Social Work may be the most preferred, but students can often benefit from learning about other specialties as part of the clinical experience as well.
  • Gain Clinical Hours: The amount of in-person clinical hours required for licensure may be different depending on the state in which you live. One state currently requires that graduates gain 3,000 experience hours under the direct supervision of a LCSW. In terms of how these hours are arranged, most states require that around 100 of these hours are under the watchful eye of your supervisor.
  • Pass the Exam: Once you have completed the previous goals, you will have to sit for the ASWB’s Clinical Exam. This test may include topics that you were introduced to through your educational programs, as well as what you have learned through your clinical experience in the field. The test may consist of 170 questions, with a pass percentage of 75%.

Upon completion of your examination, you may be on track for becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Check with your state for general requirements during the application process, as well as what documentation may be required to fulfill this requirement. Once you have received your confirmation of licensure, you are free to work under this title in the field.

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Earnings and Salary as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker

One of the main questions that upcoming students in this degree program may concern the earning potential of this field compared to those in related fields. Clinical social work may take a slightly more involved approach to working with clients in the field and may be one of the most profound micro social work positions currently available to students. Most social work positions may require some sort of licensure in order to work with clients in the field, but the requirements and licensure process may be slightly different for students interested in this field as well. First, take a look at the earnings of some of the more standard social work positions in the U.S.

  • Child, Family and School Social Workers: $54,880 on average per year. 
  • Healthcare Social Workers: $62,310 on average per year. 

These figures above are generated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They are actual averages drawn from current professionals working in the field, which can be a great representation for what you can expect to earn in either of these positions. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, you may have the option to pursue private practice as a means for higher pay and flexibility, since your skills can allow you to counsel clients outside of organizational settings. 

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