Clinical social workers investigate the cause and effect of environment on a person's frame of mind in a clinical setting. LCSWs provide much-needed psychological guidance to people that seek out their help. Clinical social workers use many methods to help their patients better understand what is causing their woes. Clinical social workers then compare results to existing theories. Common theories include psychology, social development, and cultural diversity. With the right education and experience, clinical social workers can determine the most effective treatment paths.

MSW Clinical Social Work Degrees

Reviewed by Harleny Vasquez
Harleny Vasquez is a Licensed Social Worker and a Latina Woman of color. She is the founder of her business...

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Social work is a broad field that can include any aspect of the social environment that has a profound impact on the people within. As a licensed clinical social worker, you could become part of the preventative force that seeks out solutions relating to the environment and the individual.

The primary focus of clinical social work is the psycho-social and behavioral components that affect individual's capacity to lead normal lives. As a clinical social worker, you could be an important piece of the life-improvement process for people that can be found within your community.

Accredited Master's in Clinical Social Work Degree Programs

Along your path to educational and professional success, there are many guidelines in which you must follow to have the proper end result. As with most clinical positions, it is required the licensed clinical social workers obtain the proper licensure. You can test for licensure after completing your MSW degree program. States require licensure before working with individuals in the public.

The most important component in the licensure process is obtaining a Master's degree in Social Work through an accredited college degree program.

These programs can be found as Online Master of Social Work degrees, and in traditional environments and provide reliable curricula that have been reviewed by the proper accreditation agencies.

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is the leading accreditation agency for educational programs in social work. As you are doing your research for different programs and licensure, you may see this organization pop-up several times. The CSWE's name on an educational program in social work can help you ensure that you are getting your money's worth through your chosen program.

What Does It Mean To Be a Clinical Social Worker?

Working in this field, you may provide treatment to individuals, groups, couples, or even families. Depending on whether or not you seek a specialty in treating different groups, you might even have a highly diverse set of clients to work with.

Professionals within Clinical Social Work can find employment in many organizations. The most commare are state organizations that provide services to children, families, and the elderly. Other options include health care services, mental health, rehabilitation centers, private practice, and even the school system.

LCSW Programs

There are many MSW programs. Consider viewing the Online MSW programs page or search Master of Social Work Programs by state for full lists.

Boise State University - Online MSW

Boise State University currently offers 2 options to students that are interested in pursuing the LCSW distinction. The first track is for generalist MSW students and consists of a 61 credit hour requirement. For students that have already obtained a BSW, this university also offers an advanced standing track that only requires 37 credit hours for graduation. Both of these programs can be completed completely online through this popular university.

Florida State University - Online MSW

Florida State University is another well-known university that allows students to take part in a completely online, CSWE-accredited degree program in social work. There are also 2 programs available for students at this school, one of which is for bachelor's earners from other disciplines and another for BSW graduates. The generalist degree program requires students to complete 61 credit hours and the advanced track requires that students complete 39 credit hours.

The University of Houston - Online MSW

Like other schools offering the online MSW, the University of Houston has an advanced track and standard track for their MSW programs. The advanced track at this university is designed for learners that have indulged in BSW programs prior to entering. It requires 38 credit hours to complete, and can be finished in as little as 1 year. The standard track can be approached by students from any previous bachelor's program and requires 54 credit hours for graduation. This program can take around 2 years to complete at full-time enrollment.

Sample Clinical Social Work Coursework with Descriptions

Advanced Issues in Human Diversity

As social work professionals, it is vital that upcoming students understand the importance of considering diversity when working in the field. This course provides students with the knowledge and experience required to work proactively in the field without categorizing, making assumptions, or stereotyping the people they provide services for. Students that take this course can gain a better understanding of how important it is to remain neutral when providing services to all people, regardless of their background.

Evaluation and Treatment of Mental Disorders

Since most social work graduates will work in fields that are related to individual mental health, this course was designed to help students gain a better understanding of biopsychosocial assessments, diagnostic tests, and treatment planning for people that suffer from complex mental disorders. Students within this course are taught to work from an unbiased perspective in order to provide the best care for their patients.

Social Dimensions of Human Behavior

This course seeks to help students understand how society can play a role in human behavior. Socioeconomics and culture can be a huge determinant of behavior from a sociological standpoint. The effects of racism, ethnic bias, gender discrimination, and class stigmatization may also be discussed throughout this course.

Social Welfare Policy

In order to provide the public with the best quality of service, social work students must understand the United States’ social welfare policy from a practitioner’s standpoint. This course helps students learn to identify policy problems and promote change through the legislative system. Law and regulations surrounding social welfare application may also be discussed in detail.

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Social Work Practice

This course outlines the skills and requirements of social work professionals in the field. Communication techniques, interview strategies, assessments, and supervision are taught within this course, which helps to connect social work students with their responsibilities in the field.

How Do You Become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker?

There are multiple steps you can take to become a LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker). As mentioned above, a Master’s in Social Work, more often than not from a CSWE-accredited social work program, is the first step. Below are several other steps you’ll want to consider:

Supervised Clinical Experience

The supervised clinical experience requirement for licensure typically comes directly after obtaining a Master’s degree in Social Work. Some professionals may have the option of pursuing work experience prior to completing their degree in order to cut down on the amount of time spent training and optimize their free time to its fullest potential. Depending on which state you are pursuing licensure in, you could see a profound difference in the amount of clinical hours you are required to have for obtaining your license.

Check With Your State for Requirements

Some states require 3,000 hours, while other states require upwards of 3,500 hours. In total, you can expect to spend around 3 years working toward this requirement, which is a huge step in becoming a trained clinical professional. Prior to becoming involved in this experience, your state may require that you register as a training clinical professional prior to gaining clinical hours. Be sure to research what your state requires, since some states do not count clinical hours until the certification process has been completed.

Throughout the duration of your clinical experience, you may be expected to observe licensed professionals during everyday work, provide hands on care to clients under the supervision of a licensed professional, and learn the ins and outs of a clinical work environment. This experience can contribute a lot to the upcoming licensure requirement.

Testing for Licensure

After you have completed your degree program and supervised working requirements, you will be tested on your knowledge of clinical social work as a whole. The experience that you gain through working under the supervision of other licensed professionals as well as what you learned during your degree program can work together to promote success during your final testing phase, which is vital for licensure.

State board examinations may fall under different names depending on the state in which you reside, but they all encompass the entirety of the information pertaining to your clinical field. The duration of these tests is typically 4-hours and it consists of around 170 questions, 150 of which count towards the total score.

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In addition to this board examination, most states require that students also successfully pass a state jurisprudence (law) test that pertains to the laws and regulations within that particular state. The law examinations are given to all clinical professionals that are seeking licensure through the state, and are not specific to one group.

What Can You Do With a Masters Degree in Clinical Social Work?

Social Services Career

At the state level, there are numerous agencies that have a common objective of providing protection and assistance to vulnerable populations. Two of the most well-known departments at the state level are the Department of Children Services (DCS) and Adult Protection Services (APS). Working for children’s services can mean intervening in the event that a child is victim of neglect, abuse, or abandonment. As a social worker in social services, you can expect to have a close relationship with the children in which you serve, providing advocacy for them in a court setting, referring them to appropriate foster homes, and assisting them with receiving the medical/dental/mental health services that they deserve.

Adult protection services can provide a similar service to adults of older-age that are victims of abuse, neglect, or abandonment from their caregivers. Social workers in this field can assist in finding appropriate living quarters, nursing facilities, and healthcare-related services to individuals that require at-home care or home-health nursing.

Mental Health Career

People that have been diagnosed with mental health disorders may require the help of social workers for their treatment planning, follow-up care, and therapeutic services. Social workers that work in the field of mental health may help their clients determine the most effective means of treatment, find resources in the community that can assist them with living normal lives, and refer their clients to therapeutic agencies for treatment. For people that do not have the ability to make their own financial and treatment decisions due to their mental state, social workers can be an advocate for proper treatment at a legal level. Social workers can sometimes take over responsibility for people with varying mental health conditions, allowing them to make decisions in regards to their client’s mental health and well-being.

Healthcare Social Work

In the healthcare field, there are plenty of confusing terms and conditions that patients are not suited to comprehend. Healthcare social work professionals are employed within the medical field, sometimes in hospitals, to provide counseling to patients that have been diagnosed with complex or serious illness and disease. These professionals can help patients come to terms with the constituents of their condition, provide advice during the treatment planning process, help patients when dealing with insurance companies, and provide referrals to organizations within the community that can assist patients with leading normal lives. Social workers within this field can be a huge help to people that are suffering from complicated and sometimes chronic health conditions. If you have an interest in this field, you could be a huge part of the recovery process for patients with diverse illnesses within your area.

Educational Social Work

In schools across the country, school-aged children are dealing with social issues such as bullying, cybercrimes, and educational pressure from their families. Combining all of these different issues can make it very difficult for a child to focus on their school work and excel to their full potential. Social workers that are employed within the educational field can provide interviews and counseling to students from the beginning of school age until graduation. Some colleges and universities may also employ social workers to help students deal with the stresses of transitioning into adulthood and the pressures associated with it. Social workers may provide mental health counseling to students that are working through personal circumstances, college counseling to high school students that are looking to pursue a college degree, and even intervention services for students that are succumbing to peer pressure in terms of drugs or alcohol. This is a very rewarding field that is popular for graduates of social work degree programs.