A Licensed Clinical Social Worker

A licensed clinical social worker is a professional who has studied and obtained a degree in social work. Social work is an academic and professional career, the aim of which is to improve the well-being and quality of life of a community or individual. This is done by various means, including interventions via direct practice, organizing the community, and enduring that the basic human rights of individuals are upheld.

The roots of social work can be traced back as far as the industrial revolution, where society had to find a way to deal with the poverty and the resultant problems that it causes. The initial focus of social work was to deal with poverty; hence it became synonymous with charity work. A modern Clinical Social Worker, however, deals with far more than just poverty; homophobia, sexism, racism and other phobias such as ageism and those focused on disability or mental acuity are just some of the problems that a licensed social worker deals with daily.

Duties Of A Licensed Clinical Social Worker

There are various kinds of social workers, such as a licensed clinical social worker, who specializes in working with children and families. Another type of license social worker may work with those who are having problems due to Mental Health and Substance Abuse issues. A clinical social worker can also work in the Medical and Public Health sector, and then there are also other types of licensed social workers.

This type of social worker helps an individual or a community by providing counselling, and assisting with housing and employment opportunities. The function of a clinical social worker is to get the individual or community to become productive members of society.

A clinical social worker employs the following methods:

  • Provides the individual or community with various tools and resources to facilitate healing.
  • Facilitates group and individual therapy sessions.
  • Arranges special living accommodations.
  • Counselling, registering individuals in work programs and assisting them to access financial resources where required.
  • Counsel the family of the patient and provide them with information and methods of assisting their loved one to become a practising, independent and productive individual.
  • Refers the individual to a psychologist or enrol them in a group-home or halfway house where necessary.
  • A licensed social worker works in various settings, such as hospitals, clinics, schools, private practice, inpatient and outpatient mental health clinics, and substance abuse treatment centers.

Personality Traits Of A Clinical Social Worker

Social workers work in difficult circumstances and with people who have various problems ranging from poverty to drug abuse. Not everyone is suited to a career in social work, as we are all different.

Personality traits required for social work:

  • A social worker must be emotionally mature.
  • Social workers must be able to handle responsibility.
  • They must be objective and non-judgemental.
  • A licensed social worker needs to be sensitive to people and their problems, personal and otherwise.
  • They must be able to maintain good working relationships with clients/patients and co-workers.
  • A clinical social worker needs to be able to work independently.

Work Environment Of A Clinical Social Worker

Depending on the branch of social work in which they practice, social workers spend most of their time in an office or residential facility, but may also travel locally to meet with service providers, visit clients or attend meetings.

Social work is a very satisfying although challenging career and huge caseloads and understaffing can lead to added pressure and stress in some circumstances. The full-time social worker’s standard hours are 40 hours per week, although many work weekends and in the evenings in order to take meetings and handle emergencies.

Education Requirements Of A Clinical Social Worker

The entry-level requirements for social workers are a bachelor’s degree and majors in psychology and sociology. Social workers may also take further courses in social work practice and social welfare, and human behavior. Although a Bachelor’s degree is sufficient to begin practicing as a social worker in some fields, many other fields require a MSW or Master’s Degree in Social Work.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
In order to become a licensed clinical social worker one has to obtain either a postgraduate degree or honors in social work. A Master’s degree is required for certain positions, especially those in schools and health environments, and is required for clinical work. Certain other jobs in the private and public agencies also require an advanced degree with a focus on social services policy or administration. Teaching positions require a doctorate in social work, as do research positions.

The Council on Social Work Education has accredited in excess of 468 bachelor’s degree programs and 196 master’s degree programs. The Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education lists more than 74 doctorate programs in social work.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs

  • The aim of a Bachelor’s Degree Program is to promote economic and social justice whilst familiarizing students with the cultural diversity that is prevalent in at-risk populations.
  • These programs introduce students to social services and acquaint them with social work practices.
  • Training is given in generalized social work and enables and prepares students to become mental health assistants, residential counsellors, and caseworkers.
  • Courses generally include applied statistics, counselling strategies, community organizing, cultural diversity and anthropology, human behavior, sociology and psychology, policy analysis, social justice, and research methods.
  • The Council on Social Work Education mandates that a Bachelor’s degree program include a minimum of 400 hours of supervised fieldwork.
  • Some employers accept social workers with other undergraduate degrees, in related fields such as psychology or sociology.

Although many social work positions require graduate degrees, there are also various career options available for those with a bachelor’s degree:

  • Counselling Assistant
  • Drug Counsellor
  • Group Home Worker
  • Mental Health Assistant
  • Residential Counsellor

Master’s Degree Programs

  • Many social workers’ positions, especially those in healthcare facilities and schools require a Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW).
  • The Master’s Degree takes 2 years and prepares the students for advanced clinical practice in their chosen specialty.
  • The professional components of social work, such as caseload management, clinical assessment, and leadership skills, as done in the Bachelor’s Degree can be expanded on via supervised field practice.
  • Students also learn to assist clients currently making use of social services, and supervise a team of social workers.
  • A Master’s Degree program incorporates a minimum of 900 hours of fieldwork or internship as mandated by the Council on Social Work Education.
  • You do not necessarily require a bachelor’s degree in social work to enter into a master’s program. It is recommended that you have at least done courses in social work, biology, economics, psychology, sociology, and political science.
  • A second language can also prove to be very helpful.
  • There are part-time courses which usually take four years to complete.

Advancing In The Occupation

  • There is scope for these social workers to advance to supervisory positions such as a supervisor, assistant director, executive director or program manager with experience and a higher education.
  • A licensed social worker who obtains their doctorate can go on to do research or teach at university or college.
  • Some social workers with experience assist the government to formulate policies, analyze and advocate policy positions in government, as members of legislator’s staff, and in research institutions.
  • Other social workers who have at least a master’s degree in social work and a relatively decent period of service prefer to become a clinical social worker in a private clinical practice which provides clients with psychotherapy services.

Clinical Social Worker Salary Expectations

The median annual clinical salary for social workers depends largely on the section of social work in which the social worker is employed and also which type of social work is performed.

The table below shows the median annual wages for the various industries employing the most licensed clinical social workers, broken up into the diverse disciplines.

Licensed School Social Worker Annual Pay
Elementary and secondary schools $53,860
Individual and family services $34,450
Local government $46,650
Other residential care facilities $34,270
State government $39,600


Public Health Clinical Social Worker Annual Pay
General medical and surgical hospitals $51,470
Home health care services $46,930
Individual and family services $38,370
Local government $44,140
Nursing care facilities $41,080


Mental Health And Substance Abuse Social Workers Annual Pay
Individual and family services $35,900
Outpatient care centers $36,660
Residential mental retardation, mental health and substance abuse facilities $33,950


License Social Worker Other Annual Pay
Community food and housing, and emergency and other relief services $31,890
General medical and surgical hospitals $55,940
Individual and family services $36,660
Local government $51,700
Residential mental retardation, mental health and substance abuse facilities $36,460


According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, approximately 24% of Clinical social workers either belong to a union or are represented by a union contract.

Licensing And Certification: License Social Worker

Licensed Social WorkerAll states and the District of Columbia require licensing, although the certification requirements may vary somewhat. There are four levels of practice which may legally be regulated according to the Association of Social Work Boards.


Practices which may be regulated include:

  • Bachelors – students who have earned a Baccalaureate Social Work degree.
  • Masters – students with a Master of Social Work degree but who have no post-degree experience.
  • Advanced Generalist – Master of Social Work degree holders who have at least two years of post-degree supervised experience.
  • Clinical – Master of Social Work degree holders with two years of post-degree clinical work experience.

Social workers who are not licensed may face limitations as to where they can legally be employed.


As all states differ somewhat in their licensing requirements, it is recommended that you check what the requirements are for the state in which you intend to practise. Most states will require a bachelor’s degree and a minimum amount of experience in the field. This experience ranges between 1,600 and 3,000 hours of full-time experience.

Certification for social work is post-baccalaureate; it is beneficial to those who want to enter into a branch of social work such a mental health, child welfare, or other family services.
Certification coursework normally includes:

  • Human Behavior
  • Policies in Social Welfare
  • Psychopathology
  • Social Work Research

Licensed Clinical Social Worker Credentials

There are three credentials offered by the National Association of Social Workers for a clinical social worker who has either a Bachelors Social Work degree or a Master’s Degree in Social Work.

Credentials that are offered are:

  • The qualified clinical social worker credential is aimed at entry-level clinicians who have a Master’s Degree, are members of the National Association of Social Workers, and a minimum of 3,000 hours of supervised clinical practice.
  • NASW also certifies seven different specialties, including healthcare, substance abuse, youth and family work, school social work, and case-management.

Clinical Social Worker Job Outlook

There were approximately 642,000 social workers in 2008, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, who project that this figure will increase to 745,000 in the 2008-2018 decade. This is a growth of approximately 16% which is a bigger growth than the average for most other vocations.

A big increase is expected in the Medical and Public Health Social Workers sector due to the aging population requiring more assistance. This means that a licensed clinical social worker in the gerontology sector will have no problem in finding a job.

Occupation 2008 Employment 2018 Employment % Increase
Social worker 642,000 745,400 16%
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 292,600 328,700 12%
Medical and Public Health Social Workers 138,700 169,800 22%
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 137,700 164,100 20%
Social Workers, All Other 73,400 82,800 13%


As you can see from the above table, the average growth of all disciplines is 16%. This is formed by a 12% increase in the social workers for schools, children and family; a 13% increase in Social Workers, All Other; 20% increase in Mental Health And Substance Abuse Social Workers, and the largest increase is of 22% is in the Medical and Public Health Social Workers sector.

One of the most important things to bear in mind when deciding to become a licensed clinical social worker is ensuring that whichever program you do, and whichever institution you study through, they have been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

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