How Do You Become a Clinical Social Worker?

Clinical Social WorkerA clinical social worker is a specific type of social worker who is licensed to diagnose and treat mental and behavioral health issues, as well as to help clients navigate issues in their daily lives. Clinical social workers must have a master’s degree and be licensed by the state in which they practice. Read on to learn more about how to become a clinical social worker, as well as the job outlook and salary average for this profession.

Educational Requirements

Those interested in this career path must first earn a bachelor’s degree, followed by a master’s degree in clinical social work. While you may earn a bachelor’s degree in almost any discipline to qualify for a master’s program in social work, if you earn a bachelor’s degree in social work you may be able to enter an accelerated graduate program that can be completed in one year instead of two years. Regardless of the educational path you choose, you should enter a bachelor’s or master’s program that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

State Licensing Requirements

In addition to earning a graduate degree, clinical social workers must be licensed by the state in which they practice. This designation is known as becoming a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). While requirements for licensure vary from state to state, in most cases clinical social workers must have a master’s degree, then complete two years or 3,000 hours of supervised clinical practice, and after completion of hours, pass a clinical social work exam. To learn more about the requirements to become a licensed clinical social worker in each state, visit the Association of Social Work Boards website.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Board of Labor Statistics, clinical social workers make an average annual salary of $44,200. Those who work in education tend to earn the highest salaries, followed by government, health care, and civic organizations. Over the next 10 years, demand for clinical social workers is expected to increase by 19 percent, which is much faster than the projected growth of other professions. This growth will be especially pronounced in the areas of child and family services, healthcare, and mental health and substance abuse. This growth means a projected 114,100 new jobs for clinical social workers by the year 2022.

Related Resource: Hospital Social Work Jobs

If you are looking for a career where you’ll have the capacity to help those in need, consider becoming a clinical social worker. This role is best for those who are compassionate and have strong interpersonal skills, as well as the organizational and time management skills needed to navigate complex social service systems. Since this challenging role often requires long hours and difficult cases, dedication is a key attribute of any social worker. If you’d like to become a clinical social worker, consider shadowing someone who already works in the field as an LCSW to get a feel for what the job entails.