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In Demand: Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW)

Updated on May 10, 2014

Several licenses permit individuals to do assessments, diagnose and treat mental illness: LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist), LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker), and LPCC (Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor). There is also the clinical psychologist license, requiring completion of a doctorate, 3000 hours of supervision, and 1 year of externship. For the LCSW, you will need to complete a Masters in Social Work degree (MSW) and 3000 hours of supervised practice within two years of graduating from the program. The required number of hours does vary depending upon the state of practice. All clinical social workers must sit for the Association of Social Work Boards Clinical Examination to become licensed. It is essential to check with your state board for specific information regarding education and licensing within local jurisdictions.

Some Notable Distinctions of the LCSW:

  • LCSW’s may provide mental health services in private practice independently.
  • They are also qualified to work in community agencies like social services, child protective services and hospitals.
  • LCSW's make up the largest category of U.S. mental health professionals.
  • LCSW’s can bill Medicare. As of this writing, LMFT’s cannot bill this type of insurance.
  • The LCSW is accepted in all U.S. states as opposed to the LMFT and LPCC. It is also accepted internationally.
  • Clinical social workers are responsible for providing well over 50% of mental health services in the U.S. according to the National Association of Social Workers. (NASW)
  • Social workers are in great demand and this is expected to increase through 2020. (BLS.GOV)

MSW Degree Has Principle Advantage

It is important to note that while a licensed clinical social worker may provide mental health services, social work is the focus of their education. This provides them with the qualifications to take on a vast array of working roles, in addition to clinical practice. This is the alluring advantage of the MSW degree. With other training options in psychotherapy, the new graduate soon discovers they are very limited in employment prospects, as they work towards completing required hours of supervised training. Masters in Social Work programs typically offer several different tracks or areas of focus. Those desiring to be qualified in clinical areas, tend to seek out those programs offering a mental health emphasis, and doing even more supervised work in this area after completing their studies.


Because the duties in this field vary, so it goes with the money social workers make. While the median income for 2010 was approximately $42,480:

Hospital social workers made a median annual income of $47, 230

Child, family and social workers in schools made a median annual income of $40,210

Social workers in mental health and substance abuse settings made a median annual income of $38,600

These are only approximations for median yearly salaries in this field. Incomes vary greatly depending upon responsibilities and region of practice.


Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook

National Association of Social Workers, "Careers in Social Work Part II"


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