Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) Jobs & Career Guide 2024

What is an LCSW?

An LCSW, or Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is a professional who holds a clinical license in the field of social work.

This license allows the individual to practice advanced clinical social work, which includes assessing, diagnosing, and treating mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders and problems within the context of individuals, couples, families, and groups.

LCSWs work in a variety of settings, including private practices, hospitals, schools, social service agencies, and community mental health centers.

What is an LCSW responsible for?

The LCSW credential empowers social workers to offer a higher level of clinical intervention and to operate private practices if they choose, making it a significant professional designation in the field of social work. While all LCSWs are social workers, not all social workers are LCSWs.

Here are some of the key responsibilities:

  • Counseling and Psychotherapy – LCSWs provide therapeutic services to clients dealing with a wide range of issues, such as depression, anxiety, relationship problems, and life transitions.
  • Assessment and Diagnosis – They are trained to assess mental health conditions and social and emotional problems, utilizing their skills to develop comprehensive treatment plans.
  • Case Management – LCSWs often help clients navigate various systems related to healthcare, employment, and social services to support their mental and social well-being.
  • Advocacy – They advocate for individual clients or for broader policies that advance the interests of vulnerable populations.

A Day in the Life of a Licensed Clinical Social Worker

“As a licensed clinical social worker, I have the opportunity to work with individuals, families, and communities to help them overcome life’s challenges and achieve their goals. It’s a privilege to be able to help people in this way, and it requires a deep commitment to social justice, diversity, and ethical practice. Each day brings new opportunities to connect with clients and work collaboratively with other professionals to find the best possible solutions to the complex problems facing our communities. It’s a challenging and rewarding career, and I feel fortunate to be able to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Dr. Elaine Congress, a licensed clinical social worker and professor of social work

Here’s an example of what a typical day might look like for an LCSW working in a community mental health center:

Morning

  • 8:00 AM: Arrive at the office, check emails, and review the day’s schedule. Prepare for the first client session by reviewing notes from previous sessions.
  • 8:30 AM: Conduct a therapy session with a client dealing with anxiety and work-related stress. Utilize cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques to help the client identify and challenge negative thought patterns.
  • 9:30 AM: Write session notes in the client’s electronic health record and plan for the next session. Review any action items, such as coordinating with other health professionals or checking in on the client’s progress with referrals.
  • 10:00 AM: Attend a team meeting to discuss the progress of clients, consult with colleagues on challenging cases, and coordinate care plans. Share insights from recent continuing education workshops.

Midday

  • 11:00 AM: Conduct a session with a couple struggling with marital issues, focusing on improving communication skills and understanding each other’s perspectives.
  • 12:00 PM: Lunch break
  • 1:00 PM: Hold a group therapy session for adolescents dealing with depression. Facilitate discussions and activities that promote social skills, self-esteem, and emotional regulation.

Afternoon

  • 2:00 PM: Administrative time to complete clinical documentation, return phone calls, and respond to urgent emails. Follow up on clients’ progress with outside agencies or specialists.
  • 3:00 PM: Conduct a home visit for an elderly client who has difficulty traveling to the office. Assess the home environment, discuss the client’s ongoing needs, and adjust the care plan accordingly.
  • 4:00 PM: Supervise a social work intern, reviewing their case notes, providing feedback, and discussing their development of clinical skills.

Evening

  • 5:00 PM: Last client session of the day, possibly with a client who has recently experienced a traumatic event. Provide trauma-informed care and discuss coping strategies.
  • 6:00 PM: Finalize notes and update treatment plans. Prepare brief outlines for the next day’s sessions.
  • 6:30 PM: Leave the office. Occasionally, attend a professional development seminar or community outreach program after hours.

How to become an LCSW

How long does it take to become an LCSW?

The time it takes to become an LCSW can vary depending on the individual’s education and work experience. A bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) typically takes four years to complete, while a master’s degree in social work (MSW) can take one to two years.

After completing the necessary education and supervised clinical experience, candidates must pass the required licensing exam. Overall, it can take anywhere from six to eight years to become an LCSW.

Education Requirements

1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

The first step toward becoming an LCSW is obtaining a bachelor’s degree. While it’s not mandatory for this degree to be in social work, many prospective LCSWs choose to pursue a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) because it provides a foundational understanding of the field and may include internships that are beneficial later on.

2. Complete a Master of Social Work (MSW) Degree

An MSW from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is required to become an LCSW. MSW programs generally take two years to complete full-time, though part-time programs are also available. These programs include both coursework and supervised clinical practice, covering advanced topics in social work such as clinical assessment, mental health counseling, and intervention strategies.

3. Fulfill Postgraduate Supervised Clinical Experience

After earning an MSW, candidates must complete a period of supervised clinical experience. The specific requirements vary by state but typically involve 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical practice, completed over a minimum of two years. This experience provides hands-on training in diagnosing and treating mental health issues, managing cases, and performing administrative roles in a clinical setting.

Certification and Licensing

4. Pass the Clinical Level Examination

Once the supervised hours are completed, prospective LCSWs must pass a clinical-level licensing examination administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). The exam tests knowledge of assessment and diagnosis, treatment planning, therapeutic interventions, and ethical and professional standards.

5. Apply for LCSW Licensure

With the degree, required hours, and passing exam scores in hand, candidates can apply for LCSW licensure through their state’s social work or professional regulation board. This process includes submitting proof of education and supervised experience, examination scores, and sometimes additional documentation like background checks.

6. Maintain Licensure with Continuing Education

LCSWs must complete continuing education (CE) courses to maintain their licensure. The number of required CE hours and the specific content areas can vary by state but generally involve updates on social work practices, ethics, and sometimes specialized training in areas like child abuse or domestic violence.

Continuing Education Requirements

For LCSWs, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Standards for Continuing Professional Education serve as a guide for matching their continuing education activities with professional expectations. Most states require social workers to complete specific continuing education hours to maintain their licensure. NASW chapters have established programs recognizing social workers’ commitment to continuing education.

The content areas for continuing education cover diverse topics such as educational levels and intervention methods, administration, management, supervision, research, social problems, cultural diversity, ethics, and specialized services and treatment.

LCSWs are required to complete 48 hours of continuing professional education every two years. These can be formally organized learning events, professional meetings, and individual professional activities. LCSWs with expertise in specific areas can also provide direct continuing education to their peers.

To ensure continuing education quality, LCSWs must contribute to developing continuing professional education activities within their community or state. They can participate in an NASW or accredited program committee, make recommendations to education providers, communicate with providers on meeting educational needs, submit evaluations after activities, and provide education in their areas of expertise.

Furthermore, aspiring LCSWs have access to various resources that can provide support and guidance on the path to licensure. Professional organizations and associations, such as NASW, offer members access to information about licensing requirements, job postings, and networking events.

Online courses and training programs provide convenient ways to complete required coursework and offer valuable study materials for the ASWB exam. These resources can be invaluable for those seeking to become an LCSW, providing access to critical information, support, and opportunities for professional growth.

What Is a Typical Salary for a Licensed Clinical Social Worker?

Social Workers earn an average of $47,000 per year, however this salary varies widely by location, degree, experience, and position.

The national average salary for a licensed clinical social worker is $58,000.

Historically, licensed clinical social workers are paid the most in California, the District of Columbia, and Connecticut. See our LCSW salary guide for more insights.

Latest LCSW Job Listings

PositionCompanyLocationPosted
Mental Health ProfessionalVitalCore Health Strategies Gardner, Massachusetts US07/16/2024
Join the VitalCore Team in Massachusetts! We’re people who are fueled by passion, not by profit.VitalCore Health Strategies (VCHS), an industry leader in Correctional Health Care has openings for Master’s Level Mental Health Professional (MSW, masters in counseling/psychology or equivalent, LCSW, … More
Mental Health Counselor/African American Resource Center LiaisonCSUF Counseling and Psychological Services Fullerton, California US07/16/2024
DIVISION OF STUDENT AFFAIRSDEPARTMENT OF COUNSELING AND PSYCHOLOGICAL SERVICES … More
Adult Medicine Social Workers and Mental Health Clinicians Multiple OpeningsVancouver Clinic Washington US07/15/2024
Adult Medicine Social Workers and Mental Health Clinicians Multiple Openings At Vancouver Clinic, caring for people is our first priority and the driving force behind everything we do. … More
Join a Well-Established Women’s Behavioral Health Practice in South Central PennsylvaniaWomens Behavioral Health Specialists – 39345 Camp Hill, Pennsylvania US07/15/2024
Masters Psychotherapist – UPMC Women’s Behavioral Health Specialists UPMC Central Pa. – a growing multi-site health system is seeking a Masters Psychotherapist to join our growing team at Women’s Behavioral Health Specialists (WBHS). This provider will play an integral role in helping to provide high-quality, compassionate care to patients. The WBHS office specifically treats women experiencing anxiety and/or depression related to pregnancy and postpartum. About the Position: … More
PsychologistOchsner Health New Orleans, Louisiana US07/15/2024
We’ve made a lot of progress since opening the doors in 1942, but one thing has never changed – our commitment to serve, heal, lead, educate, and innovate. We believe that every award earned, every record broken and every patient helped is because of the dedicated employees who fill our hallways. At Ochsner, whether you work with patients every day or support those who do, you are making a difference and that matters. Come make a difference at Ochsner Health and discover your … More
Behavioral Health Advocate, Utilization Management – Remote in LAUnitedHealth Group New Orleans, Louisiana US07/14/2024
Optum is a global organization that delivers care, aided by technology to help millions of people live healthier lives. The work you do with our team will directly improve health outcomes by connecting people with the care, pharmacy benefits, data and resources they need to feel their best. Here, you will find a culture guided by diversity and inclusion, talented peers, comprehensive benefits and career development opportunities. Come make an impact on the communities we serve as you help us … More
Behavioral Health Care Coordinator/SPMI – Galveston, TXUnitedHealth Group Galveston, Texas US07/13/2024
At UnitedHealthcare, we’re simplifying the health care experience, creating healthier communities and removing barriers to quality care. The work you do here impacts the lives of millions of people for the better. Come build the health care system of tomorrow, making it more responsive, affordable, and equitable. Ready to make a difference? Join us to start Caring. Connecting. Growing together. You push yourself to reach higher and go further. Because for you, it’s all about … More
Permit Holder, Licensed Psychologist, LCSWLifespan Associates Waldwick, New Jersey US07/13/2024
Seeking permit holder, licensed psychologist, or LCSW for work in a busy psychology practice in Waldwick NJ. Prefer candidates who have experience providing cognitive behavioral therapy to children, adolescents and adults. Hours flexible. More
Position
Join the VitalCore Team in Massachusetts! We’re people who are fueled by passion, not by profit.VitalCore Health Strategies (VCHS), an industry leader in Correctional Health Care has openings for Master’s Level Mental Health Professional (MSW, masters in counseling/psychology or equivalent, LCSW, … More
Company
VitalCore Health Strategies
Location
Gardner, Massachusetts US
Posted
07/16/2024
Position
DIVISION OF STUDENT AFFAIRSDEPARTMENT OF COUNSELING AND PSYCHOLOGICAL SERVICES … More
Company
CSUF Counseling and Psychological Services
Location
Fullerton, California US
Posted
07/16/2024
Position
Adult Medicine Social Workers and Mental Health Clinicians Multiple Openings At Vancouver Clinic, caring for people is our first priority and the driving force behind everything we do. … More
Company
Vancouver Clinic
Location
Washington US
Posted
07/15/2024
Position
Masters Psychotherapist – UPMC Women’s Behavioral Health Specialists UPMC Central Pa. – a growing multi-site health system is seeking a Masters Psychotherapist to join our growing team at Women’s Behavioral Health Specialists (WBHS). This provider will play an integral role in helping to provide high-quality, compassionate care to patients. The WBHS office specifically treats women experiencing anxiety and/or depression related to pregnancy and postpartum. About the Position: … More
Company
Womens Behavioral Health Specialists – 39345
Location
Camp Hill, Pennsylvania US
Posted
07/15/2024
Position
We’ve made a lot of progress since opening the doors in 1942, but one thing has never changed – our commitment to serve, heal, lead, educate, and innovate. We believe that every award earned, every record broken and every patient helped is because of the dedicated employees who fill our hallways. At Ochsner, whether you work with patients every day or support those who do, you are making a difference and that matters. Come make a difference at Ochsner Health and discover your … More
Company
Ochsner Health
Location
New Orleans, Louisiana US
Posted
07/15/2024
Position
Optum is a global organization that delivers care, aided by technology to help millions of people live healthier lives. The work you do with our team will directly improve health outcomes by connecting people with the care, pharmacy benefits, data and resources they need to feel their best. Here, you will find a culture guided by diversity and inclusion, talented peers, comprehensive benefits and career development opportunities. Come make an impact on the communities we serve as you help us … More
Company
UnitedHealth Group
Location
New Orleans, Louisiana US
Posted
07/14/2024
Position
At UnitedHealthcare, we’re simplifying the health care experience, creating healthier communities and removing barriers to quality care. The work you do here impacts the lives of millions of people for the better. Come build the health care system of tomorrow, making it more responsive, affordable, and equitable. Ready to make a difference? Join us to start Caring. Connecting. Growing together. You push yourself to reach higher and go further. Because for you, it’s all about … More
Company
UnitedHealth Group
Location
Galveston, Texas US
Posted
07/13/2024
Position
Seeking permit holder, licensed psychologist, or LCSW for work in a busy psychology practice in Waldwick NJ. Prefer candidates who have experience providing cognitive behavioral therapy to children, adolescents and adults. Hours flexible. More
Company
Lifespan Associates
Location
Waldwick, New Jersey US
Posted
07/13/2024