What is an LCSW in Social Work?

Individuals interested in careers often wonder what an LCSW is, how to become one and what a career as an LCSW would entail. An LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) is a social worker who is licensed by the state in which he or she lives to provide various types of clinical social work services to patients. These services might be for depression, anxiety, mental disorders or just help in dealing with a traumatic or life-altering event. To become an LCSW requires a degree, training and experience. Here is an overview of the LCSW and what the career entails.

What is a LCSW?

A licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) is a trained professional who provides services to a wide variety of patients and clients. They deal with the social areas of a patient’s health. They offer guidance and provide treatment to clients suffering from psychosocial issues. Clinical social work is a vast field that includes many job responsibilities. LCSW’s explain health care resources and policies to clients while also advocating for patients.

The LCSW may find work in local community health agencies; state and government agencies; healthcare system, or even the court system. They work with patients suffering from substance abuse, mental illness or similar lifestyle troubles. Some of their duties include:

  • Collecting information about the patient’s environment
  • Evaluating the patient’s specific situation
  • Developing an appropriate treatment plan
  • Implementing a treatment plan
  • Collaborate with other healthcare professionals on patient care
  • Providing appropriate referrals if necessary

LCSW’s may provide services to individuals, families, groups and couples. In addition to helping clients to change their behavior, they also teach them ways to cope with difficult situations in their life. Social workers generally choose one or two categories of social work: direct service or clinical social work. Direct services include helping a patient cope with and solve daily problems. Clinical social work involves diagnosing and treating emotional, psychological or behavioral problems.

Education Requirements

To become an LCSW, a candidate must first complete a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree from a school accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. Once this is accomplished the aspiring LCSW must complete supervised fieldwork or internships in a clinical setting. If a student chooses an area of specialization, he or she may complete the fieldwork in those areas. The student must complete at least 100 hours of clinical supervision.

Social work interns generally get credit for one hour of supervised work for every 40 hours of work. Upon completion of the 100 clinical hours, the student will be given credit for 4,000 hours of fieldwork. At this point, the candidate must pass the national licensing exam. To maintain licensure, the LCSW must keep up with continuing education.

Career Outlook for LCSW

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that social workers could expect a positive career growth during the 2016-2026 decade. Social workers overall should see a job growth of 16% while mental health and substance abuse social workers and healthcare social workers should see a 19% and 20% job growth, respectively. Although factors like experience, employer and location can affect wage potential, Salary.com reports that LCSWs earn annual wages ranging from $62,757 to $73,589 as of December 2018.

Related Resource: 50 Best Online MSW Programs

Licensed clinical social workers may work in a variety of settings, including community health clinics, hospitals, child welfare agencies, mental health facilities, substance abuse clinics, rehabilitation centers, secondary schools and private practice.