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Working As a Clinical Social Worker

  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Getting Information
  • Deal with People

  • Mostly Sitting

  • Stressful

  • $53,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Clinical Social Worker Do

Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives. One group of social workers—clinical social workers—also diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues.   


Social workers typically do the following:

  • Identify people and communities in need of help
  • Assess clients’ needs, situations, strengths, and support networks to determine their goals
  • Help clients adjust to changes and challenges in their lives, such as illness, divorce, or unemployment
  • Research, refer, and advocate for community resources, such as food stamps, childcare, and healthcare to assist and improve a client’s well-being
  • Respond to crisis situations such as child abuse and mental health emergencies
  • Follow up with clients to ensure that their situations have improved
  • Evaluate services provided to ensure that they are effective
  • Develop and evaluate programs and services to ensure that basic client needs are met
  • Provide psychotherapy services

Social workers help people cope with challenges in their lives. They help with a wide range of situations, such as adopting a child or being diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Social workers may work with children, people with disabilities, and people with serious illnesses and addictions. Their work varies based on the type of client they are working with.

Some social workers work with groups, community organizations, and policymakers to develop or improve programs, services, policies, and social conditions. This focus of work is referred to as macro social work.

Advocacy is an important aspect of social work. Social workers advocate or raise awareness with and on behalf of their clients and the social work profession on local, state, and national levels.

The following are examples of types of social workers:

Child and family social workers protect vulnerable children and help families in need of assistance. They help families find housing or services, such as childcare, or apply for benefits, such as food stamps. They intervene when children are in danger of neglect or abuse. Some help arrange adoptions, locate foster families, or work to reunite families.

Clinical social workers—also called licensed clinical social workers—diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders, including anxiety and depression. They provide individual, group, family, and couples therapy; they work with clients to develop strategies to change behavior or cope with difficult situations; and they refer clients to other resources or services, such as support groups or other mental health professionals. Clinical social workers can develop treatment plans with the client, doctors, and other healthcare professionals and may adjust the treatment plan if necessary based on their client’s progress. They may also provide mental healthcare to help children and families cope with changes in their lives, such as divorce or other family problems.

Many clinical social workers work in private practice. In these settings, clinical social workers also perform administrative and recordkeeping tasks, such as working with insurance companies in order to receive payment for their services. Some work in a group practice with other social workers or mental health professionals.

School social workers work with teachers, parents, and school administrators to develop plans and strategies to improve students’ academic performance and social development. Students and their families are often referred to social workers to deal with problems such as aggressive behavior, bullying, or frequent absences from school.

Healthcare social workers help patients understand their diagnosis and make the necessary adjustments to their lifestyle, housing, or healthcare. For example, they may help people make the transition from the hospital back to their homes and communities. In addition, they may provide information on services, such as home healthcare or support groups, to help patients manage their illness or disease. Social workers help doctors and other healthcare professionals understand the effects that diseases and illnesses have on patients’ mental and emotional health.

Some healthcare social workers specialize in geriatric social work, hospice and palliative care, or medical social work:

  • Geriatric social workers help senior citizens and their families. They help clients find services, such as programs that provide older adults with meals or with home healthcare. They may provide information about assisted living facilities or nursing homes, or work with older adults in those settings. They help clients and their families make plans for possible health complications or for where clients will live if they can no longer care for themselves.
  • Hospice and palliative care social workers help patients adjust to serious, chronic, or terminal illnesses. Palliative care focuses on relieving or preventing pain and other symptoms associated with serious illness. Hospice is a type of palliative care for people who are dying. Social workers in this setting provide and find services, such as support groups or grief counselors, to help patients and their families cope with the illness or disease.
  • Medical social workers in hospitals help patients and their families by linking patients with resources in the hospital and in their own community. They may work with medical staff to create discharge plans, make referrals to community agencies, facilitate support groups, or conduct followup visits with patients once they have been discharged.

Mental health and substance abuse social workers help clients with mental illnesses or addictions. They provide information on services, such as support groups and 12-step programs, to help clients cope with their illness. Many clinical social workers function in these roles as well.

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How To Become A Clinical Social Worker

Although most social workers need a bachelor’s degree in social work, clinical social workers must have a master’s degree and 2 years of post-master’s experience in a supervised clinical setting. Clinical social workers must also be licensed in the state in which they practice.


A bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) is the most common requirement for entry-level positions. However, some employers may hire workers who have a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as psychology or sociology.

A BSW prepares students for direct-service positions such as caseworker or mental health assistant. These programs teach students about diverse populations, human behavior, social welfare policy, and ethics in social work. All programs require students to complete supervised fieldwork or an internship.

Some positions require a master’s degree in social work (MSW), which generally takes 2 years to complete. Master’s degree programs in social work prepare students for work in their chosen specialty by developing clinical assessment and management skills. All programs require students to complete a supervised practicum or an internship.

A bachelor’s degree in social work is not required in order to enter a master’s degree program in social work. Although a degree in almost any major is acceptable, courses in psychology, sociology, economics, and political science are recommended. Some programs allow graduates with a bachelor’s degree in social work to earn their master’s degree in 1 year.

In 2015, there were more than 500 bachelor’s degree programs and more than 200 master’s degree programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

Some universities offer doctoral programs in social work, where students can earn a Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) or a Ph.D. Most doctoral programs in social work require students to have a master’s in social work and experience in the field. Many doctor’s students go on to work as postsecondary teachers.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most states have licensure or certification requirements for nonclinical social workers. Requirements vary by state.

All states require clinical social workers to be licensed. However, some states provide exemptions for clinical social workers who work in government agencies. Becoming a licensed clinical social worker requires a master’s degree in social work and a minimum of 2 years of supervised clinical experience after graduation. After completing their supervised experience, clinical social workers must pass a clinical exam to be licensed.

Because licensing requirements vary by state, those interested should contact their state board. For more information about regulatory licensure boards by state, contact the Association of Social Work Boards.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Clients talk to social workers about challenges in their lives. To effectively help, social workers must be able to listen to and understand their clients’ needs.

Empathy. Social workers often work with people who are in stressful and difficult situations. To develop strong relationships, they must have compassion and empathy for their clients.

Interpersonal skills. Being able to work with different groups of people is essential for social workers. They need strong people skills to foster healthy and productive relationships with their clients and colleagues.

Organizational skills. Social workers must help and manage multiple clients, often assisting with their paperwork or documenting their treatment.

Problem-solving skills. Social workers need to develop practical and innovative solutions to their clients’ problems.

Time-management skills. Social workers often have many clients and administrative responsibilities. They must effectively manage their time to provide adequate service to all of their clients.

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Clinical Social Worker Career Paths

Clinical Social Worker
Case Manager
Medical Case Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Psychotherapist Case Manager
Director Of Case Management
11 Yearsyrs
Case Manager Program Manager Program Director
Director Of Program Services
8 Yearsyrs
Clinical Supervisor Program Director
Director Of Residential Services
7 Yearsyrs
Clinical Supervisor Clinical Manager Nursing Director
Health Director
9 Yearsyrs
Clinical Supervisor Nurse Manager Registered Nurse Case Manager
Clinical Care Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Senior Social Worker Social Work Supervisor
Director Of Social Work
6 Yearsyrs
Supervisor Unit Manager Clinical Manager
Manager Of Clinical Services
10 Yearsyrs
Social Work Case Manager Director Of Social Services
Resident Services Director
6 Yearsyrs
Practitioner Clinician
Clinical Program Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Supervisor Unit Manager Registered Nurse Case Manager
Utilities Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Program Manager Program Director Clinical Director
Outpatient Services Director
9 Yearsyrs
Consultant Office Manager House Manager
Housing Director
6 Yearsyrs
Supervisor Unit Manager Nurse Manager
Health Services Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Practitioner Clinician Program Supervisor
Residential Program Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Professor Nurse Practitioner Nurse Manager
Administrative Director, Behavioral Health Services
11 Yearsyrs
Clinical Case Manager Registered Nurse Case Manager
Health Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Practitioner Clinician Mental Health Clinician
Mental Health Program Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Family Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Consultant Adjunct Professor Psychotherapist
Health Unit Supervisor
5 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Social Worker 3.6 years
Senior Clinician 3.6 years
Social Worker Lead 2.9 years
Clinical Therapist 2.9 years
Clinician 2.7 years
Health Therapist 2.4 years
Primary Therapist 2.3 years
Top Careers Before Clinical Social Worker
Internship 8.3%
Therapist 6.7%
Clinician 4.5%
Counselor 3.8%
Volunteer 2.1%
Top Careers After Clinical Social Worker
Therapist 9.0%
Clinician 7.2%
Counselor 2.9%
Consultant 2.8%

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Average Yearly Salary
Show Salaries
Min 10%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
UnitedHealth Group
Highest Paying City
Las Vegas, NV
Highest Paying State
Avg Experience Level
4.9 years
How much does a Clinical Social Worker make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Clinical Social Worker in the United States is $53,162 per year or $26 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $36,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $77,000.

Real Clinical Social Worker Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Regional Manager, Advanced Lcsw Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa Santa Rosa, CA Nov 07, 2016 $113,500
Clinical Social Worker Patton State Hospital Patton Village, CA Nov 23, 2011 $82,668
Clinical Social Worker Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center New York, NY Apr 19, 2014 $73,363
Clinical Social Worker (Health/Correctional Facili California Department of Corrections & Rehabil CA Sep 27, 2013 $71,652 -
Licensed Clinical Social Worker Herald Christian Health Center Rosemead, CA Oct 15, 2016 $67,000
Clinical Social Worker Patton State Hospital Patton Village, CA Jun 02, 2011 $66,705
Clinical Social Worker Bilingual-Spanish Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services New Haven, CT Jul 01, 2015 $66,411
Clinical Social Worker General Hospital Corporation Chelsea, MA Feb 17, 2011 $66,083
Clinical Social Worker II University of California, San Diego San Diego, CA Jun 10, 2014 $66,000
Clinical Social Worker California Department of Corrections and Rehabilit Sacramento, CA Sep 27, 2010 $63,269
Clinical Social Worker The Riverdale Mental Health Association, Inc. New York, NY Sep 12, 2013 $62,610
Clinical Social Worker Ct Dept. of Mental Health and Addiction Services New Haven, CT Jul 01, 2012 $58,413
Licensed Clinical Social Workers Ct Department of Mental Health and Addiction Servi New Haven, CT Jul 01, 2012 $58,413
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker South Cove Community Health Center Boston, MA Nov 14, 2012 $58,240
Clinical Social Worker University Settlement Society of New York New York, NY Sep 07, 2010 $57,000
Clinical Social Worker University Settlement Society of New York Inc. New York, NY Nov 05, 2011 $57,000
Clinical Social Worker Robert Reiner New York, NY Jun 21, 2016 $55,000
Clinical Social Worker Bay Cove Human Services, Inc. Brookline, MA Sep 04, 2014 $53,643
Associate Clinical Social Worker Clinicas Del Camino Real, Inc. CA May 01, 2012 $52,000
Clinical Social Worker Bay Cove Human Services, Inc. Brookline, MA Jun 21, 2016 $51,064
Clinical Social Worker North Suffolk Mental Health Association, Inc. Boston, MA Sep 26, 2015 $46,963
Clinical Social Worker City of Hope National Medical Center Duarte, CA Jul 01, 2013 $46,862 -
Clinical Social Worker I Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health Carson City, NV Jul 20, 2014 $45,560
Clinical Coordinator/Social Worker Contemporary Family Services Inc. Hyattsville, MD Mar 15, 2012 $45,000
Clinical Social Worker Julia Dyckman Andrus Memorial Yonkers, NY Sep 19, 2010 $44,500
Clinical Social Worker University Settlement Society of New York New York, NY Jul 12, 2010 $44,000
Clinical Social Worker Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services, In New York, NY Jun 07, 2011 $43,867
Clinical Social Worker Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services, In New York, NY Sep 23, 2011 $43,867

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Top Skills for A Clinical Social Worker

  1. Treatment Plans
  2. Mental Health Services
  3. Intake Assessments
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Goal-oriented treatment plans are developed with client collaboration, utilizing motivational/solution-focused/cognitive behavioral therapy.
  • Provided consultation to local community hospitals to determine mental health services needed to patients receiving care at physical health care facilities.
  • Conducted multiple intake assessments per week and actively participated in weekly intern seminars and group supervision.
  • Provided crisis intervention/emergency suicide intervention and evaluations.
  • Co-facilitated weekly psycho education group therapy sessions with middle school students to improve social skills, moral development and emotional regulation.


Average Salary:

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Top 10 Best States for Clinical Social Workers

  1. Nevada
  2. Connecticut
  3. Rhode Island
  4. Idaho
  5. New Hampshire
  6. Delaware
  7. California
  8. Washington
  9. District of Columbia
  10. New Jersey
  • (140 jobs)
  • (305 jobs)
  • (75 jobs)
  • (108 jobs)
  • (89 jobs)
  • (41 jobs)
  • (1,908 jobs)
  • (405 jobs)
  • (100 jobs)
  • (424 jobs)

Clinical Social Worker Resume Examples And Tips

The average resume reviewer spends between 5 to 7 seconds looking at a single resume, which leaves the average job applier with roughly six seconds to make a killer first impression. Thanks to this, a single typo or error on your resume can disqualify you right out of the gate. At Zippia, we went through over 12,977 Clinical Social Worker resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

Learn How To Create A Top Notch Clinical Social Worker Resume

View Resume Examples

Clinical Social Worker Demographics










Hispanic or Latino


Black or African American





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Clinical Social Worker Education


Fordham University


New York University


University of Southern California


Wayne State University


Adelphi University


Columbia University


University of Maryland - Baltimore


Virginia Commonwealth University


Boston University


Florida State University


Smith College


Boston College


University of Michigan - Ann Arbor


Barry University


Simmons College


Howard University


University of Pittsburgh -


San Diego State University


University of Utah


University of Kansas

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Social Work


Mental Health Counseling




Clinical Psychology




Counseling Psychology






School Counseling


Family Therapy




Health Care Administration


Human Services


Criminal Justice


Public Health








Elementary Education


Rehabilitation Science

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Updated May 19, 2020