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Become A Clinical Social Worker

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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

  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Mostly Sitting

  • Stressful

  • $45,828

    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 jobs

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Clinical Social Worker Career Paths

Clinical Social Worker
Career Manager Clinical Supervisor Clinical Director
Administrative Director, Behavioral Health Services
11 Yearsyrs
Program Director Specialist Case Manager
Career Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Clinical Supervisor Clinical Manager Nursing Director
Case Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Clinical Consultant Physician Staff Physician
Chief Of Service
8 Yearsyrs
Social Work Supervisor Program Director Career Manager
Clinical Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Clinical Supervisor Program Director
Clinical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Director Of Social Services Therapist
Clinical Supervisor
8 Yearsyrs
Program Manager Education Director Case Manager
Director Of Case Management
11 Yearsyrs
Program Director Educator Case Manager
Director Of Social Services
6 Yearsyrs
Director Of Social Services Clinician Medical Social Worker
Director Of Social Work
7 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Faculty Nurse Practitioner Nurse Manager
Emergency Services Director
8 Yearsyrs
Clinical Director Career Manager
Geriatric Care Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Social Work Supervisor Therapist Career Manager
Health Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Clinical Director Nurse Practitioner Nurse Manager
Health Director
9 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Nurse Occupational Health Nurse
Health Services Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Adjunct Faculty Education Director Case Manager
Housing Case Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Psychotherapist Clinical Director
Outpatient Services Director
9 Yearsyrs
Program Manager Service Director Medical Social Worker
Social Work Case Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Clinical Manager Assistant Director Social Worker
Social Work Supervisor
7 Yearsyrs
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Clinical Social Worker Demographics


  • Female

  • Male

  • Unknown



  • White

  • Hispanic or Latino

  • Asian

  • Unknown

  • Black or African American

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Languages Spoken

  • Spanish

  • French

  • Italian

  • Portuguese

  • Hindi

  • German

  • Mandarin

  • Russian

  • Chinese

  • Urdu

  • Arabic

  • Romanian

  • Korean

  • Hebrew

  • Japanese

  • Cantonese

  • Swahili

  • Vietnamese

  • Dutch

  • Khmer

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Clinical Social Worker

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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 &Amp; 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


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Top Clinical Social Worker Skills

  1. Group Therapy Sessions
  2. Treatment Plans
  3. Mental Health Services
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Facilitated group therapy sessions, to include anger management, substance abuse, legal issues and symptom management.
  • Developed treatment plans for patients with mental health issues and substance abuse.
  • Communicated regularly with Director of Mental Health Services regarding client load status as needed.
  • Provided crisis intervention services and consultations to the community jail and hospital.
  • Conducted bio-psychosocial assessments of patient/family with a strong focus on their safety and ability to cope.

Top Clinical Social Worker Employers

Clinical Social Worker Videos

Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Career Video from drkit.org

Pros And Cons Of Being A Social Worker

A Day in the Life- Social Worker