Question: Where do licensed clinical social workers work?

Answer: Clinical social workers, also known as licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs), work in a variety of healthcare and mental health care settings. The Bureau of Labor Statistics ( notes that clinical social workers can work in hospitals and other primary care environments, community health and mental health clinics, secondary schools and universities, military facilities, substance abuse clinics, and child welfare agencies. LCSWs can also work in private practice, running their own office and serving their clients independently.

To become an LCSW, students must complete a masters in social work (MSW) from a program that has been accredited by the Council on Social Work (CSWE) and complete additional requirements for licensure (currently, 41 states will accept a doctorate in social work in lieu of an MSW degree). The MSW degree and licensure as a clinical social worker typically allow social workers more versatility in their role and work environment, relative to earning only a bachelor’s degree in social work.

For example, while direct service/non-clinical social workers are able to provide advice to individuals struggling with challenging life events and refer them to additional resources, licensed clinical social workers are able to fulfill these duties while also making mental health diagnoses and providing counseling to their clients. In many states, healthcare social workers and substance abuse social workers must complete an MSW and earn licensure as a clinical social worker prior to practicing.

Online MSW Programs with a Clinical Social Work Concentration
For students interested in pursuing their MSW online, several CSWE accredited universities offer online MSW programs with a clinical social work or mental health concentration. Check out our online clinical social work programs page for more information.

Licensed clinical social workers can also choose to specialize in a specific area of mental health care and support through their graduate education, which may expand the settings in which they are qualified to work. For instance, some MSW programs, like our partner the University of Southern California’s online MSW@USC program, have a social work in business concentration that trains social workers to work in private corporations to help employees manage emotional and mental health issues alongside their professional responsibilities.

Similarly, MSW programs that allow for a clinical specialization in violence and trauma, such as our partner Simmons University SocialWork@Simmons online MSW program, can prepare students to enter such work settings as correctional facilities and courts, or in community-based agencies that work with victims of domestic violence or abuse. MSW programs with health and aging / elderly care concentrations can qualify clinical social workers to work in both clinical and administrative roles at medical centers, hospice programs, senior-care community centers, and rehabilitation hospitals.

Students who are interested in multiple social work environments should not only research the clinical social worker licensure regulations / requirements in their state, but also explore different accredited MSW programs, the concentrations they offer, and where graduates of these programs found jobs. Informational interviews with practicing clinical social workers can also provide insight into the myriad environments where clinical social workers can practice.

“Occupational Outlook Handbook: Social Workers,”, 8 January 2014, The Bureau of Labor Statistics,
“Clinical Social Workers,”, American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work,
“Clinical Social Work Described,”, American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work,
“Summary Report For: Healthcare Social Workers,”, O*NET Online,
“Summary Report For: Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers,”, O*NET Online,

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