Top Online LCSW Degree Programs in 2022

Students considering a career in the field of social work can get the most out of their education through the pursuit of a professional license in their field. The most prominent licensed title for professionals in this field is the licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). LCSWs can provide a variety of services to help people cope with difficult life circumstances.

Licensed clinical social worker must go through a designated chain of educational and practical requirements to qualify for LCSW degree licensure in this position. Our team of educational experts has broken this process down below to make your journey to career success a little easier.

Consider an online counseling program: Syracuse University’s CSWE-accredited online Master of Social Work program is preparing the next generation of social work leaders. Learn more.
MA in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine

How to Become a LCSW: Licensure and More

If you’ve spent any time researching career fields in counseling, you’ve probably noticed a lot of talk about licensure and accreditation requirements. Social work can have a heavy influence on the people being served, making it necessary for providers to abide by certain standards and regulations. Those who’ve completed all of the components required to obtain an official LCSW license are certified to offer licensed clinical social work services.

Licensure is an important step in how to become a licensed clinical social worker and can ensure that practitioners have met all of the requirements that the state has set and are aware of the skills required in their field before entry. If you’re interested in working one-on-one with clients in the field, you should review degree programs that could result in licensure in the future.

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Choosing a LCSW Degree

You should choose an accredited licensed clinical social work degree program to prepare you for licensing in your field. Programs that aren’t accredited aren’t recognized by institutions that set licensure regulations, so accreditation can make or break your journey to licensure. Different professional fields may require various types of accreditation, so you should always research what type of accreditation to look for when choosing your program.

The minimum degree you should obtain to become an LCSW is a master’s in social work. When you’re looking through master’s programs to consider, you should choose programs that contain the right type of accreditation for your future licensure.

The starting point for accredited programs is the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). This association regularly reviews educational programs to ensure that the curriculum includes all of the required aspects needed for licensed professionals and is modified as the field changes.

LCSW Licensure Requirements

During or after your master’s degree, you can begin the process of gaining your required supervised hours toward your licensure. The practical components of these requirements were put into place to help you gain the hands-on experience you need while being observed and led by licensed LCSWs in the field. Different states may have varying requirements for the number of hours you have to gain before completing the experience, but generally, most licensure prospects engage in this requirement for about two years.

Exam Through the Association of Social Work Boards

One of the final steps toward achieving your license is the completion of the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) examination. This test is completed after you’ve finished your degree program and supervised field experiences. The examination consists of topics and scenarios that could arise in the field and require you to think critically and use skills learned during your prior learning and experience. Completion of this program can lead you into a license to practice in your state.

How Long Does It Take to Become a LCSW?

With all of that said, how long it takes to become a licensed clinical social worker ultimately depends on how quickly you can amass the needed number of supervised practice hours and how quickly you can complete the licensing exam. For most people in this field, becoming licensed takes a minimum of two years, and no more than six years.

Clinical Social Work Degree Programs

Social work can lead to many fields responsible for providing well-rounded services to the general public. At the master’s level and beyond, social work professionals can blend skills from both social work and counseling to provide optimum services to clients with extensive needs. To meet the requirements of the LCSW in your state, you should begin with choosing a degree program in the area you want to focus on.

The CSWE currently accredits degree programs with a wide variety of specializations. Your choice of specialization can lead you to more specific career options in the future, making this an important step to your overall success. Most social work professionals interested in implementing counseling into their resume choose to pursue the online clinical social work degree before seeking certification. You may also want to choose other specializations that help you learn more about the groups that need the most care in your area.

  • Online Master of Social Work – Clinical Social Work: The online MSW in Clinical Social Work can be an excellent choice for upcoming professionals interested in pursuing their license as an LCSW. This degree program includes components relevant to observing, diagnosing, and treating common mental health issues presented by clients, as well as some of the practical and ethical concerns present in the field of social work. It can provide you with a variety of skills that can be applied when working with diverse groups in your geographical area. For counseling, consider a clinical mental health counseling degree.
  • Online Master of Social Work – Child and Family Social Work: The desire to work with children and families encourages many different people to pursue MSW programs. If you’re interested in working with children and families going through difficult circumstances in their personal lives, an online MSW in Child and Family Social Work may be the right choice for you. The skills learned in this program could be exceptionally helpful to you as you transition into an LCSW in the future.
  • Online Master of Social Work – School Social Work: One way to control your career settings is by choosing a degree program that focuses on the skills social workers need in your chosen field. If you have a desire to work in school systems with children in need, an online MSW in School Social Work could be a great choice for you to consider. Blending your knowledge of social work with requirements of U.S. school systems can help you qualify for open positions in your area. You may also read the guide for school counseling degrees, a similar area but in counseling.
  • LCSW Certification Options

    Since social work is a diverse field, you can choose to add on many different certifications during your career. If you’re interested in the counseling component of the LCSW distinction, you should look into certification programs that can further your skills in the practice of counseling in your area. Mental health and related specialization options can provide you with more insight into some of the common ailments and issues in the field; this can lead to more informed decision-making and treatment options in the field.

    If you’d like to keep your options open as a social work professional, you should choose certification options that are relevant to social work agencies in your community. Having an educationally diverse background alongside your license can help you achieve positions that many social work professionals in your area have sought out. Some certifications you can pursue are:

    • Mental Health
    • Clinical Social Work
    • Psychiatric Social Work
    • Youth Social Work
    • Geriatric Social Work
    • Family Social Work
    • Substance Abuse Social Work
    • Healthcare Social Work

    Available Careers as an LCSW

    One of the most popular reasons to choose social work is the variety of professional fields. Obtaining your license as a LCSW can help you to get the job of your dreams in state agencies, in mental health facilities, or even in the field of education. Your role in these agencies can vary depending on your expertise and certifications. Some possible social work career settings are:

    • Mental Health Facilities/Offices: In these settings, LCSWs can work with individual clients to assist them with working through common stressors in their lives or even with complex mental health disorders. While working in mental health organizations, LCSWs can be providers of regular therapy or specialized mental health interventions designed for a wide range of emotional needs.
    • Child/Adult Welfare Agencies: State agencies such as the Department of Children’s Services or Adult Protective Services often employ LCSWs to assist with working with their clients on a daily basis. Social workers can help children or adults who’ve experienced trauma from neglect or abuse by providing support during their initial move into state custody or during the healing process. LCSWs can also work in conjunction with foster care agencies to ensure that children receive regular and thorough mental healthcare during their experience.
    • Healthcare: LCSWs in the healthcare field can provide support to individuals in the midst of invasive health-related procedures or when needed for generalized patient care. Some professionals in this field may work on staff in psychiatric departments of hospitals, healthcare clinics, and even retirement facilities to help patients manage daily issues or symptoms of their disorders. If you have an interest in working in a fast-paced environment with new clients, this could be a field for you to consider pursuing after receiving your license.
    • Education: Children in the school systems all over the U.S. can benefit from having LCSWs on staff in their schools. Some school systems employ professionals in this field in an effort to promote positive mental health for enrolled students and provide preventive assistance relating to self-esteem, bullying, and drug abuse. LCSWs interested in the field of education should seek out requirements for professionals in the field of education before enrolling in a degree program.

    Licensed Clinical Social Worker vs. Therapist

    In considering career paths, it’s helpful to note the distinctions between licensed clinical social worker vs. therapist vocations.

    The term “therapist” is broad and may encompass licensed social workers, but also psychologists and psychiatric care providers. Not all therapists are LCSWs, but those who wish to become therapists may benefit from the advanced training and licensure required to become an LCSW.

    Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) Salary

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) salary is $51,760 annually. Note that the annual clinical social worker salary may vary based on a number of factors, including the following:

    • Type of facility/workplace
    • Years of experience
    • Geographic area
    • Level of education
    • Specialization

    The BLS also projects a job growth of 12% for social workers between 2020 and 2030, faster than the projected average for all occupations.


    Become an LCSW With a Clinical Social Work Degree

    If you want to help people through difficult life circumstances and make a positive impact in your community, becoming an LCSW may be a good choice for you. You can look through a variety of programs based on specialization and what type of career you want. Take a look at different programs, specific courses, and schools that offer that program that are currently accepting applicants. Explore some available resources, and start your career in social work today.

    Association of Social Work Boards
    Association of Social Work Boards, Exam
    Association of Social Work Boards, Getting Your First License
    Council on Social Work Education
    Indeed, LCSW vs. Psychologists: What’s the Difference?
    Indeed, Learn About Being a Social Worker
    National Association of Social Workers, Credentials
    U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Social Workers

    List of Programs

    Syracuse University 🗹 Online 🗗 Masters

    Fordham University 🗹 Online 🗗 Masters

    University of Southern California 🗹 Online 🗗 Masters

    University of Denver 🗹 Online 🗗 Masters

    Our Lady of the Lake University 🗹 Online 🗗 Bachelors 🗗 Masters

    Simmons University 🗹 Online

    Howard University 🗹 Online

    Baylor University 🗹 Online 🗗 Masters

    Capella University 🗹 Online Masters

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