Clinical Social Worker: Job & Career Info

Read about the job duties of a clinical social worker. Explore educational and licensing requirements, in addition to salary and employment outlook, in order to make the right career decision.

Career Definition for a Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Clinical social work involves serving people who need help with conditions and problems that are adversely affecting their lives. The National Association for Social Workers estimates that 37% of clinical social workers work in the mental health area, 13% in health and 13% in child and family services. These professionals work directly with clients and other agencies, and they are often employed by private, public and non-profit organizations.

Required Education Bachelor's degree as minimum, but many social workers opt to study at graduate level
Job Skills Confronting sickness, death and other difficult circumstances daily; oral and written communication skills
Median Salary (2015) $45,900
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 12% growth

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

A bachelor's degree is the minimum education required for a career in clinical social work. Most social workers have earned master's degrees in social work, psychology, sociology or a related field. An M.A. in Social Work generally takes two years to complete and requires up to 900 hours of supervised internship. Many social work positions require a state license which is gained through an exam process and additional supervised clinical experience.

Skills Required

The College Board describes how clinical social workers must be emotionally equipped to confront sickness, death and other difficult circumstances on a daily basis. This line of work also requires skilled oral and written communication with clients and peers from many different agencies. Successful social workers are ethical, professional and committed to serving others.

Career and Economic Outlook

Opportunities for all social workers are expected to increase strongly by 12% between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Jobs in under-served rural areas and positions working with the elderly or substance abusers are projected to increase the most. The BLS stated that the median salary among all social workers in 2015 was $45,900.

Alternative Career Options

Alternate career options include:


While both social workers and psychologists counsel individuals with emotional and mental health issues, psychologists assess problems by using scientific methods, tests and observation techniques, and then use the data to create an effective treatment plan. They also analyze the brain to see how disorders can affect behavior. To work in this field, a doctorate degree in psychology is usually required and entrance into programs is competitive. In order to practice in a private, clinical setting, licensing is also required in all states, and professionals must pass an exam and obtain work experience in the field.

The BLS projected a 19% increase in employment of psychologists during the 2014-2024 decade. Counseling and clinical psychologists earned an average salary of $70,580, as reported by the BLS in 2015.

Social Service Manager

For those who want to assist the troubled and less fortunate in obtaining community and government services, becoming a social service manager is a possibility. These managers assess needs in the community and plan programs to help meet those needs. They hire staff, track budgets, implement services and analyze data that shows how effective a program is. A bachelor's degree in public administration, social work or a related field is generally required for employment, but many organizations prefer candidates with a master's degree and experience.

In May of 2015, the BLS estimated the average yearly salary for social services managers to be $63,530. Job opportunities for community and social service managers are predicted to grow by 10% between 2014 and 2024, according to BLS data.

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