To become a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), an individual must earn a master's degree in social work from a school accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), fulfill supervised work requirements and pass a licensing exam. Master's degree programs are available online, though students need to complete in-person clinical training to qualify for licensure.
There are several Master of Social Work (MSW) degree programs that offer all coursework in an online format. Because of this, students may need access to a webcam, voice recording software, and a microphone. MSW programs require supervised practical training through an internship. The length of the internship may depend on a student's prior training.
Prospective online MSW students need to find out if a program's curriculum and clinical training requirements meet their state's standards for licensure. Master of Social Work students should also be aware that they need to hold a bachelor's degree in social work to enroll.
Master of Social Work (MSW)
CSWE-accredited online Master of Social Work (MSW) programs are designed for individuals who have already earned a bachelor's degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited school. Master's degree programs offer advanced courses that focus on clinical skills and supervised training with clients. Students may choose to specialize in working with certain populations, such as the elderly, families and children, substance abusers or the mentally handicapped. All online programs in this field require the completion of an in-person internship in a social work setting.
Information and Requirements
Most online Master of Social Work programs are part-time and take 2-3 years to complete. Two or three semesters of online coursework are typically followed by 2-3 semesters of internship. Internships require face-to-face interactions, but can be completed locally in nearby medical clinics or nursing homes. Some schools require a short campus visit at some point in the program, while others have no on-campus requirements.
Online courses are delivered in various ways, including interactive TV, Web-based learning programs and video-conferencing. Many online programs require specific computer equipment; for example, one MSW program requires students to use only IBM PC-compatible computers. A few online MSW programs request students to have access to a webcam, voice recording software and a microphone for real-time interactions.
Online courses in social work provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to assist at-risk populations.
Human Behavior in the Social Environment: Child Development
This course investigates potential threats to the healthy development of the child from birth to adolescence. Factors that might affect a child's development include bullying, peer pressure and violence, sexual, physical and emotional abuse, drug abuse, alcoholism and divorce.
Family Counseling in Social Work
Students are introduced to the theories and methods used in family counseling. They learn techniques for assessing problems and strategies for overcoming them.
Social Work Field
With the school's assistance, online students find local internships in medical clinics, schools or nursing homes. Under close supervision from experienced social workers, students are trained to work directly with clients.
Career Information for Licensed Clinical Social Workers
LCSWs may work in environments such as schools, government programs or long-term care facilities. They might find positions as counselors, program managers or researchers. LCSWs may also set up private practices to provide counseling.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the need for social workers to grow by 12% between 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). Salaries for social workers generally depend on previous experience and area of specialization, but the BLS does state that in 2015 the median annual wage for a social worker was $45,900.
Continuing Education for Licensed Clinical Social Workers
Licensed clinical social workers may wish to pursue further education in social work by obtaining either a Ph.D. in Clinical Social Work or a Doctor of Social Work (DSW). There is no substantial difference between these two doctoral degrees. Both may lead to either academic or professional positions. However, very few doctoral social work programs are offered online.
In order to acquire licensure as a clinical social worker, students can pursue online Master of Social Work degree programs. These programs focus on topics like child development and family counseling, and students may be required to participate in a field experience.