Masters Programs for Clinical Social Work: Degree Program Overview

Mar 31, 2021

Essential Information

Master of Social Work and post-master's training programs teach clinical skills and provide access to clinical experiences. These programs bridge the gap between academic studies and the treatment of actual patients. Students can expect to learn about interpersonal relationships, counseling techniques, social work policies and psychotherapeutic treatment. Field work and internships are essential components of these programs.

Master's Degree in Social Work

Students learn a variety of theoretical frameworks in clinical social work and acquire skills in the use of clinical approaches to working with patients. A Master of Social Work program can range from 1-3.5 years and includes hundreds of hours of field work.

In order to be admitted into a master's degree program in social work, students are required to have a bachelor's degree, preferably with liberal arts and behavioral science credits. Students must also have taken the GRE with a satisfactory score. Many programs require successful completion of a statistics course.

Students take courses related to research, behavioral science, social science and cultural diversity. Specific course topics include:

  • Policies in social work
  • Clinical practice
  • Social work psychopathology
  • Couples counseling
  • Grief counseling
  • Mental disorders

Clinical Social Work Post-Master's Training

Post-master's programs in clinical social work can be in the form of certificates, internships and training. This type of program, available to recent graduates, can take 1-2 years to complete.

The curriculum provides students with clinical experience by requiring completion of 40 hours a week of field work in lieu of classroom work. Students carry out psychiatric evaluations and provide psychotherapy for adults, children and adolescents. Typically, students meet with a personal supervisor weekly for field evaluations.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Clinical social workers are psychotherapists typically employed in agencies, clinics and institutions. They provide individuals, groups and families with mental health treatment.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), social worker employment was expected to rise 13% between 2019 and 2029. In addition, child, family and school social workers made a mean annual wage of $51,030. In 2019, the mean annual earnings of healthcare social workers were $59,300, while the mean annual earnings of mental health and substance abuse social workers were $51,670.

Popular Career Options

Post-master's training programs are crafted to emulate actual employment in social work. In many cases, students of these training programs may be hired by the same institution at which they are obtaining their education.

Clinical social workers may open a private practice and provide psychotherapy. Those in private practice are generally paid directly by patients or their health insurance providers. Social workers can also work as employees in governmental health and human services departments, healthcare facilities and social assistance agencies. Some examples of positions are:

  • Child, family, and school social worker
  • Medical and public health social worker
  • Mental health and substance abuse social worker
  • Private practitioner

Master's degree and post-master's training programs in clinical social work include a wide range of courses and clinical experiences related to psychotherapy and counseling best practices. While programs prepare students for a career in private practice, employment with public service agencies and private healthcare providers are all potential career options.

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