Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) Degrees: Online Programs

Read on for more details about the master's degree program you need to complete as part of the process to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Online programs are available, so keep reading to see about typical courses and program requirements. Schools offering Clinical Social Work degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Will I Learn in an Online Social Work Master's Degree Program?

As a student in an online master's degree program covering social work, you learn about social welfare programs and specific diagnosis and treatment techniques. You may focus on various social groups--including individuals, couples, families and children--or on those afflicted with a specific problem, such as substance abuse issues or mental illness.

The curriculum depends on your specific program options. However, courses generally fall under one of two headings--foundational or advanced. Common examples of foundational courses include human behavior, social welfare, social work research and social programs. Advanced coursework generally provides instruction in clinical assessments and diagnoses, social services administration, treatment planning, family counseling and chemical dependence. And because hands-on experience is an important part of learning to provide social work services, you also complete one or several supervised clinical experiences before graduating.

Most institutions provide two different online master's degree options--the traditional track and the advanced-standing track. If you hold a bachelor's degree in an area besides social work, you'd enroll in the traditional track: one year each of foundational and advanced online social work courses. If your bachelor's degree is in social work, you'd pursue the advanced standing track, which requires only a year of graduate-level studies. In addition to these options, many programs allow you to declare a concentration, such as family therapy, individual practice or clinical social work. Some schools only offer this option to advanced-standing students.

Program Options Traditional track for those with a non-social work bachelor's degree, advanced-standing track for students with a social work bachelor's degree
Common Coursework Human behavior, social work research, clinical assessment, treatment planning, social services administration
Studying Online Fully online programs are available, with the exception of practicum/clinical hours
Getting a License Typically requires a master's degree and two years post-master's social work experience under a licensed professional's supervision

How Do Online Programs Work?

Enrolling in a distance-education MSW program yields the same education as if you'd completed an on-campus program. All required courses can be completed entirely online. Course content is usually delivered through online teaching platforms like WebCT or Blackboard Vista; all you need to access your school's system is an Internet-connected computer and possibly some additional software for word processing or viewing media. These systems allow you to access or submit lectures notes, readings, assignments and exams. You can also send messages to teachers or fellow students and participate in mandatory class discussions via message board or chat.

The clinical component of your degree is the only area that cannot be completed via distance learning. You perform your supervised practicum at an approved off-site location or complete required clinical hours at your school during one or several mandatory on-campus visits. Procedures differ from one online program to the next, so you should look into your school's requirements during the initial application process.

How Do I Become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker?

Clinical social workers are issued licenses by the state in which they aim to practice social work. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), licensing regulations vary; but in most states, you must have a master's degree and two years post-master's social work experience under the supervision of a licensed professional in order to become licensed yourself ( The Association of Social Work, which is responsible for developing licensing examinations, designates four potential licensure levels, with clinical being the most advanced of the four. In order to qualify to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), you must complete a Master of Social Work (MSW) program and fulfill the above-mentioned work experience requirement (

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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