Is Pursuing a Social Work License (LCSW) Worth It?

Is Pursuing a Social Work License (LCSW) Worth It? By Sharon Martin, LCSW

After finishing graduate school, you might be wondering if it’s really worthwhile to pursue a social work license. In California, this license is the LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker). And the answer is a resounding “yes”.

Is Pursuing a Social Work License Worth it? by Sharon Martin, LCSW

There is no question in my mind that pursuing both my LCSW and MSW were worth the time, effort, and money. Your license establishes you as an expert. It opens up many job opportunities. I see many, many job posts that require an LCSW. Your license will eventually allow you to supervise, if you are interested. It will lead to increased earning potential. It allows you to practice independently. Your license is very easy to maintain (36 units of continuing education and renewal fees) once you’ve earned it. It is definitely an investment in yourself and your career that will benefit you for the rest of your professional life. So, why wouldn’t you pursue the LCSW?

Time

It takes a minimum of 2 years post-MSW to gain the required supervised experience (3200 hours) in California. Most of the social workers I know, find it takes closer to 2.5-3 years. Usually social workers are being paid and building their resume and professional contacts as they gain licensure hours. So, you aren’t really spending extra time gaining your supervised experience. Most of my supervises spend 1-3 hours per week in supervision (individual and/or group). If you are not supervised at your place of employment, you will probably need to use your own hour or two per week in supervision. You will also need to spend some time studying for and taking the exams.

Cost

Some employers provide clinical supervision as a benefit to their social work staff. When you are negotiating salary, take into account whether supervision is provided. I charge $90 per hour of individual supervision, which is a competitive rate. So, 104 hours of supervision (the minimum required) will cost a little  over $9000. You will also need to pay BBS fees for registration, exams, and the license, transcripts, fingerprinting, and additional coursework. The total expenses are approximately another $500-$1000. This is certainly a considerable chuck of change when you’ve just paid for school (or are paying off loans) and aren’t earning much as a new social worker. However, I suspect the expense will be easily recouped in 1-2 years of higher-paid work as an LCSW. Suggestions for keeping costs down:

  • Ask your employer to pay for your supervision (perhaps through continuing education funds, negotiating a raise)
  •  Ask if there is anyone in the organization who can provide supervision
  • Ask your employer to use work time for supervision
  • Find colleagues who’d like to form a group and share the cost of supervision
  • Online courses are considerably cheaper than in-person trainings
  • Some courses may be available free of charge through your County Title IV-E resources

What you will gain

  • Increased skills and competence
  • Respect
  • Higher salary
  • Job opportunities
  • Support
  • Confidence

Sharon Martin, a licensed counselor and psychotherapist in the San Jose area, specializes in helping adult children of alcoholics and others who struggle with anxiety, perfectionism, and self-criticism. She has a private psychotherapy practice in CA where she is available for online counseling. Sharon is also the author of The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism and write the blog Conquering Codependency for Psychology Today.