LMSW vs. LCSW

Earning your Master of Social Work is only half the battle. Pursuing post-graduate licensing is an essential step toward enhancing your career options. Those options, however, depend on whether you become a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) or equivalent master’s level license, or whether you continue along a clinical path and gain your Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) or equivalent based on the state.

Although both licenses require a Master of Social Work (MSW), there are additional requirements in pursuing a LCSW. It is important to note that in most states an applicant must already have a master’s level license in order to be eligible to sit for the clinical licensing exam. It is also worth noting that in some states, including Virginia and Connecticut, there is no master’s level license. After earning an MSW, one may be able to work as a social worker while earning clinical hours towards future license application.

Experience and Education Requirements

A master’s level license requires a master’s degree in social work (MSW) with no post-degree experience. Advanced generalist and clinical licenses require two years of post-MSW experience. In the case of clinical licensure, this experience must be in direct clinical social work.

Social work regulatory boards generally require that applicants have social work degrees from MSW programs that have been accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) or the Canadian Association for Social Work Education (CASWE). Any master’s degrees completed outside of the U.S. or Canada must be evaluated for equivalence to U.S. and Canadian programs.

More explicit information on education and experience required for social work licenses is listed in the table below.

Professional Capacities and Career Trajectory

Social workers can be grouped into direct service social workers and macro practice social workers. Social workers with a clinical license generally practice psychotherapy in a variety of settings, including schools, private practice, clinics, hospitals, or residential or day treatment programs. They can provide individual therapy, family therapy and group therapy. In addition, social workers can utilize a variety of therapeutic models.

While social workers without a clinical license can be in direct practice, they cannot practice psychotherapy independently without supervision until they achieve the necessary clinical level licensure. These individuals may also provide case management, consultation or other services. On the other hand, macro social workers can perform functions such as community organizing, program management, political advocacy, policy analysis or human services management.

Although social workers can work in a wide range of roles, many of them are interrelated. A social worker may work for many years in a clinical role and then decide to switch to macro practice and vice versa. In this way, social workers end up with a number of options and may choose to develop a spectrum of skills.

 
Licenses Education and Experience Exam Required
Alabama
Private Independent Practice (Certificate) MSW + 2 years N/R
Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW) MSW Clinical
Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 2 years full time or 3 years part time Master’s degree
Alaska
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) MSW Master’s degree
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 2 years full time or 3 years part time Clinical
Arizona
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) MSW Master’s degree
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 3,200 hours over 2 years Clinical
Arkansas
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) MSW Master’s degree
Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 4,000 hours over 2 years Clinical
California
Associate Clinical Social Worker (ASW) MSW N/R
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 3,000 hours of supervised clinical practice N/R
Colorado
Licensed Social Worker (LSW) MSW Master’s degree /Advanced Generalist/Clinical
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 3,360 hours of work experience over a period of no less than 24 months Clinical/Advanced Generalist
Connecticut
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 3,000 hours Clinical
Delaware
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 3,200 hours over two years with 1,600 hours under supervision Clinical
District of Columbia
Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW) MSW Master’s degree
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) MSW + 3,000 hours over 2-4 years Clinical
Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) MSW + 3,000 hours over 2-4 years Advanced Generalist
Florida
Certified Master Social Worker (CMSW) MSW + 2 years Master’s degree
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 2 years supervised experience Clinical
Georgia
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) MSW Master’s degree
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 3 years Clinical
Hawaii
Licensed Social Worker (LSW) MSW Master’s degree
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 3,000 hours clinical experience under supervision within 2-5 years Clinical
Idaho
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) MSW Master’s degree
Licensed Master Social Worker -- Independent (LMSWI) MSW Master’s degree
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 3,000 hours in not less than 2 years Clinical
Illinois
Licensed Social Worker (LSW) BSW + 3 years Master’s degree
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 3,000 hours supervised clinical experience Clinical
Indiana
Licensed Social Worker (LSW) MSW + 2 years Master’s degree
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 3 years clinical experience, 2 years under supervision Clinical
Iowa
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) MSW Master’s degree
Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) MSW + 2 years full time or 4,000 hours part-time over 2-6 years Clinical
Kansas
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) MSW Master’s degree
Licensed Specialist Clinical Social Worker MSW + 4,000 hours within 2-6 years within a clinical setting Clinical
Kentucky
Certified Social Worker (CSW) MSW + 2 years Master’s degree
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 2 years full-time or 3 years part-time (>20 hours per week) Clinical
Louisiana
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) MSW Master’s degree
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 5,760 hours Clinical
Maine
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) Not specified Master’s degree
Licensed Master Social Worker – Clinical Conditional (LMSW-CC) Not specified Master’s degree
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 2 years of social work experience Clinical
Certified Social Worker – Independent Practice Not specified Clinical
Maryland
Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW) MSW Master’s degree
Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 3,000 hours supervised clinical experience within 2 years (half must be face to face) Advanced Generalist
Licensed Certified Social Worker – Clinical (LCSW-C) MSW + 3,000 hours over 2-6 consecutive years (<6 supervisees in group) Clinical
Massachusetts
Licensed Social Worker (LCW) Not specified Master’s degree
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) MSW + 2 years (3,500 hours) Clinical
Michigan
Licensed Master Social Worker-Macro (LMSW-M) Not specified Advanced Generalist
Licensed Master Social Worker-Clinical (LMSW-C) MSW + 4,000 hours at no more than 2,000 hours per year after degree completion Clinical
Minnesota
Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW) Not specified Master’s degree
Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) MSW + 4,000 hours or 2 years of supervised practice; face-to-face or via electronic media Advanced Generalist
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) MSW + Not less than 4,000 and no more than 8,000 hours of post-graduate clinical social work practice Clinical
Mississippi
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) MSW Master’s degree
Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSWMac) MSW + 2-3 year period that includes 1,000 hours of face-to-face client contact Advanced Generalist
Licensed Certified Social Worker-Clinical (LCSW-C) MSW  + 2-3 year period that includes 1,000 hours of face-to-face client contact Clinical
Missouri
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) MSW Masters
Provisional Licensed Clinical Social Worker (PLCSW) MSW + 3,000 hours supervised experience Clinical
Licensed Advanced Macro Social Worker (LAMSW) MSW + 3,000 hours supervised experience Advanced Generalist
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 3,000 hours over 2-4 consecutive years Clinical
Montana
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 3,000 hours of supervised, post-degree psychotherapy work done in not less than 24 months; 1500 hours must be direct client contact Clinical
Nebraska
Certified Master Social Worker (CMSW) MSW + 3,000 hours (at least 1,500 hours direct client contact), face-to-face Clinical/Advanced Generalist
Licensed Mental Health Practitioner (LMHP) MSW + 3,000 hours obtained in a period of no less than 2 and no more than 5 years — one half of which is comprised of experience with clients diagnosed under the major mental illness or disorder category Clinical
Nevada
Licensed Social Worker (LSW) MSW Master’s degree
Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW) MSW + 3,000 hours over 2 to 3 years, face-to-face Clinical/Advanced Generalist
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 3,000 hours of supervised, postgraduate clinical social work; 2,000 hours must be in the area of psychotherapeutic methods and techniques to persons, families and groups to help in the diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional conditions Clinical
New Hampshire
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) MSW + 2 years of paid and supervised clinical work Clinical
New Jersey
Licensed Social Worker (LSW) MSW Master’s degree
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 2 years of satisfactory full-time clinical social work experience within a period of not less than 2 years and not more than 3 consecutive years Clinical
New Mexico
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) MSW Master’s degree
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSE + 3,600 hours of post graduate social work practice Clinical
New York
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) MSW Master’s degree
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + At least 3 years of post MSW supervised experience in diagnosis, psychotherapy and assessment-based treatment planning Clinical
North Carolina
Certified Master Social Worker (CMSW) MSW Advanced Generalist
Certified Social Work Manager (CSWM) MSW + 3,000 hours over 2 years Master’s degree
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 3,000 hours in no less than 2 years and no more than 6 years Clinical
North Dakota
Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW) MSW Master’s degree
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) MSW + 3,000 hours post-master’s degree supervised clinical experience earned within 4 years Clinical
Ohio
Licensed Social Worker (LSW) MSW Bachelor’s degree
Licensed Independent Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 3,000 hours over 2 years (1,500 hours max. per year) Clinical/Advanced Generalist
Oklahoma
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) MSW Master’s degree
Licensed Social Worker-Administration (LSW) MSW + 4,000 hours/24 months minimum Advanced Generalist
Licensed Social Worker (LSW) MSW + 4,000 hours over 2 years Advanced Generalist
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 2 years of full-time post degree experience or the equivalent thereto of part-time experience, a total of 4,000 hours of experience in clinical social work Clinical
Oregon
Clinical Social Work Associate (CSWA) MSW N/R
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) MSW Master’s degree
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 24 months full time or the equivalent part-time experience Clinical
Pennsylvania
Licensed Social Worker (LSW) MSW Master’s degree
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 3 years/3000 hours Clinical
Rhode Island
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW Master’s degree
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) MSW + 3,000 hours of post masters practice of clinical social work during a 24 months to 72 months period of time including 1,500 hours of direct clinical services to clients Clinical
South Carolina
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) MSW Master’s degree
Licensed Independent Social Worker-AP (LCSW-AP) MSW + 3,000 hours of supervised clinical social work practice in no less than 2 years and no more than 6 years prior license as a master social worker Advanced Generalist
Licensed Independent Social Worker-CP (LCSW-CP) MSW + 3,000 hours over 2-4 years (100 face-to-face hours) Clinical
South Dakota
Certified Social Worker (CSW) MSW + 2 years Master’s degree
Private Independent Practice (CSW-PIP) MSW + 2 years Clinical
Tennessee
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) MSW Master’s degree
Licensed Advanced Practice Social Worker (LAPSW) MSW + 2 years Advanced Generalist
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 2,000 hours of clinical social work experience Clinical
Texas
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) MSW Master’s degree
Licensed Master Social Worker – Advanced Practice (LMSW-AP) MSW + 3,000 hours of board approved supervised professional full-time clinical employment experience over a minimum 2-year period but within a maximum 4-year period or its equivalent Advanced Generalist
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 3,000 hours Clinical
Utah
Social Service Worker (SSW) MSW + 2,000 hours over not less than 1 year Bachelor’s degree
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 4,000 hours over no fewer than 2 years. 1000 hours must be supervised practice in mental health therapy Clinical
Vermont
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 3000 hours over 2 years (1,500 maximum hours per year) Clinical
Virginia
Licensed Social Worker (LSW) BSW + 3,000 hours over two years full-time or 3000 hours over 4 years part-time Bachelor’s degree
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 2 years supervised clinical experience Clinical
Washington
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) MSW + 4,000 hours of experience with 1,000 hours direct client contact Clinical
Licensed Advanced Social Worker (LASW) MSW + 3,200 hours Advanced Generalist
West Virginia
Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW) MSW Master’s degree
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) MSW + 2 years full time or 3000 hours part time clinical experience Clinical
Wisconsin
Certified Independent Social Worker (CISW) MSW + 3,000 hours over 2 years Advanced Generalist
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 3,000 hours in not less than 2 years Clinical
Wyoming
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) MSW + 3,000 hours supervised clinical social work with 1,500 hours post MSW Clinical