SDN members see fewer ads and full resolution images. Join our non-profit community!

The Official MSW Q&A Thread

Discussion in 'Mental Health and Social Welfare' started by pingouin, Mar 21, 2008.

  1. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin' Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    I've gotten several PMs from people about issues regarding MSW programs, getting licensed, and working as a social worker. Rather than respond to everyone individually, I thought I'd start a thread with those questions since many of them overlap. Also, since I'm only one person, this will give other social workers on the board the opportunity to chime in.

    For the record, I got my BSSW in 1996, took a year off to do full-time volunteer work, then got my MSW via Advanced Standing in 1998. My MSW track was considered clinical. I've had my LCSW since 2000, and have practiced primarily in mental health since '98. Currently I have a part-time private practice where I work with mostly individuals and do some family work (adults and older adolescents, but no couples and no kids). I also work at 2 medical centers in my area doing medical social work rather than psych (although one is still rather psych-related). I'll be quitting social work in July in order to attend medical school.

    Pretty much any theoretical orientation is fair game as long as you have been trained and supervised in using it. Psychodynamic, CBT, interpersonal, you name it. LCSWs can provide therapy for individuals, families, couples, and groups, although many people have a preference for some over others. (ie, I don't do couples, and my office isn't big enough to comfortably seat more than 5 people including myself.)

    Depends on what you mean by "clinical". NYU is psychodynamic/object relations-oriented. UMichigan has a great CBT program. Both clinical, but VERY VERY DIFFERENT. Look around- the CSWE is a great place to start, since they list all of the accredited programs, and trust me- you want an accredited program because you most likely will not get licensed in your state if your program doesn't have it.

    Absolutely. Outside of academic-affiliated hospitals, where psychiatry residents tend to do the ER assessments, most facilities are staffing intake departments with masters-level clinicians to do the screenings. Sometimes you'll see a PhD or PsyD in that role, but it seems to be the exception rather than the rule. Often this type of job does not require a license, so it's a great job to have as you're under supervision for licensure.

    Beyond the various psychology degrees, Counseling and MFT programs offer similar experiences to the MSW. Those programs typically lead to the LPC/LCPC/LMHC (varies by state) and the LMFT. Part of my bias toward the MSW LCSW track has to do with being able to diversify if you want to change your focus of practice. For example, I was able to work my way into medical social work to get more medical exposure pre-med school. One of my friends, a LPC, has been burned out on counseling since before she got licensed, but doesn't have other options besides working in mental health. She's currently doing case management for an behavioral health managed care company.

    I'm sure they could, although I don't personally know of anyone who's done it. The MSW is usually considered a terminal clinical degree in social work, although the DSW has a more clinically-oriented focus than the PhD in social work.

    That's really tricky, since it depends on what kind of work that social worker is doing. To run you through a typical Monday/Wednesday for me- class from 9:30-10:45 (med school-related), to my office by 11:30 or 12, see anywhere between 2-6 clients and out the door by 7pm. When I have fewer clients, I can catch up on paperwork, billing, phone calls, etc. We don't have an office manager, so I do everything myself. I use my cell as my primary contact phone number. I'm willing to accept/return calls until about 9pm. There are a few people for whom I will take after-hours calls due to a pre-arranged agreement with them about under what circumstances they may/may not call. It's amazing how that does not get abused.

    At one hospital where I'm 2 days/week, I attend interdisciplinary rounds in the morning for my service, do 1:1s with the patients on my service, 1:1 or 1:2s with their parents, call their outpatient providers to coordinate care, organize outpatient referrals for discharge, facilitate transfer to behavioral health programs (IOP, PHP, inpatient, residential), check insurance benefits, check in with outpatient clinic patients (former inpatients), attend social work staff meetings, arrange housing and meal assistance for out-of-town families, and am in the process of creating a spreadsheet of every referral that I have ever used so that whoever takes my place has access to all of that. Every once in a while I get a request to see someone off my service, but that's rare because of my limited hours.

    At the other hospital, I work in the ER and my primary role is in child protection- however on the weekend, we're the only person in-house so we cover EVERYTHING. We do forensic interviews with children and adolescents when they are brought in for suspected physical or sexual abuse or neglect. This is a lot of coordination with DFS and the police, along with our medical staff. We get called to every Trauma STAT, Major, and Minor, and are the liaison between the medical team and the family, including chaperoning the family into the trauma room to observe if they would like to go in (and are emotionally capable of dealing with seeing that). We're in charge of dealing with families during deaths- managing who can come back to see the body, taking handprints and hair samples for the family to keep, calling the Medical Examiner's office, assisting in initiating funeral arrangements. We're required to see every GSW and ingestion, and burns if they're suspicious. SW determines if any patients require visitor restriction, are used to assist with disruptive family members, can assist with housing, prescription, transportation, or meal assistance as appropriate, and provide supportive counseling to patients and families as needed.

    Thank you, and not necessarily. Psychiatry is certainly on the short list of things I'd like to do, specifically child and adolescent. However, every physician I've talked to- whether psychiatrist or other specialty- has encouraged me to keep my mind open until I do my rotations 3rd year, so I'm going to try to do that.
    wesleysmith likes this.
  2. SDN Members don't see this ad. About the ads.
  3. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin' Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) - information on accreditation of programs, a searchable database of all accredited programs

    Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) -these guys administer the licensure exam

    National Association of Social Workers (NASW) - learn about all aspects of social work (not just clinical), find jobs, read the Code of Ethics, join and get cheap malpractice insurance and access to journals and other resources

    The New Social Worker- good place to find information for young practitioners

    Just to get you guys started! :luck:
  4. zird00

    zird00 Calculator Salesman 2+ Year Member

    Oct 12, 2007
    :thumbup:Great info pingouin! Might I also ask for you to include the path to the LCSW for those out there who aren't familiar with it? Also, I would add Smith to the list of programs with a clinical orientation. Not that you wont get plenty of clinical coursework in any program but these programs seem to be especially focused!
  5. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin' Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member


    Licensure laws vary by state, so it's in anyone's best interest to contact the licensure board where they live (or more specifically, where they want to practice) for detailed information. Because of the variation, it's also called different things- most commonly, LCSW (Licensed Clinical SW), so that's what I'll refer to as I type. However I've also seen LISW (Ohio- Licensed Independent SW) and LICSW (Kansas), and I'm sure there are others. Note that in FL and CA, there are some more stringent regulations, or at least last I heard- these are reportedly efforts to prevent multitudes of practitioners from moving to those states and flooding the market.

    As a general rule, in order to practice independently, you have to have the highest level of SW licensure, the LCSW. At the inception of the licensure laws, there were some non-SWers who were grandfathered into licensure due to level of experience. However, current standard is that you must have a MSW from a CSWE-accredited program (see link above). A LCSW candidate must complete a minimum number of practice hours which are supervised by someone who is deemed qualified- usually another LCSW*. This is generally around 3,000 hours, and there will be guidelines on amount of time available to complete these. Where I am, you must complete them in no less than 24 months, and no more than 48 months. This accomodates part-time workers. Every state will require a passing score on the ASWB exam (link above); the "pass" score will vary by state- typically around 70 or 75. This test can be taken any time during the licensure process, and I believe you can take it as many times as you need to in order to pass (but I'm not sure on that). Once you have graduated, passed the test, accrued enough supervised hours, and have completed the paperwork required, you send in your application (and fee) for licensure and it will go to a state committee to determine if you're qualified. Once you have your license, there will be renewal requirements, such as CEUs (I have to do 30 hours every 2 years, including at least 3 hours on ethics).

    At the moment, I think that in most states, every "clinical" social worker takes the same test and has the same requirements no matter their field- so mental health, DV, child/family, health, gero, school, etc, will all be lumped into the same licensure category. There is a push in several states to break the non-clinical SWs- administrative, community, advocacy, etc- out of that and give them a more generalized license (ie, LMSW) which would not allow them to practice clinically yet still acknowledges their experience and contributions.

    *There may be exceptions to this due to state law variations. For example, I know in my state, only a LCSW can supervise a LCSW candidate; however LPC candidates may be supervised by LPCs, psychologists, or psychiatrists.
  6. michalita

    michalita New Member 2+ Year Member

    Aug 25, 2006
    New England
    The lettering here can be confusing. In Massachusetts, for instance, the LCSW is a Licensed Certified Social Worker, which is the license you can get directly after finishing your MSW (and taking an exam).

    The LICSW is the independent license -- License Independent Clinical Social Worker -- the highest level of SW licensure in Massachusetts.

    Confusing how LCSW means two entirely different things in neighboring states.
  7. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin' Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Yup. :)

    This is why I try to preface everything with "in my state...". It's really important to check state statutes and rules when looking into licensure issues, as there are 50 different sets of them (plus Puerto Rico and Canada :D ).
  8. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin' Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    A few more questions I've received through PM:

    Yes, it will matter. Not all MSW programs have a focus on clinical/mental health social work. You will need to look for a program which has this as a second-year concentration. Concentrations in health, school, aging, administration, or community practice will not give you the education and experience that you need. Depending on the program, a child and family concentration might provide what you need. Look at what concentrations are available, and what the core requirements and electives are for each of those concentrations. Once in a program, seek a second-year practicum which in a mental health/counseling setting.

    I agree, they are pretty crucial in getting the background that you need for your career to take off. Not only in honing your clinical skills, but also building the professional network that will be required for you to build a clinical practice.

    You may want to do a search of some other MSW/LCSW/MA/LPC threads because I know several of us have answered this question before. What comes to mind for me- as well as what others on here have contributed- include but are not limited to:

    • mental health crisis services- suicide hotline, crisis outreach, hospital-based psych/CD intake
    • community mental health case management
    • community mental health therapy (somewhat rare to find because an unlicensed therapist doesn't bring in the insurance referrals that a licensed therapist can garner)
    • inpatient psychiatric unit
    • domestic violence services- DV agency, batterers' intervention
    • eating disorder treatment center
    • drug/alcohol treatment center

    I think anything on this list could provide a strong background if you have the appropriate supervision and support. I STRONGLY recommend getting some sort of crisis experience (which most of these will offer in some capacity). If you can learn to deal with client crises early on, it will be an invaluable tool throughout your career.

    One of the scariest things I ever heard was when I was doing a presentation for a bunch of older clinical social workers in private practice with my licensure supervisor. I was working for a suicide hotline, and we were presenting on how to assess suicidality. One of the SWs commented that she had been in private practice for 30 years and had never had a suicidal client. To me, that statement showed her discomfort in talking about that subject, and negligence in assessing an important aspect of our work.

    I beg you guys- don't be her. Please.
  9. arlyt


    Jul 2, 2008
    Hello Pingouin,

    I read a great deal of your posts and since you are a social worker I wanted to ask you for your thoughts on my goals.

    I would like to be mainly a higher education counselor. Now I know these jobs are hard to come by and I for one am not really interested in moving to x,y,z states. I mainly prefer to state in Oregon(Portland or Washington). I think at the end of the day I would really like to work in a university and focus on helping students gain education.

    Other areas I am interested in are career counselors and working with troubled youth/immates/substance abuse and alcohol problems. I want to discover the problems people are having and help direct them in the right direction.

    Thanks for your thoughts
  10. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin' Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member


    I'm not clear on what you mean by "higher education counselor". Are we talking counselor in a university-based student health center? That's the first thing that came to my mind, and I have seen social workers, counselors, and psychologists all fill those roles at different schools. Same goes for everything else you mentioned except for career counseling. That is not really the domain of social workers; usually counselors are in that role, sometimes psychologists.

    To get an "in" at a university, I'd try to get a practicum at a student health center if that's available in your area. Sorry, can't comment in the Pac NW since I'm not very familiar with the area as far as employment, etc.

    Anyone else who can chime in?
  11. zird00

    zird00 Calculator Salesman 2+ Year Member

    Oct 12, 2007

    Are you talking about vocational rehabilitation and this area? This is the main type of educational counseling I can think of that focuses on university based students. This is more the domain of Education and not social work. But a little clarification would be helpful.
  12. arlyt


    Jul 2, 2008
  13. zird00

    zird00 Calculator Salesman 2+ Year Member

    Oct 12, 2007
    This particular job opening seems like something that would be concerned with helping freshman transition to college life. At both of the schools I have been to there were programs like this labeled Freshman Orientation, Freshman Seminar, etc. These advisers generally assist with a smooth transition to college. It has been my experience that they do very little counseling as their relationship with the students is established with student-teacher roles and boundaries. It has also been my experience that there are very few of these jobs and many of them are part time and held by full time counselors, and other professionals. Hope these observations will help :)
  14. acidicspecies08

    acidicspecies08 2+ Year Member

    Aug 15, 2007
    New Jersey
    This may be too generic for some of you to answer, but is anyone here aware of the role that social workers play when they are employed by the District Attorneys Office? I recently thumbed through an informational pamphlet on the school I hope to attend for my MSW and among the places that they listed as having hired their graduates was the Brooklyn DA's Office, and I became intrigued as to what exactly one would be doing in that setting. Any thoughts?
  15. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin' Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    It is possible that there is funding (usually a grant) for things like counseling victims of violence/trauma, their family members, or domestic violence services. In addition to the crisis counseling (and I suppose there's some opportunity for longer-term interventions), it might involve helping access financial resources or community agencies which might assist the client(s).
  16. acidicspecies08

    acidicspecies08 2+ Year Member

    Aug 15, 2007
    New Jersey
    Has anyone on here heard anything about CUSSW? Is it good for clinical work? What are its advantages and disadvantages? I just visited them yesterday, and although I really like the program, everything is always a little candy-coated when it comes straight from the horses mouth. So, does anyone have any inside info on their MS program?
  17. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin' Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Is that Columbia? It's an excellent program. In retrospect I should have applied there.
  18. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin' Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    The quick answer is yes, the longer answer is "depends on the milieu". Of the two hospitals I was recently working at, one had in-house social work 24/7/365, although we had a backup on call on Sat/Sun afternoons as a special arrangement for our Child Protection team. At the other hospital, SW was in-house from 7a-4:30p M-F and everything else was done with call. Mobile crisis is often done on call.. some community health centers.. in my private practice I did some call for my own clients.. DV agencies definitely.. Lots of other settings, too, I'm sure.

    Yes, although again- what's done will depend on the setting. Many patients with a formal psychotic disorder diagnosis will be linked into community mental health services, and social workers are often case managers in those agencies. Also hospitals (both inpatient units and intake), and possibly even in private practice. Depending on the level of function and degree of impaired reality testing of a particular patient, they may or may not be a good candidate for therapy/counseling. Therapy is often helpful in adjusting to a new diagnosis of psychotic disorder, education on illness, some symptom management, supporting medication compliance. In my practice, I wouldn't see someone with a psychotic disorder unless I could verify they were actively seeing a psychiatrist and could coordinate with him/her. Other areas of social work practice where you might see a high number of severely and persistently mentally ill patients include drug and alcohol services, domestic violence, and homeless services.

    I'm going to attempt to answer this, although that's one of the jobs I've never actually done. I'm going to PM some of the psychiatrists on SDN to see if they can chime in about how they utilize their inpatient SWs.

    Social workers may lead some of the groups on the unit- psychoeducation, coping skills, etc. They will do a full psychosocial assessment that will assess social and family supports, community resources available, barriers to treatment. The social worker is likely to be the team member who will talk with the family, the case manager, the the therapist, etc to get information from other sources about what's been going on. This will help the team (with the psychiatrist as the lead) to formulate a plan. The social worker is the chief discharge plan-arranger- includes arranging post-discharge follow-up appointments with psychiatrist and/or therapist. S/he will also make sure that the patient has a safe place to go after discharge, a way to get there, and access to the prescribed medications. Sometimes discharge may include arranging placement in a group home or residential treatment facility.
  19. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin' Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    The venerable OldPsychDoc answers the question of "What are the duties of a LCSW in an inpatient psych ward?":

    Last edited: Aug 8, 2008
  20. mftPsychSoc

    mftPsychSoc 5+ Year Member

    Jun 27, 2007
    Hey all,
    I'm writing in regards to a pickle of a situation I am faced with... I recently accepted a position in my county government as a child protection worker.

    With this, there is an incentive for ppl who make it past the year long probationary period to have their Master's fully reimbursed(tuition, fees, books, etc.), which is great:D! However, you can only pursue an MSW or a Masters in Human Resources Admin. I was clearly on the path of preparing to apply to a general psych MA program en route to a (PsyD)clinical psych w/ community emphasis, a combined clin/school/community/program(PsyD), or a counseling psych(PhD) program while leaving SW as a potential option if the situation should call for it.

    I mainly wanted to go the psychology route b/c I did my undergrad in psych and soc, and I want to eventually teach(at least part-tme), and do testing along with psychotherapy, but with the prospect of potentially being debt free after getting an MSW, I am now re-thinking some things.

    I know that should I pursue the MSW, there are good opportunities for therapy and teaching, as well as PhD programs in Social Welfare, but no actual testing. My main concern is what impact an MSW would have on the pursuit of a psychology doctorate later(say 5-10 years down the line). If anyone can provide some inight or give their thoughts, that would be terrific!
  21. pharmstudent993

    pharmstudent993 Freshman in HS 2+ Year Member

    Nov 24, 2007
    hSDN Member
    Are the LCSWs allowed to do individual psychotherapy in inpatient psych ward, or are they only allowed to lead groups?
  22. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin' Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    They can do both, however typically not a lot of individual therapy gets done on inpatient units from my understanding. Certainly individual meetings happen between SWs and the patients, but the primary focus will be on discharge planning.
  23. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin' Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Oh my goodness. There are so many answers to these questions I don't even know where to start. I'm not sure there is a "typical" SW job because we work in so many capacities. What I was doing in my mental health jobs every day was very different than my medical SW jobs. I think the core of SW is looking at "person in environment", or looking at a systems approach to working with people. No one lives in a vacuum, so you have to take strengths and supports into consideration in order to help the client make the changes s/he wants to make. Whether that be a hospital discharge for an adult on chemo.. or a family therapy session for an acting-out kid and the parents.. SWs are constantly evaluating what else is at play as a barrier to improvement and helping to break those down. Sure, case managers do this, but so do SWs working in DV, homeless populations, community organization, mental health, health, schools, nursing homes, etc etc etc etc etc.

    For all practical purposes, yes. There may be a few exceptions where someone has a provisional clinical license and is able to join an established practice under the supervision of a licensed therapist. But as far as establishing a solo practice, yes- you have to be fully clinically licensed.

    There have been some recent threads on this. I'll try to find the links.

    Edit: Geez, louise, I'm tired. Look at post #7 above in this thread. :oops:

    Very realistic in that lots of people do it. Keep in mind that it would be a rare person who can immediately go into FT practice after licensure. Typically people start small (evenings, weekends) while working at whatever they've been doing, and make the transition from there.

    Success depends on a multitude of factors, many of which are in your control. Some aren't- insurance panels aren't accepting new providers, the market is saturated with providers.. So find a clinical niche that the insurance people need, or drive a little further every day to a less-saturated area to build your practice.. Do what you need to do.

    My practice cleared a nice profit in its first year and each year after as I grew it. I never did FT private practice, so I can't answer your question fully.

    Markets vary. A friend in a rural area charges 70/hr, and the market my practice was in varied from about 90-110 for LCSWs/LPCs (on average). Higher in the bigger cities, particularly on the coasts. Although 40 client hours/week is technically feasible, don't neglect to consider the time needed for paperwork, phone calls, meetings, etc.

    There are typically three tiers of reimbursement- psychiatrist, psychologist, master's-level. Some companies will have another tier for nurse practitioners. Psychiatrists get a higher reimbursement than psychologists who get higher rates than LCSWs/LPCs. That's pretty much across the board.

    Some insurance PANELS do not accept LPCs/LCSWs from what I've learned on SDN (have never seen that in my area), while sometimes you run across a panel that includes everyone, but the member's specific PLAN does not permit services to be provided by a certain level (that I have seen). Those are pretty few and far between.

    Reality for the insurance company I worked at was that our admin encouraged us to refer to master's level people because the company saved money. Also reality was that my colleagues and I routinely referred to whoever we thought would do the best job, regardless of licensure/educational background. (We're such rebels.)

    Yes and no. I was already on some panels from when I worked at a community mental health center, so I continued with those and added a few more. However, a few of the initial ones are horrible to work with, so when my recredentialling came up, I didn't complete it since I had alternate referral sources by that time.

    I accepted insurance because.. it's hard to not do that at the beginning. And because lots of people need help and will never be able to afford 90-110/hour in their lifetime. I also did some sliding scale for uninsured (or underinsured- Medicaid doesn't pay for adults to get therapy in my state), but only 1-2 people at any given time. I didn't mind working with the insurance companies that let me do my thing- maybe get a pre-auth, but no regularly required treatment updates. The company I dropped (the one I had worked for, actually) required treatment updates every 3-5 sessions. Ridiculous.

    My private practice WAS healthy, but it closed last month so that I could start medical school.

    "Yes" to all of the above questions regarding success. That's not to be flippant- I really do believe that it was the convergence of all those factors, and if any of them had been missing.. I don't know how it would have turned out. Luck/right place/right time helped a lot, as much as I wish I could say it was 100% my clinical skill. :cool:

    Network. Find a niche if you can. Network. Market yourself. Network. Make sure you have solid clinical experiences prior to doing private practice, including trusted mentors who you can consult with when you're flying solo. Network.
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2008
  24. biogirl215

    biogirl215 2+ Year Member

    May 1, 2007
  25. twilson

    twilson 2+ Year Member

    Oct 3, 2008
    I am currently a junior psychology major and I am very interested in getting an MSW. I originally was specifically interested in counseling and therapy but I have been doing alot of research on counselors (all types) becoming burnt out and medical social work seems very appealing to me now, also. So I was wondering would I be able to easily transition from after having a concentration in mental health into a medical social work career if it was not my original concentration?

    Thank you :)
  26. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin' Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    This is personal experience, so please get a lay of the land in your area.. but the majority of my career was in mental health and it was difficult to switch to medical when I wanted experience with that. Now, this is in large part because one of the MSW programs in my city has a specific track for health SW and their grads typically swoop up most of the jobs since they've all done practica at hospitals. (Most of them, anyway.)

    That said, it *can* be done, but it took some good contacts in order to be able to land a position- which I had built up through other professionals I'd worked with while I was in mental health.

    Some schools offer a "health & mental health" concenration- that might cover your bases.

    Yes, you can get in immediately post-BSSW- that's what many advanced standing students do.

    I'm interpreting the bolded part in two ways- get the MSW, graduate, and then start accruing hours, OR get into the MSW program and use those practicum hours toward licensure. So just to clarify- you have to do the first, you cannot do the second. States' licensure rules and regulations require you to have the degree before any of your hours "count".

    As far as whether it's a good or bad idea, that has to be a personal choice. I took a year off and got some experience, but did advanced standing, so had my MSW 2 years after my BSSW and while I was still 23. In some ways it was nice to get the degree and get out there practicing, but other times I have regretted I didn't take more time off. If you're a "traditional" student(high school straight to college straight to MSW), be aware that you will likely be younger than most of your coworkers and a lot of your clients. Many friends and I have discussed that there have been times when we perceived our competency to be discounted because of age. Although that has sucked, it has also made us better clinicians, as we worked to compensate for that by proving our competence time after time. My grad school practicum supervisor told me it would happen and he was absolutely right- it had happened to him as well when he had his masters at 23. :)
  27. acidicspecies08

    acidicspecies08 2+ Year Member

    Aug 15, 2007
    New Jersey
    What are the teaching options with an MSW? I have seen a few professors listed on various social work department websites with no more degree other than there MSW (or they don't list there higher degree, but I don't understand why they wouldn't). So, is this common? are their teaching options with an MSW? If so, what do they usually consist of?
  28. biogirl215

    biogirl215 2+ Year Member

    May 1, 2007
    If pingouin doesn't mind, I'll ake a stab at this. DSW and Social Work PhD programs are relatively new and few in number, so you tend to see a lot of faculty "grandfathered" in with an MSW from when the MSW was the terminal degree in the field. Additionally, many MSW folks are hired as adjuncts or occasionally assistant professors for the purpose of teaching practice courses and administering programs like Title IV E. Nowadays, though, the PhD/DSW is the standard for being hired into a VAP or tenure-track position in most social work programs whilethe MSW hires are mostly (but not entirely!) adjuncts. Keep in mind, however, that most DSW/PhD programs require or strongly prefer post-masters field experience, so getting actual experience is still key.
  29. xenobart

    xenobart MSW 2010 5+ Year Member

    Oct 26, 2008
    At my school the academic MSW classes are taught by PhDs (some are in Social Work, others Clinical Psych), but our field work consultants and lecturers are LCSWs. Our LCSW instructors also teach some direct practice courses related to the work they do. However they're all employed as part time lectures, not tenured academics.
  30. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin' Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Both of the responses above seem pretty accurate. Also be aware that some faculty may appear as MSW not PhD if they are ABD ("all but dissertation") on their SW PhDs. That means they got their jobs contingent on finishing their degree by the end of their contract.
  31. biogirl215

    biogirl215 2+ Year Member

    May 1, 2007
    Can you speak to Advanced Standing programs? I've read some criticism that they don't provide enough time before degree-granting, especially for clinical students.

    Also, is it difficult to get adjunct professor "side jobs" in the field, if there is no intent of full-time teaching?
  32. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin' Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    For those who do not know, AS is an accelerated MSW program for people with a BSSW. Since the last year of a BSSW is almost identical to the first year of a MSW, credit can be granted toward the MSW for work done while still an undergrad. It depends on the school how many credits are granted, but if you get full credit it reduces your program to one year rather than two. Some schools, you have to go one summer + 2 semesters. Others, just 2 semesters. Generally the qualifying criteria are having earned a BSSW within the last 5(ish) years from a CSWE-accredited program, a minimum GPA within the BSSW coursework (3.0? I don't remember), and probably some letters from your BSSW program. Even then, the MSW program will determine whether or not you qualify- it is not a guarantee. (n=1, a friend of mine from my BSSW days went to our home school for her MSW and despite meeting all the criteria, did not receive AS credit for a few of the courses we took and had to repeat them during her MSW.)

    This does, then, initially look like minimal experience. Keep in mind though that during the BSSW, there is a mandatory two-semester generalist practicum (and in my program, a concurrent practicum discussion seminar as well). Since the first year MSW practicum for people without a BSSW is also generalist, these are comparable experiences and have comparable minimum hours requirements. It is the year 2 practicum that will be within the chosen concentration, although sometimes the year 1/BSSW practicum will overlap with concentration interest. Ultimately, it winds up being roughly the same amount of time in field experience as anyone who goes through a MSW program, and the coursework is identical.

    That said, I could also make the argument for being in school longer to gain maturity, experience, and taking additional coursework. Most AS MSW students are young and fresh out of undergrad, so perhaps they are not getting the most out of their graduate education. Just my speculation, nothing else.

    As far as getting an adjunct teaching position, it's largely a matter of competence and networking. I had some offers to get me on board at a local MSW program (used to work with a SW PhD who became full-time faculty there) but didn't really have much interest.
  33. WannaBeDrMe

    WannaBeDrMe 2+ Year Member

    Apr 14, 2008
    I just wanted to speak to my experience w/"side jobs" with your MSW. I've looked (with wide open eyes) for positions since before they slapped that hood around my neck. I LOVE to teach and by the end of my teaching assistanceship... I was hooked.

    However, I never secured a position. I would say it depends on your market. In my market, the few positions that would have been available were filled by LCSW's with significant experience (as they should have been... I wasn't nearly as qualified). The community college positions were non-existent b/c my state requires a masters plus 18 hours in the discipline you want to teach. I have 2 master's degrees and neither of them are worth a flip when it comes to community college classes!!! Ha.

    If teaching is something you hope to do early in your career, a community college would likely be your best bet... so research it now, and if necessary/possible, squeeze in enough psych/soc/edu/poli sci electives to be able to teach those courses.

    As for the other positions, all of my professors were doctoral level in either social work or psychology. The field director was the only LCSW on staff in the department... BUT the medical school had two LCSWs on their teaching staff. So, keep your eyes open for opportunities outside of the school of social work.
  34. Music333

    Music333 2+ Year Member

    Nov 17, 2007
    I always hear about how social work has a high burn-out rate. Is that in all the fields of social work? What contributes to it?
  35. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin' Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    oooh, excellent question! I'm on break from school until Monday. I'll do some research (to avoid anecdotal evidence) and answer it before then.
  36. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin' Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    I did a quick search on Ovid- any of you are welcome to do the same, or use PubMed. Here's some of what came up:

    Evaluation of burnout in 346 social workers from the California Register, all of whom work in organizational settings (not private practice). Only about 58% were LCSWs, and the rest MSWs who are not licensed (yet, anyway). The fields of mental health, medical health, child welfare, and school social work represented the largest number of respondents, and the average number of years in the field was 16. (Years was not used as a variable, which is a limitation of the study since there's no comparison of new vs seasoned SWs.) "Role stress" was defined as role conflict, role ambiguity, and role overload. "Job autonomy" is degree of control the worker has over individual schedule and tasks, and "social support" is formal and informal interpersonal relationships at the place of employment.

    "They show that burnout mediates the relationship between social workersÂ’ perceived role stress and the intention to quit their current jobs. Specifically, a social worker with higher role stress experiences relatively higher burnout, and higher burnout increases the likelihood of turnover intention. Job autonomy and social support did not have direct effects on burnout but did have direct negative effects on turnover intention. This suggests that lack of job autonomy and social support increases turnover intention among social workers, regardless of their perceived levels of burnout."

    They go on to show, among other things, autonomy moderating role stress and burnout: high role stress + low autonomy= high burnout.

    ABSTRACT. A national sample of 1,200 social workers, categorized by the National Association of Social Workers as being in clinical practice, participated in a study to find out whether social work clinicians decline in hope or have increasing burnout over the course of their careers. In the final sample of 676 respondents, social workersÂ’ self-reported burnout was negatively associated with social worker age. Practice setting (i.e., either public or private practice) moderated the relation between perceived burnout and years in social work. Burnout seemed to decline with increasing years in private practice, but not in public practice. The results also suggest that social worker hope is higher in public practice than in private practice. However, for older social workers, hope in these two settings is about equal. Implications for social work managers and administrators are discussed.

    This next one is an interesting read... was done in Israel, so not everything is relevant to the US (differences in educational requirements). Suggests an idealism among students about working in the field that may not reflect the realities of practice. Goes on to question whether this idealism (and getting smacked with reality) contributes to burnout rate.

    Abstract: This study compares Israeli social work students' perceptions of the rewards and costs of working in the profession with those held by Israeli senior social workers. Questionnaires examining this issue were administered to 91 participants. Findings indicated that students' perceptions were significantly higher than senior social workers' perceptions.

    There's a lot more out there.. some of them I couldn't see because my med school doesn't subscribe to the journal. A lot of what's out there is on social workers in specific settings (child welfare, sexual abuse, HIV, case management, medical) so if you have any specific questions, do a search and see what pops up. :)
  37. Music333

    Music333 2+ Year Member

    Nov 17, 2007
    Thanks for the reply, pingouin. I was just curious to know b/c I decided not to go the PhD route in psychology due to my health issues, so I thought about going into social work through the mental health track. But I may have to rethink it due to the high burn-out rate.
  38. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin' Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Actually, one of the articles I found that I didn't post had to do with burnout rates between psychologists, psychiatric nurses, and social workers. It found no statistically significant difference between the three.

    My search was specifically on social workers and burnout. Put in "teachers" or "doctors" or "lawyers" or "psychologists" and you're going to find just as many. I posted the ones I did not as a warning against SW, but more to show that burnout can be avoided or minimized if you are aware of what causes it. If lack of autonomy and work overload are going to cause burnout (which, honestly, is rather intuitive but it's nice to have data to back it up), then those are things I'd ask about when job-hunting: what's the average caseload? What are the responsibilities? What is the staff turnover rate? How much supervision is provided?

    And the last one? "I want to be a social worker! I want to help people!" sounds great. And it IS a great job. But the reality is that not everyone is willing or able to accept help, the system limits what help can be given, and we're social workers, not miracle workers. Idealism is great - we'd be back in the Stone Age if people didn't think they could change things- but realism needs to come into play, too, as people are making their decisions about entering social work, counseling, psychology, or any other "helping" profession. Without that influx of realism, you will surely burn out.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2009
  39. RockSteady08


    Apr 1, 2009
    Hey everyone,
    I am wondering if anyone has any good ideas for me. I am in my junior year of undergrad majoring in Psychology. My current overall gpa is 3.04 and my Psych gpa is 3.02. I understand these are less than desirable for most graduate programs but I am wondering if anyone knows of any accredited Masters programs in psychology in the ny/nj area that would accept my gpa. I also have some research experience in a lab under a professor. So I am wondering if that will help. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!!!
  40. hinasu


    Jun 15, 2009
    I am trying to find the answer to a question so I can make an informed decision. I know I am the only one who can make it. I am not asking anyone to make it for me, just info. I am seeing a psy.d It is going ok but I've seen a LMSW i think is her title. It is for marriage counseling. I find her to be much easier to talk to. I am trying to decide if I just want to see her instead. The marriage counseling is not an issue as we don't go anymore. What would be the benefit of seeing my psychologist versus switching to her? I do have mutiple diagnoses if that helps. I also see a psychiatrist who only deals with my meds. Basically trying to find out if seeing her would be any more of a disadvantage vs my psychologist. Are there things he could do for me that she couldn't. Insurance is not an issue.
  41. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin' Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    That question falls under the realm of "asking for medical (psychological) advice", which is not something that this forum provides. The psychologist and the social worker should both be able to have a conversation with you about what best meets your needs. Alternatively, your psychiatrist may be able to help you make your decision. Good luck.
  42. MSW2MD


    Sep 6, 2009
    Wow, I'm considering the exact same transition. I have to admit, I haven't yet read the whole thread (I will) but I was wondering if it would be ok to ask you about your decision to transfer from social work to medicine. I know you are likely super busy so I understand if you don't have time right now (and especially since this doesn't seem to fit with the theme of your thread).

    I'm early in my process, so I can wait until it's more convenient for you!

    I suppose I'd try to get the pre-reqs starting in January and lasting as long as it takes. I'll figure out how applications work, etc... but I'm wondering what to do in the mean time. Honestly, I think I've already checked out of social work. Just having that realization that I took the easiest road possible is a total turn off. Having my eyes opened to that reality makes me want to RUN, not walk, to the next stop on my career journey.

    However, I'm aware that this is likely the beginning of a lengthy process years in the making. I think I'm ok with that... assuming, of course, that I have the aptitude and ability to succeed in the pre-req coursework. I suppose that will be the ultimate decision maker.

    Thanks for your time. I basically would just like to know what sorts of things led to your decision. Maybe if you considered any other fields, etc? I've ran through my mind over and over until my head hurt trying to figure out "if not social work, then what..." From there, I just tried to tease out what it was I enjoyed and why it was that I wanted to move along. Medicine seemed to be what shook down from the tree.

    Thanks in advance. Hope you are well.
  43. NYCTherapist


    Aug 16, 2009
    Just wanted to give my 2 cents from a NYC Social Worker who co-founded the NYS Coalition of work in NY is not what it used to be...given the recently licensing issues in NY State and the future of healthcare in general in America (depending on what happens with Obama's health care plan) workers should not expect the same security they once will still be available but at lower reimbursement rates and the days of NYC social workers earning 150K + in a cash private practice are really numbered....I would strongly advise anyone interested in pursuing clinical work, therapy, private practice etc to consider what the career options are...yes you can be licensed at the MA level as a social worker or mental health clinician (though personally I feel those programs do NOT prepare you to practice independently as a therapist) however you are unlikely to achieve the same career success as those currently & previously in the profession....this is not across the board but the market is flooded with social workers right now all competing for the same jobs and the same private patients/clients....with the stricter licensing laws in place it will be harder to obtain an LCSW qualifying job and therefore harder to earn that license which allows independent private practice....most insurance panels are NOT accepting new social workers in NYC so you will need to operate a cash business until you can get can be hard to build a practice this way unless you are well networked.....just a word of caution to any fellow MSWs in NYC to think carefully before pursuing this degree......
  44. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin' Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    msw2md, I think I answered a few of your questions in your other thread. my motivations had a lot to do with being personally challenged/satisfied and medicine being the route that seemed the best fit to accomplish what I wanted to do. I miss SW a lot, especially now as I'm moving into crunch time prior to my block exams, but I don't regret the decisions I've made. It also was not a novel idea for me, as I'd started college premed, changed to SW, and simply went back to "Plan A"... 12 years later. ;)

    Feel free to PM me if you have any questions, or as I suggested in the other thread, you'll probably find a lot of support and like-minded people in the Non-Traditional Students premed forum.
  45. Mitch Warner

    Mitch Warner Junior Member 2+ Year Member

    Aug 21, 2006
    New York, NY
    Hi pingouin and others,

    First of all, this is just an enormously helpful thread. Thanks so much to everyone who has contributed their experience and wisdom.

    Second of all, I'm wondering (without a lot of hope!) whether there might be a relatively straightforward way/place to find out what kinds of practice settings are acceptable towards clinical licensure in different states. For example, I know in New York (where I'm finishing my MSW at NYU) there's been a lot of controversy and legal wrangling over which settings LMSWs can accrue hours towards the LCSW in, whether it will include working in analytic institutes, others' private practices, etc.

    My wife and I are considering (for non-SW-related reasons) four places outside of New York to move next year:


    Does anyone happen to know what kinds of settings are accepted in any or all of these areas? I'm especially interested in whether any of these places allows hours working at a psychoanalytic institute to count, but any info would be hugely helpful.

    Many, many thanks,
  46. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty Faculty Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Oct 6, 2006
    The Beach
    The licensing board of each state would be the place to check for the "official" word on this, though it may be helpful to contact your state-level Social Work Assocation to see if they have any useful information. Often times the state associations work closely with the state licensing board, and they can be a bit easier to get a response from.
  47. MKE88


    Jan 16, 2010

    Thank you for this thread! I'm a junior psychology major and have been pretty set on a clinical psych phd, but recently have been thinking more and more about the msw route. Today the director of admissions of my school's clinical psych program came to speak to one of my classes...
    He mentioned that the typical salary for a clinical psychologist at a VA would be about $75,000/year; the MSW would earn $70,000. Does this seem realistic to any of you in the know? And are VA jobs pretty competitive to get?
    I don't really know much about the MSW, so forgive me, but is it possible to be a social worker and solely be a "therapist?"

    Lastly, this is kind of a weird question, but I've been wondering: as an MSW, what do your clients call you? Your first name, or Mr./Ms. so and so?

    again, thanks for spreading the knowledge!

    He also mentioned a little bit about the internship year in both programs. For a clinical psych phd, the current average salary for the 40hrs/week is 15-20k, whereas the MSW internships are at about 30k (this is all according to him... is he right?)
    And I also wanted to put it out there that my reasons for gravitating away from pursuing clinical psychology mainly stem from not wanting to do research after undergrad (and absolutely not as a career, it's just not my cup of tea)
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2010
  48. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty Faculty Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Oct 6, 2006
    The Beach
    In the VA system, everything is set off of GS-ratings, which assigns a range of salary to a specific rating, and then a set of ratings are them assigned to job titles/positions. You come in at a certain rating (licensure usually dictates it, and then experience), and then there are "steps" within each rating level. is the official gov't website for jobs, which is where you can find SW positions in the VA. A quick search for social work turned up salaries afrom 47k-70k+. A quick search for "psychologist" turns up 57k-100k+. Both jobs offer a range of options within the VA system. Many people who work in the VA do it because it can be a nice balance between pay/benefits (good health coverage for familes, etc) and your work week (40hr/wk).

    When I was looking at staff positions for psychologists, it typically came in at a GS-11 if I remember correctly (without licensure). Once licensed the person is a GS-12, and then goes from there. If you do a quick search for the GS scale you'll have a better idea of the ranges. I'm not sure how high SW go on the GS scales, but psychologists can be a G-14, which is $99k-$130k. Keep in mind that to get to a GS-14 you have to be senior, and they are very sought after. More realistically people look at GS-12 and GS-13, which are $60k-$78k and $71-$93k. There are cost of living adjustments, so there is additional money on top.

    The bottom line is that you won't get "rich" in the VA system, but it can be a great lifestyle...whether you choose SW of psychology.
  49. xenobart

    xenobart MSW 2010 5+ Year Member

    Oct 26, 2008
    I'm graduating with my MSW in about 6 weeks. In most settings I have clients call me by my first name, but in certain more formal settings, like where I'm placed for my second year internship, all the non-doctor staff are called Mr. or Ms. lastname. It works just fine and isn't any more awkward than calling someone Dr. x. [/quote]

    There isn't a specific internship year in social work like there's one in psychology. In social work you do a first year placement for 16 hours a week, and second year you work for 24 hours a week. You take classes while doing the internship. It's incorrect that social work students make 30k as interns - it's much, much less. My first year I made absolutely nothing, as did 95% of my classmates (I did get free lunch though!). Second year more internships pay but still not 30k. I average about $1000 a month at my current placement, and I have one of the better paying second-year internships. You'd make more money as a psychology pre-doctoral intern, as you'd be working full-time.
  50. DrGachet

    DrGachet Banned

    Nov 12, 2010
    I find that surprising. Do you have the reference? Generally speaking, social workers are more likely to be called on to deal with severe trauma, abuse, etc, with the marginalized people (e.g. assaulted women, the poor, the addicts) . And they get paid less than psychologists and psychiatrists.

    There are different theories of burnout and emotional exhaustion and different potential factors that may stress somebody out (time pressure, workload, hostile coworkers, control, finances, role confusion, demands, resources, emotional work, and so forth).

    Despite their knowledge of emotional regulation, human services professionals are more likely to experience burnout than some others merely because of the kind of work they do. Social workers, I speculate, have it worst.
  51. pingouin

    pingouin just chillin' Physician Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Do I have the reference link for an article I found on a random just-for-fun search almost 2 years ago? Uh, no. I don't.

Share This Page