Clinical Social Worker

Overview of Profession

Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs) meet with individuals to evaluate and treat mental, emotional, behavioral, and developmental disorders. They are able to provide appropriate assessment-based treatment plans for individuals, couples, families, and groups in order to maintain and enhance social and behavioral functioning. In order to become an LCSW, it is necessary to earn a master’s degree in social work and then complete a number of supervised work experience hours. After this, one must pass the LCSW licensure examination to begin practicing independently.

Undergraduate Preparation

As summarized in Appendix A, Licensed Clinical Social Workers must complete a series of prerequisite courses to be considered for Master of Social Work graduate programs. Students may choose any major, but most graduate programs require predominantly liberal arts prerequisites. Programs are interested in applicants with a broad liberal arts background encompassing knowledge and worldviews from a variety of disciplines. Although specific requirements vary among schools, most require coursework in social sciences, humanities, physical sciences, and other liberal arts subjects. Additional prerequisites may include biology, math, statistics, history, anthropology, or literature. The minimum cumulative GPA for acceptance is 2.7 into most graduate social work programs, although preference is given to applicants with a 3.0 GPA or higher. Generally, schools require a GPA of 3.0 in the last 60 hours of advanced coursework.

In addition to prerequisite course requirements, most graduate schools recommend that applicants have some volunteer or work experience under the supervision of a licensed clinical social worker. Although there is no uniform requirement, it is highly recommended by almost all graduate schools that applicants have an understanding of what it is like to practice in the realm of health services.

Application Process

There are several steps involved in applying to social work programs (refer to Appendix G as the timeline for applying to master’s programs in social work which is similar to that of master’s programs in counseling or clinical psychology). To apply to graduate programs in clinical social work, it is necessary to complete an individual application for each graduate school. Some schools, but not all, require that applicants take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and submit the scores as a part of their application. 

Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

The GRE is composed of questions assessing verbal and quantitative reasoning as well as analytical writing. Verbal Reasoning is assessed in two, 30-minute sections consisting of approximately 20 questions. There are also two sections of Quantitative Reasoning with 20 questions with each section lasting approximately 35 minutes. The Analytical Writing component consists of two 30-minute essays. Average GRE scores of accepted PT students are approximately 150 in both the verbal and quantitative sections. On the analytical section, the average score is around 3.5 to 4. There are a number of print and online guides available for preparing to take the GRE. Additionally, there are in-person courses offered from time-to-time at area colleges/universities. More information about the GRE can be found at

Personal Statement

For each school’s application, you will be asked to write a personal essay explaining the reasons you are interest in becoming a social worker. The length requirement will vary from one to five pages, so it is important for you to succinctly and clearly describe your motivations. You should have one of your professors or pre-health advisors review your personal statement before you submit it because this is a very important component of your application. The statement should demonstrate your understanding of the social work profession and your interest, ability, motivation, and potential for professional social work practice.

Letters of Recommendation

Most graduate schools require three letters of recommendation to be submitted with the application. At least one recommendation is usually from an employer and others typically come from professors who can attest to your potential as a future healthcare professional. It is a good idea to ask for these recommendations well in advance of the submission deadline.