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Clinical Social Worker

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(6.5 out of 10)

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Unemployment Rate

3.9 percent

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Not all health care is medical. There are also social aspects of medical problems including how we prevent future medical problems, how we feel about a prognosis, how we judge the proper care we’ll need and how we cope with a stressful life change. A clinical social worker who concentrates on medical and public health issues largely deals with the social aspects of our health. He or she is an advocate for patients who can explain health care resources and policies, assist in finding additional treatment and offer guidance for how to cope with various psychosocial issues that may arise.

A clinical social worker’s day-to-day tasks could include ample research and mounds of paperwork, and they may diagnose and treat mental, behavioral and emotional disorders. Social workers undergo years of study, including an undergraduate program, advanced degree, approximately two years of supervised experience and a licensing exam before they get the chance to administer care.

Feeling empathy for people is an important asset to have in this business. A social worker’s purview could include improving the well-being of sick minors, evaluating a middle-aged cancer patient’s progress during treatment or assisting a senior citizen seeking home health care. Many of the medical social workers hired between now and 2022 will end up working with senior citizens and the elderly. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 26.8 percent employment spike by 2022, largely due to the comprehensive care the aging baby boomer generation will need. More than 39,000 new jobs are expected to be created.


Clinical social workers earned approximately $49,830 in 2012, the BLS reports. The best-paid in the industry received salaries of $74,030, while the lowest-paid earned $31,410. Hospitals are typically the best-paying employers. The top-paying areas are Sherman, Texas and the California cities of Napa, Vallejo and Hanford.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $61,590
Median $49,830
25th Percentile $39,120


Earning a bachelor’s degree in social work will allow a beginner to work as a case worker or mental health assistant. But all clinical social workers need to have a MSW – a master’s degree in social work – which they usually earn from a two-year program. Robert Booth, the executive director of the American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work, encourages social workers to also study biology and chemistry. “You’ll be dealing with people who are using various kinds of drugs, both illegal recreational substances and then people who are on drug therapy, so having an awareness of chemistry is important,” he says. “It’s also advisable to take a year or two of sociology to understand the systems of the culture.”

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To become a licensed clinical social worker you’ll have to acquire approximately 3,000 hours or about two years of supervised clinical experience and pass an exam. What you’ll need to learn through experience is how to comfort and communicate with people during an especially challenging moment in their lives. “A social worker must be compassionate,” Booth says. “There’s no way around that. You can have all the intellectual skills, but without a reservoir of compassion for people in all sorts of conditions, this wouldn’t be the right sort of profession for you.”

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility fair Average
Stress Level poor High
Flexibility fair Average
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Last updated by Jada A. Graves.

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