How to become a licensed masters social worker (LMSW)?

HomeSocial WorkNon-clinical social work (LMSW)

What is a licensed master social worker (LMSW)?

An LMSW works in a variety of care or agency settings to provide the special skills and knowledge of a social worker. LMSWs deliver therapy, counseling, and life-improvement services to their clients by coaching them to overcome impediments and personal problems in their lives.

After being awarded a master’s degree in social work (MSW) you can start working toward obtaining your license.


    We generate revenue largely by advertising schools and programs that pay a fee when a prospective student has been referred. We are transparent about when and where we are compensated. When a specific school listing or a general feature is sponsored, it will be clearly marked with an “advertising” label.

  • Baylor University

    Baylor University

    Baylor University – Master of Social Work




    The Master of Social Work online program from Baylor University is now accepting applications. Learn how to ethically integrate faith and social work practice in as few as 12 months. No GRE required.

  • Fordham University

    Fordham University

    Fordham University – Master of Social Work



    New York

    Fordham University’s top-25 ranked online MSW offers both Traditional and Advanced standing programs. Both CSWE-accredited programs allow you to earn your degree on a full-time or part-time track, in as few as 8 months (Advanced) or 16 months (Traditional), while preparing to pursue licensure.

  • University of Southern California

    University of Southern California

    USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work – Master of Social Work




    Prepare to become a licensed clinical social worker. The CSWE-accredited online MSW program from top-ranked USC can be completed in as few as 12 months with a BSW. The program features live classes, an intuitive digital campus and robust student support. Enter the growing field and make a difference in your community.

  • University of Denver

    University of Denver

    University of Denver – Master of Social Work (MSW)




    Earn your CSWE-accredited MSW online from Denver’s GSSW, a top-20 school of social work. GRE scores are not required. Students with a BSW can earn their MSW in as few as 18 months in the advanced standing track. Gain a strong foundation for social work practice with a concentration in Mental Health and Trauma or Health, Equity and Wellness.

  • Simmons College

    Simmons College

    Simmons University – Master of Social Work




    Aspiring clinical social workers can earn their CSWE-accredited online Master of Social Work from Simmons University in as few as 16 months, no GRE scores required. The program offers full-time, part-time, and accelerated tracks, as well as an advanced standing track for BSW graduates. Optional certificates available in Groups & Families, Mental Health Practice, and Trauma Practice.

What is an MSW?

A master’s degree in social work is a graduate degree that usually requires 2 years of study beyond the bachelor’s level. Some students may choose to study part-time and may obtain their MSW in 3 or 4 years.

An MSW program is designed to give students a broad education in the field of social work, and the curriculum will include core areas such as:

  • Patient assessment
  • How to engage with clients to provide the best possible outcomes
  • Social welfare and advocacy
  • Community resources
  • Case management

In the second year of an MSW program, the student usually concentrates on studying any electives they have chosen, such as: working with young children, or alcohol and drug dependency social work. Concurrently, the student will typically be working in their clinical internship, which usually consists of 1,000 to 2,000 hours of full-time supervised clinical social work.

How do I become a LMSW?

Once you have been awarded your MSW, it is necessary to pass the social work licensing exam that is offered by the Association of Social Work Boards or ASWB.

Social workers who are awarded their LMSW license can practice social work in most states. However, they may need to be under the supervision of a qualified LCSW, or a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist depending on the nature of the position.

What does the LMSW exam cover?

The LMSW exam is designed to ensure those who have completed an MSW program have the knowledge they need to practice. It covers the following topics:

Human growth and development:

Subject areas cover human growth and development, including questions on areas involving human behavior in the social environment as well as diversity and discrimination.

Psychotherapy, case management, and clinical interventions:

This section of the exam focuses on maintaining professional standards, living up to the values of the industry, and both working with patients and managing patient data ethically.

Where do LMSWs work?

LMSWs may work in local and state social work agencies, employment assistance offices, and correctional facilities.

Areas where LMSWs work include:

  • Helping locate accommodation and other resources for those in need
  • Providing career assistance to individuals
  • Facilitating rehabilitation and therapy programs
  • Case management in environments such as child protection agencies
  • Evaluating public assistance eligibility with government organizations
  • Advocating for social or policy reforms

LMSWs may also practice clinical social work in some states, but this must be under the supervision of an LCSW, licensed psychologist, or psychiatrist.

What is the difference between an LMSW and a LCSW?

Many social work positions in settings such as schools, mental health clinics and hospitals require that the social worker be licensed. This means the social worker has the proper education and has met other conditions such as passing an exam and or completing supervised hours of work experience.

There are 2 types of social work licensure available for master’s degree holders. They are licensed master social worker (LMSW) and licensed clinical social worker (LCSW).

An LMSW license certifies that an individual has the social work skills required to work in a range of environments, including entry-level, supervised clinical work. LMSW social workers can work on a general or macro level and tend to work in organizational or institutional roles like social advocacy, research, or administration to affect change across whole communities.

In micro or specialized social work, an LMSW may offer direct services like case management and may refer clients who need specialized help to LCSWs.

The LCSW is a complete clinical certification. It is more specialized than the LMSW, and it permits the license-holder to provide therapy or counseling to individuals, couples, and families who are undergoing serious challenges. An LCSW can diagnose issues, design assessment-based treatment, and offer psychotherapy without supervision. LCSW holders can also go into private practice on their own.

In general, an LCSW is the licensing step above an LMSW because it has further requirements that increase the knowledge and experience of the social worker.

What is the salary for an LMSW?

According to PayScale, a licensed master social worker earns an average of $51,316 per annum. There are many factors that can influence this figure, chiefly location and experience.

Did you enjoy this post?