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School of Medicine Virginia Commonwealth University VCU Medical Center

Health Profession Modules

Social workers often work with individuals, families and groups in settings such as hospitals, prisons and public service agencies. In medical settings, social workers help patients and families navigate issues ranging from long-term care planning to financial coverage from programs such as Medicaid. They also provide patient counseling, patient advocacy and educate patients on privacy and consent rights.

Only students who earn degrees from accredited social work programs can identify themselves as social workers. In clinical settings, most social workers have graduate-level degrees.

Bachelor of Social Work (B.S.W.)

Education Licensure Typical duties

Prerequisite: High school diploma or GED

Four-year undergraduate program with focus on human development, social justice, sociology and understanding human relationships

Requires 400 hours of supervised internship practice experience.

Must complete state licensing or certification requirements; licensing renewal varies by state.

  • Work in non-clinical settings, or clinical settings with limited role
  • Provide case management and generalist practice services
  • Connecting people with services

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)

Education Licensure Typical duties

Prerequisite: Any undergraduate degree

Two-year graduate school program focused on developmental psychology, mental health assessment, diagnosis and intervention. Some programs allow B.S.W. graduates to earn an M.S.W. in one year.

Requires 900 hours of supervised internship practice experience.

State licensure or certification

  • Experienced in providing counseling for patients and families
  • Manage situations that include relocation, financial decisions and end-of-life care

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (L.C.S.W.)

Education Licensure Typical duties

Prerequisite: M.S.W.

Two years or 3,000 hours of supervised internship practice experience, 100 hours of registered supervision with the Board of Social Work, passing the National Association of Social Work Board exam

Licensed as mental health professionals by the NASWB

  • In addition to M.S.W. role, L.C.S.W.s may provide psychotherapy and family therapy, and bill for services

Doctorate in social work (Ph.D./D.S.W.)

Education Licensure Typical duties

Prerequisite: Strong academic record and some work experience

Two- or four-year graduate program focused on qualitative and quantitative analysis methods needed for careers in academic work, government or health care policy

Must complete a dissertation. Research projects typically take more than one year to complete.

State licensure or certification

  • Work in education, research, administration or policy analysis