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CMSW & MSW Programs

A Certified Master Social Worker (CMSW) is one of the titles used by states for licensed social workers who are authorized to provide counseling services. There is a hierarchy of licenses in the social work field, and the CMSW is generally the highest tier achievable with a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. There are other titles that signify the same status: Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Licensed Certified Social Worker, Licensed Graduate Social Worker, etc.

Associate Clinical Social Worker

Generally a graduate of an MSW program has completed all of the academic requirements for becoming a licensed MSW except for the clinical hours. Where an MSW academic program may require 900 - 1200 hours of supervised clinical work, licensure as a CMSW or a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) requires 2,000 to 3,200 hours of supervised clinical work, depending upon the state. So the first step towards licensure is obtaining status as an Associate Clinical Social Worker (ACSW), the term used in California for a newly graduated MSW who wants to obtain licensure. Other terms in other states include Licensed Master Social Worker, Licensed Clinical Worker Associate and Registered Clinical Worker Associate.

Working Towards a CMSW

After registering with the state as an MSW graduate from an accredited school you are authorized to seek employment where you can begin accruing the required supervised clinical hours. Usually that's a two year internship, with requirements about the frequency of hours, the nature of the supervision and the types of settings required for completion of the clinical hours.

in some cases there is additional coursework required by the state as well. In Florida the requirement is for courses in laws and rules governing the practice of clinical social work and a two hour course in prevention of medical errors. In California additional classroom time is devoted to courses in child abuse assessment & reporting, substance abuse & dependency, human sexuality, spousal abuse & reporting and aging & long term care. Some of these requirements are waived for graduates who completed degrees after a certain date.

In Oregon there is an exam for those taking the initial step. You must pass the exam and submit a plan for two years' supervised practice in order to become a Certified Social Work Associate. Upon completion of the initial two years in the field you are eligible to sit for the exam for Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

Gaining CMSW Status

Regardless of the terminology, gaining licensure as a fully qualified, licensed social worker with full clinical privileges is a two step process. The first step is completing the MSW program and in many states, completing an initial exam in order to qualify for junior status in the field. At that point you are generally obligated to spend two years working in a supervised capacity, assembling up to 3,200 hours or more of clinical experience. Once you have completed this extended apprenticeship and any additional course work required, most states will require an additional exam for licensure as a CMSW or LCSW.

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