MSW vs LCSW
The Master of Social Work (MSW) degree is a two year course of study that provides an overview of the history and practice of social advocacy and social services. MSW programs have several areas of specialization that students can choose, in areas such as gerontology, children and families, social policy, administration, behavioral health, community services, and so on. The MSW degree provides the academic underpinnings for social work, but does not provide all of the training for licensure as a social worker.
After completing the degree, the new MSW graduate must take the national exam provided by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). There are four different exams offered by the ASWB including one for people who have only completed a bachelor's degree. The other three are for MSW graduates with no experience, for Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and for Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW).
The MSW License
In most states, with completion of the MSW and the second level ASWB exam you can become a Licensed Social Worker (LSW). That credential is mandatory for working in any social work agency or position within a social services organization that requires a social work professional. There are many jobs that you can perform under this license, but providing counseling is not one of them. However a licensed social worker might find employment opportunity working in a social advocacy role with a community group, working in a housing office, or homeless shelter, or providing guidance for families that need social services.
The LCSW License
A Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) is one of the two social work credentials. Obtaining a LCSW credential allows you to work in counseling roles with families, individuals and children; work in school intervention situations, provide therapeutic counseling in hospital settings, and if you wish, open your own practice as a counselor or therapist. To obtain that credential however you have to complete a substantial assignment after you have graduated with your MSW. Becoming a licensed clinical social worker requires that you put in 2,000 - 4,000 hours in supervised clinical counseling over two years; the number of hours depends on the state. When you have completed the hours and passed the clinical social work ASWB exam, you will qualify as a LCSW and have the right to work as a clinical therapist on your own or in a social work setting.