Are you interested in working as a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW)? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to work for private practice? Are you curious about what the average LCSW salary is for private practice?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, keep reading to find out more about what it takes to become an LCSW, how to navigate working for private practice, and what your potential LCSW salary could be.
What Is an LCSW?
An LCSW is a professional who works in various settings to provide therapy, emotional support, case management services, and mental health evaluations to people experiencing emotional, psychological, familial, medical, and/or social challenges.
LCSWs often work with other mental health and medical professionals to help communities, families, and individuals affected by life changes or challenges, behavioral disturbances, or mental disorders. Licensed clinical social workers may also be referred to as mental health clinicians.
How to Become an LCSW
To become an LCSW, you have to earn a bachelor’s degree, earn a master’s degree in social work (MSW) or a related program, and complete your supervised field instruction. You then have to complete your examination and licensing requirements and then apply for your LCSW state license.
Throughout your career, you’ll also have to keep your license renewed and continue to learn and keep up with current policies and programs available for your clients.
How to Become a Social Worker for Private Practice
First, you must earn your Master’s of Social Work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited institution. Then, you have to obtain and maintain your clinical social work licensure in your state of residency. Post-graduation, you will also have to complete at least two years or 3,000 hours of supervised clinical work.
You will also have to get your National Provider Identification (NPI) number to serve clients. You will also have to get a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) if you want to work for private practice. You may have to obtain professional liability insurance depending on your state of residency.
Of course, you’ll also want to maintain your skills by consulting with experts in your field and participating in ongoing training to build your repertoire.
What Is It Like to Work As an LCSW for Private Practice?
Working as an LCSW in private practice means working in group or solo practices. Your services outside the office may include working in nursing facilities, schools, primary care, and court settings. As an independent practitioner or private practitioner, you may also work with organizations that provide employee assistance services.
LCSWs in group or solo practice provide services to older adults, adults, adolescents, and children. They are qualified to provide several therapeutic interventions, including individual therapy, crisis intervention, family therapy, group therapy, bereavement counseling, play therapy, and couples therapy.
Private practitioners may also serve as consultants for businesses, schools, or health plans and as expert witnesses in courts.
Benefits of Working in Private Practice
Sometimes working in an organization limits your individual opportunities. Private practice LCSWs can work more independently than their counterparts that work in agency settings. Working in private practice also gives LCSWs more control of their work environment. You can create the kind of work environment you prefer and determine your own workflow.
Work schedules in private practice also tend to be more flexible than when working in an agency, so you can usually choose your own hours and workdays. The private practice may also allow LCSWs to maintain and enhance their clinical skills more than they could while working in an agency.
Most LCSWs work as educators, researchers, and administrators in addition to their practice, which allows them to hone their skills. Of course, one of the biggest benefits of working as an LCSW in private practice is the increase in personal income.
You can make a much higher LCSW salary working in private practice than you can work full-time in an agency setting. (As you become more experienced as an LCSW in your agency, you may even begin working in private practice part-time, allowing you to supplement your income.)
Of course, one drawback to working in a private group or solo practice is that you mostly work alone. You don’t have the same peer or consultative support you normally would while working in an agency, and you don’t have a supervisor to look after you.
If you are looking for that extra support, you can always find a consultant to assist you as needed or even join a network of other LCSWs who work in private practice.
LCSW Salary for Private Practice
Unsurprisingly, the higher the degree you have earned (with the lowest being a bachelor’s and the highest being a doctorate) and the more years of experience you have, the higher your LCSW salary will be.
An average LCSW salary is $70,423. Overall, the field of social work is not a high-paying one, and most counselors don’t choose the profession for the money. However, it isn’t completely unattainable to earn at least a $100,000 annual income, so long as you stay organized, plan well, and work hard. To run a viable practice, though, you do have to consider a few things.
When it comes to the LCSW salary for private practice, the actual amount will vary from person to person, depending on their specialty and their practice location. However, most LCSWs are trained as therapists, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the average LCSW salary is $52,900.
Determinants of an LCSW Private Practice Salary
First is your caseload. What an individual may consider a sustainable full-time caseload will vary based on the region you are working in and the population of clients you are working with. Still, on average, you’ll probably be working with 30 to 35 clients per week for sessions lasting just under an hour.
Even if you take a few weeks off for vacation, you’ll still be working at least 40 hours a week, which is average. Of course, your LCSW salary will also depend on your client fees, which will depend on the other services or organizations you work with as well as the region you work in.
However, the average fee for most sessions will probably be around $100 or less. Even with large or small hidden costs, you can still make a decent disposable income working as an LCSW for private practice.
Should You Go into LCSW Private Practice?
It may be challenging to start and maintain your own business in private practice. For one, you never really know how much money you will make in a week due to possible client cancellations or inclement weather.
However, working for private practice lets you focus on developing the quality of your client relationships over the quantity. That’s the benefit of making your own schedule and workload. The best LCSWs who work for private practice are self-aware, resilient, and have strong organizational skills and varied and extensive clinical social work backgrounds.
Although you shouldn’t consider becoming a private practice LCSW just for the salary, it is a good idea to know what you could potentially be making to plan for your future. Hopefully, this guide has helped you better understand what it takes to work in private practice and what your LCSW salary could be.