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Social Work PhD anxiety



I'm thinking seriously about getting a social work PhD, but I'm starting to get wound up about it. Does anyone have advice to suit my situation? Which is:
I worked in clinical/direct client service settings for five years before and during my MSW process. While I was in the MSW program I got involved in a few research projects and LOVED them and decided I would go that route instead of staying in caseworking etc. After school ended I got a job in data management for a non-profit and have been working for a year and a half. It also involves working directly with clients, but not in a clinical capacity. I decided against getting licensed because I really don't want to ever work in a clinical setting again. Even if I did, I don't think I can afford to wait until after licensure to apply, as a couple of the professors I'm planning to ask for recommendations may not remember much about me further down the line. It feels like a now-or-never situation. I'm open to working slowly toward licensure while I'm in school if it will make a huge difference, but that seems only vaguely possible. My last couple of jobs in the clinical area were nightmarish and to think about doing it again makes me nauseous.
To be clear, I don't plan on teaching as a career - I just want to work for research agencies .I like my job but I really want to move out of state/gain connections elsewhere and improve my statistical skills. I also feel like there's a cap on how high I can go in research without the PhD. Most of the advice I can find about the PhD is geared toward people who plan to teach (and in this case licensure definitely seems to matter), so I'm hoping to hear from folks who know about what happens when you get the degree for other reasons. How big of a deal is it for me to have an LCSW? Also, I suspect if I don't get into a pretty decent program it might just overqualify me for jobs like the one I have now without opening doors higher up. I probably wouldn't bother unless I can get into a top ten school, which feels possible. Do you think it's worth several more years of being broke etc? I'm also curious about what that job market is like in general. I cannot afford to live at my current pay grade long term.
Any thoughts? Peripheral/alternative/"don't do it" suggestions are also welcome. Thank you!
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