Online Social Work Programs in Alaska

When people think of Alaska, the wide-open, frozen tundras that earn the state its nickname of the Last Frontier often come to mind. As such, Alaska may not seem like a particularly fruitful area for social workers. Nevertheless, thanks to a high concentration of jobs in certain nonmetropolitan areas, there are plenty of opportunities for Alaskan social work jobs for professionals who know where to look.

As a state with a limited population, Alaska houses approximately 2,500 total social work jobs, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Alaska boasts the highest location quotient — a metric that measures concentration — of child, family, and social work jobs out of all 50 states, in addition to the second-highest location quotient of mental health and substance abuse social workers. Alaska's nonmetropolitan areas also qualify as the second-highest paying areas of their kind in the nation, with mean annual wages that approach $70,000.

Education and Licensure Requirements for Social Workers in Alaska

In Alaska, the Board of Social Work Examiners oversees all matters related to social work in Alaska, including licensure. The board awards three licensures: the licensed baccalaureate social worker (LBSW), the licensed master's social worker (LMSW), and the licensed clinical social worker (LCSW).

Education Requirements

To apply for the LBSW licensure, the initial social worker license in Alaska, each applicant must possess a bachelor's degree in the field. Candidates must submit their undergraduate transcripts to the board for review. For the LCSW licensure, each candidate must possess a social work degree with two years of full-time or 3,000 hours or part-time clinical experience.

Exam Application Process and Requirements

Before taking the LBSW examination, a candidate must have a bachelor's degree in social work or have started a master's program in social work. The Board of Social Work Examiners does not list any supervised experience requirements, although candidates for the LCSW credential must submit evidence of supervised experience. Each LBSW candidate must submit three letters of recommendation from supervisors or professionals in the field.

The application fee for the LBSW licensure in Alaska is $100. A professional who passes the Association of Social Work Boards examination, a 170-question multiple-choice exam (of which graders only score 150 questions), can receive their LBSW credential. LBSW licensure fees in Alaska cost $225.

Continuing Education and Licensure Renewal

As in most other states, social workers in Alaska — including LBSWs, LMSWs, and LCSWs — must renew their licenses every two years. LBSWs must pay $225 to renew their licenses. LMSWs pay $275 for renewal, while LCSWs pay $325. All professionals practicing social work in Alaska must complete 45 hours of continuing education during their renewal period, including six hours of substance abuse courses and three hours of professional ethics. During their first renewal period, all professionals in social work jobs in Alaska are required to complete three hours of courses regarding Alaska Natives.

Why Choose an Online Social Work Program?

Multiple types of students pursuing social work degrees in Alaska may wish to complete their coursework online instead of in person. Given the remote nature of Alaska, local students who want to pursue programs may wish to enroll online to avoid significant travel fees. Furthermore, students with families or students who work full time may prefer to enroll online, as the asynchronous coursework of online programs provides additional flexibility.

Although the state does not house any online social work programs, Alaska residents can take online courses in neighboring states for discounted tuition, thanks to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education's Western Undergraduate Exchange and Western Regional Graduate Program, which includes a network of over 160 schools. Given Alaska's significant professional opportunities and high salaries for social workers, students who pursue this path can earn their degrees and still benefit from the job landscape in their home state.