Social Work Licensure in Alaska

Alaska offers three licenses for social work, one for those holding bachelor's degrees, and two two that require at least a master's degree. Alaska social workers can practice with a bachelor's degree, though the state does require a master's for clinical licensure. Applying for a license in the state requires professional references, paying fees, and either sitting for an exam or submitting proof of credentials from another state. Social workers with an out-of-state license cannot simply transfer it to Alaska; they must go through the appropriate licensure process. Alaska social workers must renew their license every two years, which requires completing continuing education hours and paying a fee.

Social workers in the state must renew their Alaska social work licensure each even-numbered year. Alaska holds its social workers to high standards which, while demanding, ensure that licensed practitioners in Alaska remain at the forefront of their field. These rigorous standards prove especially useful for those who wish to later practice in another state.

Types of Social Work Degrees in Alaska

Online social work programs in Alaska primarily offer bachelor's and master's degrees, though some schools also offer doctoral degrees, which are rare in social work. A bachelor's degree meets the minimum educational requirements for licensure in Alaska, and usually takes students about four years to complete. A master's degree, which generally takes two years in addition to the bachelor's, allows graduates to apply for a clinical license, which opens up more employment options. Between these two degrees, students can meet the educational requirements of any of Alaska's three licensure options, and work in any specialty in the state after earning the appropriate licensure.

Bachelor's Degree in Social Work

A bachelor's degree in social work (BSW) prepares students for a career in social work by equipping them with the skills and knowledge necessary to work in the field. Ideal for those who want to begin working as soon as possible, a BSW is the quickest route to social work licensure in Alaska, though it doesn't lead to the same employment options or earning potential as a master's. With a BSW, graduates can pursue most career paths in social work, though leadership positions may be out of reach without more education, and clinical work requires a master's degree.

Master's in Social Work

Considered the terminal degree in the field, a master's in social work (MSW) provides graduates with the most career options and earning potential, though it does take longer to achieve than a BSW. Graduates with an MSW can apply for a clinical license, which opens up an array of careers and specializations not available to those with only a bachelor's degree.

Doctoral Degree in Social Work

While most social work positions only require an MSW, those who plan to teach at a university must first earn a doctorate in social work. Graduates with a doctorate can pursue the same career options, including clinical practice, as those with a master's. A doctorate indicates a dedication to the field that may benefit those seeking careers in research and academia.

How to Become a Licensed Social Worker in Alaska

Alaska's Board of Social Work Examiners offers three levels of social work licensure, with each level of licensure leading to more career options and higher potential income. The first level, the baccalaureate social worker license, is for those who have completed a BSW program. Those with an MSW or doctoral degree can pursue the middle tier, the master social worker license. To practice clinical social work, candidates must hold either an MSW or doctoral degree and meet additional work requirements to earn the clinical license. Any level of social work licensure in Alaska requires either passing the appropriate level exam or submitting proof of equivalent qualifications and a license from another state.

Baccalaureate Social Worker License

  1. Complete a Bachelor of Social Work at an Accredited University: Applicants must complete a BSW degree from a college or university approved by Alaska's Board of Social Work Examiners. Candidates must submit certified transcripts to the Alaska Division of Corporations, Business, and Professional Licensing.
  2. Provide References: Candidates must submit three personal references from their current or former social work employers, if applicable, or from licensed professionals within the social work field who can speak to their proficiency as a social worker.
  3. Complete an Exam or Provide Credentials: Students who already hold a license in another state, have completed 45 hours of continuing education coursework, and have either worked 1,500 hours as a licensed social worker within the past five years or passed the bachelor's-level Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam can qualify for licensure by credentials. Otherwise, candidates must take and pass the bachelor's-level ASWB exam.

Master Social Worker License

  1. Complete a Master's of Social Work at an Accredited University: Applicants must submit certified transcripts demonstrating a completed master's or doctoral degree in social work from a college or university approved by the Board to the Alaska Division of Corporations, Business, and Professional Licensing.
  2. Provide References: Candidates must provide three personal references from licensed social work professionals with whom they have worked closely and who can speak to their skills, knowledge, and character. These references show the Board that the applicant is capable of performing the duties of the profession and can work successfully alongside peers.
  3. Complete an Exam or Provide Credentials: Master social worker license candidates must take and pass the master's-level ASWB exam. Students who already hold a license from another state may qualify for licensure by credentials if they have completed 45 hours of continuing education and can demonstrate either 1,500 hours of licensed social work within the past five years or a passing score the master's-level ASWB exam.

Clinical Social Worker License

  1. Complete a Master's or Doctoral Degree of Social Work at an Accredited University: As clinical social workers diagnose and treat mental illnesses, they must hold an MSW or doctoral degree from a Board-approved institution. Applicants must submit certified transcripts to the Alaska Division of Corporations, Business, and Professional Licensing.
  2. Provide References: Candidates must supply three professional references from licensed social work professionals, preferably current and former supervisors, who can speak to their qualifications for licensure. References demonstrate to the Board that the applicant can be trusted with the care of others and can work successfully with both clients and peers.
  3. Accrue Hours of Work: Within the 10 years prior to applying for licensure, applicants must accrue at least two continuous years of full-time, supervised, postgraduate professional social work experience or at least 3,000 hours of part-time, supervised, postgraduate employment in social work within a period of more than two years.
  4. Complete an Exam or Provide Credentials: Applicants must take and pass the clinical-level ASWB exam.Those who already hold licensure in another state may qualify for licensure by credentials if they can demonstrate 45 hours of continuing education, and either 1,500 hours of licensed social work within the past five years or a passing score on the clinical-level ASWB exam.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Licensed Social Worker in Alaska?

Alaska's social work licensure requirements vary primarily by the level of education they require. Except for clinical licensure, graduates can apply immediately after having earned their degree, as long as they can provide references and pass the exam. This translates into four years for the typical baccalaureate social worker license and about six years total for the master social worker license. Clinical licensure requires at least two additional years as applicants must accrue the work hours necessary to qualify.

Depending on the particular structure and length of a social work program, graduates may leave the program with the work experience required to secure references. Pursuing internships, fellowships, and other hands-on education while earning the degree can speed up this process.

Out of State Licensing Reciprocity in Alaska

Anyone with an equivalent license in social work can apply for licensure by credentials in Alaska as long as they meet the requirements. Licensure by credentials requires applicants to undergo much of the same process as licensure by examination, including submitting three references and holding the necessary social work degree from an accredited institution. Applicants with out-of-state licenses must demonstrate 45 hours of continuing education and at least 1,500 hours of work as a licensed social worker within the past five years or a passing score on the appropriate level ASWB exam.

Licensure by credentials applicants must also submit verification of their licensure from any state where they are currently licensed, as well as from any other states where they have previously held licensure. This allows the Alaska Board of Social Work Examiners to ensure that the candidate is in good standing, without any previous or pending disciplinary actions against them in other jurisdictions.

License Renewal

Social workers in Alaska must renew their licenses every even-numbered year, with the exception of licenses issued within 90 days of the expiration date, which is June 30. Applicants must pay a fee each time they renew their license. More importantly, applicants must have completed 45 hours of continuing education during the two years since their previous licensure. These hours must cover a sequence of required subjects, with a different set of requirements for the first renewal than for subsequent renewals. These continuing education hours can come from a variety of sources, including universities and professional organizations.

Accredited Social Work Programs in Alaska

Social work programs in Alaska prepare students for issues specific to the state, including the problems faced by indigenous peoples and the social norms of a huge state with a small population, considerable wilderness, and such a substantial distance from the rest of the United States. All of the schools in the directory below are accredited institutions, meaning that the social work degrees they offer meet the state's educational requirements for social work licensure.

What Can You Do With a Social Work Degree?

Individuals with strong critical thinking, research, and analysis skills, as well as a desire to help others are often well-suited for careers in social work. The broad and diverse field of social work offers many opportunities for specialization. Prospective social workers can pursue many different credentials offered by the NASW and other organizations to specialize in areas such as school social work or drug rehabilitation. Though students can pursue many social work careers with a BSW, some positions, such as any kind of clinical social work, require an MSW. Most social work careers require licensure and continuing education to ensure that social work professionals stay up-to-date on developments in the field.

  • School and Career Counselors: These professionals help students overcome educational or social barriers to academic success. They work with faculty, administration, and families to serve the needs of their clients. They may also help guide policy within schools and school districts. Most positions require an MSW.
  • Marriage and Family Therapists: These professionals work with families and married couples to help them deal with various issues, including personal conflict, adoption, and filing for support from local, state, or federal agencies. These therapists often work for local agencies, health care organizations, or in private practice. Most marriage and family therapists hold at least a master's degree.
  • Rehabilitation Counselor: These professionals help clients with mental, emotional, physical, or developmental disabilities overcome personal and social barriers in order to live independently. This could include assisting clients with aid applications and developing their social skills. They often work in senior centers, rehabilitation centers, and youth organizations and typically hold a master's degree.
  • Probation Officers or Correctional Treatment Specialists: These professionals work with incarcerated people, those who have been recently released from incarceration, or individuals who have been sentenced to some kind of treatment program. These specialists help their clients adjust their lifestyles to avoid recidivism and place them into assistance programs or find other resources as needed.
  • Social and Community Service Managers: These professionals coordinate social services, community organizations, and other public-facing efforts. They manage the workers who deal directly with the public, and thus must be well-versed in social work as well as management and leadership. Social workers can often enter such positions with a bachelor's degree, but generally need work experience as well.

Salary Expectations for Social Workers in Alaska

Completing a social work degree in Alaska can lead to a variety of careers with above-average earnings for the state. Alaska's small population means that it has less need for social workers than other states, but the field there is far from crowded. Attending a social work school in Alaska can give students an advantage by preparing them for the state's specific challenges. While some positions may require an MSW, many careers can be achieved with a BSW. Clinical social work of any kind requires an MSW, but can lead to some of the most lucrative career paths in social work.

Average Salary for Social Workers in Alaska

Social and Community Service Manager $46,130
Probation Officer or Correctional Treatment Specialist $67,590
School and Career Counselors $69,820
Rehabilitation Counselors $60,840
Marriage and Family Therapists $59,270
Source: BLS

Professional Organizations for Social Workers in Alaska

Joining a professional organization can prove especially helpful to social workers, as groups such as NASW have a hand in determining licensure requirements and standards of practice in the field. Membership in such groups also allows for networking through meetings, newsletters, and conferences. These groups often maintain scholarships, fellowships, and other resources for students and recent graduates.

  • National Association of Social Workers-Alaska: The Alaskan branch of NASW focuses on professional and educational development by hosting continuing education courses and conferences. The nearly 500 Alaskan members are part of a 150,000-member group dedicated to improving social work as a field.
  • Clinical Social Work Association: With over 30 years of experience as the Clinical Social Work Federation before becoming CSWA in 2006, this individual membership organization offers its members a variety of benefits, including job boards, free legal and ethical consultation services, and discounted professional liability insurance.
  • School Social Work Association of America: Founded in 1994, SSWAA promotes the children's educational and social development by supporting school social workers. The group provides continuing education and networking opportunities, as well as news and other resources to help achieve its vision of connecting schools, children, and families through social work.
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