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Alaska Social Work License Requirements

Over 700,000 people live in Alaska; the population has grown by nearly 4% since 2010.1 For mental health and substance abuse social workers, Alaska has the fourth-highest concentration of jobs in the nation.2 If a career in social work interests you and you wish to practice in Alaska, you need to understand the licensure requirements the state. The Alaska Board of Social Work Examiners regulates and administers social work licenses for the state. Continue reading to learn more about the educational paths, regulations, and standards imposed by the Alaska Board of Examiners.

How to Become a Social Worker in Alaska

Educational Paths

Social workers in Alaska must have a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) or a master’s degree in social work (MSW) to become a licensed social worker, practice clinical social work, or to practice independently. Read below to understand the differences and advantages of a BSW and an MSW.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

If becoming a social worker is in your plans, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) from a Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)-accredited school. There are two CSWE-accredited schools offering BSW programs in Alaska. BSW programs prepare undergraduates for professional social work practice through classroom education and field experience. Individuals with BSWs will take courses in human behavior and the social environment, social welfare policy, research, social work practice and field education. With a BSW, you may become a licensed baccalaureate social worker in Alaska. A person who holds only a BSW will not be able to practice social work independently in Alaska. For that, you will need to further your education with a master’s degree in social work.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

In Alaska, a candidate must have a master’s in social work (MSW) to become licensed and practice social work independently. Like BSW programs, the master’s level program must be accredited by the CSWE. In Alaska, the University of Alaska at Anchorage has the only CSWE-accredited MSW program in the state. CSWE-accredited MSW programs have the same core curriculum, but each school may have a specialty area or have varying electives. You should review these factors to determine which school is right for you. Most MSW programs offer “advanced standing” for students who hold a BSW, allowing them to complete the MSW program in one year as opposed to the two years it generally takes. An MSW is considered the terminal social work degree in Alaska, meaning you will have the highest level of education necessary to perform all social work jobs in the state.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Alaska

In order to practice social work in Alaska, you must be licensed by the Alaska Board of Examiners. Bachelor’s level social workers can apply to become licensed baccalaureate social workers and master’s level candidates can apply to become licensed master social workers or licensed clinical social workers. Continue reading below to learn about the different requirements for each license and to determine which option best fits with your career path.

Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)

Alaska offers a baccalaureate social work license (LBSW) to individuals who have obtained a bachelor’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited college or university. LBSWs can work as case managers, advocacy specialists, and can administer programs and activities. Once you meet the education requirement, you can move to the next step in the licensure process.

1. Complete the application.

LBSW candidates must complete the social work application
to become licensed. Along with the application, they must submit:

  • An official transcript sent directly from your college or university
  • Three professional references
  • The $60 application fee and $300 license fee (as of January 2016)
  • Verification of any social work license from any other state

The professional reference form is provided in the LBSW licensure application packet. Your references must include one current social work employer supervisor, one previous social work employer supervisor, and one of the following*:

  • A social worker with a master’s or doctorate degree
  • A licensed psychological associate, clinical psychologist, or physician who practices psychiatry
  • A licensed medical or osteopathic physician
  • A licensed advanced nurse practitioner who specializes in mental health
  • A licensed registered nurse with a masters in psychiatric nursing
  • A licensed marriage and family therapist
  • A licensed professional counselor

*If you have not been previously employed in the social work field, all three of your professional references may come from this list.

The Alaska Board of Examiners offers a one-year, temporary license to LBSW candidates that allows them to practice social work while waiting to pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) examination. To receive a temporary license, you must apply to the Board for licensure by examination and pay the temporary application fee of $60 and the temporary license fee of $60 (fees are current as of January 2016). You may submit an official or unofficial transcript to the Board to receive a temporary license. Temporary licenses are non-renewable and they expire one year from the date of licensure.

2. Take and pass the ASWB bachelors exam.

After your application is approved by the Alaska Board, you may register for and take the ASWB bachelor’s level exam. The $230* consists of 170 questions and requires between 96 and 105 correct answers to pass. If a candidate fails the exam, he or she may retake the exam after 90 days for a maximum of three attempts within 12 months.

*As of January 2016.

3. Receive your LBSW.

It takes the Alaska Board of Examiners about three months to review an application and grant a social work license. After completing the steps above and passing the bachelor’s level ASWB exam, you will become a licensed LBSW in the state of Alaska.

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

Licensed master social workers (LMSW) must have an MSW from a CSWE-accredited school. LMSWs practice using prevention and intervention, treatment planning, case management, referral and counseling skills, among other advanced social work skills. A master social worker will usually earn more than an LBSW over their career and may see increased job opportunities. Once they meet the education requirement, LMSW candidates must:

1. Complete the application.

Social work candidates who hold an MSW must complete the LMSW application for licensure. Along with the application, they must submit:

  • An official transcript sent directly from the college or university
  • Three professional references (forms provided in application packet
  • The $60 application fee and $300 license fee (as of January 2016)
  • Verification of any social work license from any other state

Your professional references must include one current social work employer supervisor, one previous social work employer supervisor, and one of the following*:

  • A social worker with a master’s or doctorate degree
  • A licensed psychological associate, clinical psychologist, or physician who practices psychiatry
  • A licensed medical or osteopathic physician
  • A licensed advanced nurse practitioner who specializes in mental health
  • A licensed registered nurse with a masters in psychiatric nursing
  • A licensed marriage and family therapist
  • A licensed professional counselor

*If you have not been previously employed in the social work field, all three of your professional references may come from this list.

After submitting your application, you may receive a one-year, temporary license to practice social work while waiting to pass the ASWB exam. To receive the temporary license, you must pay the $60 application fee and the $60 temporary license fee. Temporary licenses are non-renewable and they expire one year from the date of licensure.

2. Take and pass the ASWB masters exam.

After your application is approved by the Alaska Board, you may register for and take the ASWB master’s level exam. The $230* consists of 170 multiple-choice questions and requires between 96 and 105 correct answers to pass. If you fail the exam, you may retake the exam up to three times within a one-year period.

*As of January 2016.

3. Receive your LMSW.

You should hear back regarding your LMSW application within three months of submission. After completing the steps above and passing the master’s level ASWB exam, you will become a licensed LMSW in the state of Alaska.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

To practice clinical social work, you must apply to the Alaska Board to become a licensed clinical social worker. Clinical social work practice includes assessment and diagnosis of behavioral or mental disorders, treatment planning, case management, and making referrals to physicians. Licensed clinical social workers can practice independently or with an agency. There is no temporary license available for LCSW candidates. To become an LCSW, you must have an MSW from a CSWE-accredited school or a doctorate in social work. Then, LCSW candidates must:

1. Gain the required experience.

LCSW candidates must have acquired two years of full-time social work experience or 3,000 hours of part-time social work experience. All experience must be completed no more than 10 years before applying to become a licensed clinical social worker. Clinical social work must be supervised by a licensed social worker, licensed psychologist, or a licensed psychiatrist. LCSW candidates must have 100 hours of direct supervision and no more than 50 hours may be group supervision. Clinical social work experience must include:

  • Clinical skills
  • Development of professional identity
  • Ethical practice
  • Legal and regulatory requirements
  • Practice management skills
  • Skills required for continuing competence

2. Complete the application.

LCSW candidates must apply to the Alaska Board of Examiners to become licensed and submit the following:

  • An official transcript sent directly from the college or university
  • Verification of the required two years or 3,000 hours of supervised work experience (form provided in application packet)
  • The $60 application fee and $300 license fee (as of January 2016)
  • Verification of any social work license from any other state

In addition to the items listed above, you must supply three professional references with your application (forms provided in the application packet). Your professional references must include one current social work employer supervisor, one previous social employer supervisor, and one of the following*:

  • A social worker with a master’s or doctorate degree
  • A licensed psychological associate, clinical psychologist, or physician who practices psychiatry
  • A licensed medical or osteopathic physician
  • A licensed advanced nurse practitioner who specializes in mental health
  • A licensed registered nurse with a masters in psychiatric nursing
  • A licensed marriage and family therapist
  • A licensed professional counselor

*If you have not been previously or currently employed in the social work field, all three of your professional references may come from this list.

3. Take and pass the ASWB clinical exam.

LCSW candidates must take and pass the ASWB clinical-level exam. The $260* exam is 170 questions; candidates must correctly answer between 96 and 105 questions to pass. Candidates who fail the ASWB exam may retake it after 90 days for up to three times per calendar year.

*As of January 2016.

4. Receive your LCSW.

After completing the steps above and passing the ASWB clinical exam, you will become a licensed clinical social worker by the Alaska Board of Social Work Examiners. LCSWs can practice clinical social work independently.

Social Work License Reciprocity in Alaska

Alaska does not have formal reciprocity with any other state but the Board does offer social work licensure by credentials. In order to apply, candidates will have to complete the appropriate application (e.g., LBSW, LMSW, or LCSW application) and submit:

  • An official transcript sent directly from the college or university
  • Verification of passage or the appropriate ASWB exam OR proof of 1,500 hours of licensed social work experience within the past five years plus 45 hours of continuing education hours
  • Three professional references (forms provided in application packet)
  • The $60 application fee and $300 license fee (as of January 2016)
  • Verification of social work licensure (form supplied in application packet)

Your professional references must include one current social work employer supervisor, one previous social employer supervisor, and one of the following*:

  • A social worker with a master’s or doctorate degree
  • A licensed psychological associate, clinical psychologist, or physician who practices psychiatry
  • A licensed medical or osteopathic physician
  • A licensed advanced nurse practitioner who specializes in mental health
  • A licensed registered nurse with a masters in psychiatric nursing
  • A licensed marriage and family therapist
  • A licensed professional counselor

*If you have not been previously or currently employed in the social work field, all three of your professional references may come from this list.

LBSW and LMSW licensure by credentials candidates may receive a one-year, temporary license to practice social work while waiting for Board approval to receive their license. To receive the temporary license, you must pay the $60 application fee* and the $60 temporary license fee*. Temporary licenses are non-renewable and they expire one year from the date of licensure.

*As of January 2016

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education (CE) Information

Social workers in Alaska must renew their license every two years and complete 45 continuing education (CE) hours during each renewal period. Of the required 45 CE hours, six CE hours must be in substance abuse education, six CE hours must be in cross-cultural education relating to Alaskan natives, and three CE hours must be in professional ethics. While CE hours are generally satisfied through academic courses, workshops, and seminars, you may claim the first time presentation of work or publication of an article (or book chapter) for up to 10 CE hours.

Alaska Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

Nearly 2,000 social workers are currently employed in Alaska, most of whom hold jobs in child, family, and school social work.3 The average annual income for social workers in the state is $52,813; social workers with the highest average salary are employed in other categories.3 It is projected that between now and 2022, jobs for social workers in Alaska will increase by 18.6%, amounting to about 90 social worker jobs per year.4 Currently, Alaska ranks fourth out of all of the states in the US in the number of jobs for mental health and substance abuse social workers.2 Based on these projections and the range of average annual salaries for social workers, Alaska would be a great place to start a social work career.

TypeNumber EmployedAverage Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers1,020$50,100
Healthcare Social Workers260$52,480
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers530$43,640
Social Workers, All Other150$65,030

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.2

Social Work Associations in Alaska

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Can I begin practicing independently once I become registered as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)?

Answer: Yes, once you meet the requirements for an LCSW and gain approval by the Board, you may begin practicing clinical and nonclinical social work independently.

Question: For the two years or 3,000 hours of work experience required, can I count experience I gained years ago to become an LCSW?

Answer: Yes. As long as the experience was completed within 10 years of applying to the Alaska Board of Social Work Examiners for LCSW licensure.

Question: What kinds of qualifications are required of the person supervising my experience?

Answer: Clinical social work must be supervised by a licensed social worker, licensed psychologist, or a licensed psychiatrist.

Question: What kind of degree do I need to practice social work in Alaska?

Answer: Social workers need a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) or a master’s degree in social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited school to practice social work in the state. To practice independently in Alaska, you need a master’s degree in social work from a program accredited by the CSWE.

References:
1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Alaska: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/AK
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211023.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Alaska: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ak.htm
4. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm