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Alaska Social Work License Requirements

Over 700,000 people live in Alaska, including 3,000 people employed as social workers.1,2 Social workers in Alaska work in a variety of settings, but the state has the highest concentration of child, family, and school social work positions in the nation and the third-highest concentration of mental health and substance abuse social work positions.3,4 If a career in social work interests you and you plan to practice in Alaska, you will need to understand the licensure requirements in the state. The Board of Social Work Examiners regulates the practice of social work in Alaska and issues social work licenses. Continue reading to learn more about the educational paths and licensure options available for individuals hoping to become social workers in Alaska.

How to Become a Social Worker in Alaska

Educational Paths

To practice social work in Alaska, you must hold one of the three licenses offered by the Board. All three licenses require applicants to hold a degree in social work. To be eligible for licensure, you must earn a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW). More advanced practice requires a master’s degree in social work (MSW). Read below to understand the differences between BSW and MSW programs.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

To become a social worker in Alaska, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) (CSWE) or from the University of Alaska. As of March 2019, there are two CSWE-accredited BSW programs in Alaska. BSW programs prepare undergraduates for professional social work practice through classroom education and field experience. Students take courses in human behavior and the social environment, social welfare policy, research, and social work practice. They also often complete fieldwork placements. With a BSW, you can earn a Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW) license in Alaska.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

In Alaska, a master’s in social work (MSW) is a prerequisite for becoming licensed as a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) or Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). To be eligible, you must earn your MSW from a CSWE-accredited program or the University of Alaska. As of March 2019, there is one MSW program in Alaska that has been accredited by the CSWE. However, you can earn your MSW from any CSWE-accredited program in the US to qualify for Alaska licensure. CSWE-accredited MSW programs share a core curriculum, but each school may have a specialty area or varying electives. Students in MSW programs study advanced social work techniques and theories and also complete fieldwork placements for hands-on experience. Most MSW programs offer “advanced standing” for students who hold BSWs, allowing them to complete their MSWs in one year instead of 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 most social work jobs in the state.

Steps for Becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Alaska

To practice social work in Alaska, you must hold one of the Board’s three social work licenses: Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW), Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW), or Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Continue reading to learn about the different requirements for each license to determine which option best fits your career goals.

Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)

Alaska offers a Licensed Baccalaureate Social Work (LBSW) license to individuals who have obtained a bachelor’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program or the University of Alaska. LBSWs can practice non-clinical social work and may work as case managers or client advocates. Once you have earned a BSW, you can begin the process of becoming licensed as an LBSW.

1. Complete the LBSW application.

The first step to earning an LBSW license is to complete the LBSW application. Once you have filled out the application, you must have it notarized and return it to the Board along with three professional references. You should also ask your BSW program to mail an official copy of your transcript to the Board. As of March 2019, the LBSW application fee is $100. You must pay an additional $75 if you would like to request a one-year temporary license that will allow you to work until you complete the required exam. Before receiving your full license, you must also pay a $225 licensure fee; this can be submitted at any point in the licensure process.

2. Pass the ASWB Bachelor’s exam.

After your application is approved by the Board, you may register for the ASWB Bachelor’s exam, which is required for an LBSW license. The exam costs $230 (as of March 2019) and consists of 170 questions about general bachelor’s-level social work practice. After you have completed the exam, the ASWB will send your scores to the Board.

3. Receive your LBSW license.

After you have taken the Bachelor’s exam, the Board members must review your entire application and vote to approve you for licensure; this process can take several months. Before receiving your license, you must pay the $225 licensure fee (as of March 2019) if you have not already submitted it to the Board. After the Board has approved your final application and received your licensure fee, you will receive your LBSW license.

Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)

To earn a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) license in Alaska, you must have an MSW from a CSWE-accredited school or the University of Alaska. LMSWs practice social work using prevention and intervention, treatment planning, case management, referral, and counseling skills, among other advanced social work techniques. After earning an MSW, you will need to follow the steps below to earn an LMSW license.

1. Complete the LMSW application.

To initiate the licensure process, you will need to complete the LMSW application, have it notarized, and mail it to the Board. You must include three professional references and ask your school to mail an MSW transcript to the Board. As of March 2019, the application fee for an LMSW is $100; you can pay an additional $75 to request a temporary license that will allow you to work for up to one year until your full license is granted. You will also need to pay a $275 fee to receive your full license, though you can choose to pay this fee at any point in the licensure process.

2. Pass the ASWB Master’s exam.

After your application is approved by the Board, you may register for the ASWB Master’s exam, which is required to obtain an LMSW license. The Master’s exam consists of 170 multiple-choice questions about master’s-level social work, 150 of which are scored. After you complete the exam, the ASWB will automatically notify the Board of your scores. As of March 2019, the registration fee for the Master’s exam is $230.

3. Receive your LMSW license.

After passing the Master’s exam, the Board members will need to review your application and hold a vote to issue your license. This process can take several months depending on the Board’s meeting schedule. If you have not already paid the $275 (as of March 2019) licensing fee, you must pay it before the Board will grant your license. You will be notified when the Board has held their vote and your license has been issued.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

To practice clinical social work in Alaska, you must hold a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) license. Clinical social work practice includes assessment and diagnosis of behavioral or mental disorders, treatment planning, case management, and making referrals to physicians. To earn an LCSW license in Alaska, you must have an MSW from a CSWE-accredited school or the University of Alaska or have earned a doctorate in social work (DSW). After this, you must follow the steps below to earn your license.

1. Gain the required experience.

LCSW candidates must acquire two years of full-time postgraduate clinical social work experience or 3,000 hours of part-time clinical social work experience before applying for licensure. All experience must be completed within the 10 years prior to submitting the LCSW application. While you are completing this experience, you must be supervised by a licensed social worker, licensed psychologist, or a licensed psychiatrist. LCSW candidates must accrue 100 hours of direct supervision and no more than 50 of these hours may be in group supervision.

2. Complete the LCSW application.

After you have completed the supervised experience requirement, the next step is to submit an LCSW application to the Board. The application includes forms that your clinical supervisor(s) must complete to verify your experience. You must also include three professional reference forms and ask your school to send your school transcripts to the Board (if you have not already submitted these for a previous LMSW application). The LCSW application fee of $100 (as of March 2019) is due when you submit your materials and there is an additional $325 license fee that can be paid at any time before your license is issued. Unlike the other two licenses offered by the Board, you cannot request a temporary LCSW license.

3. Pass the ASWB Clinical exam.

LCSW candidates must pass the ASWB Clinical exam to become licensed. As of March 2019, the fee for the Clinical exam is $260. There are 170 multiple-choice questions about clinical social work on the test, 150 of which are scored. After your test date, the ASWB will automatically transfer your scores to the Board.

4. Receive your LCSW license.

The Board members must review your complete application after they have received your Clinical exam scores and hold a vote to issue your license. Depending on the meeting schedule of the Board, this step may take several months. Before you are eligible to receive your license, you must pay the $325 license fee (as of March 2019) if you have not already submitted it. After the Board has voted to issue your license and received your fee, they will send you an LCSW license. After this, you can begin independently practicing clinical social work in Alaska.

Social Work Licensure by Credentials in Alaska

The Board allows social workers licensed in other states to apply for an Alaska social work license through a process called “licensure by credentials.” To be eligible for licensure using this method, you must hold a current social work license in good standing from another state. This license must have been earned by meeting requirements equivalent to or more stringent than Alaska’s. Additionally, you must have passed the required ASWB exam within the past two years or be able to document 1,500 hours of work experience and 45 hours of continuing education within the past five years. To apply, complete the application form for the license you are seeking. You will need to provide three professional references, official transcripts, past ASWB exam scores or documentation of work experience, and verification of your current license. As of March 2019, the application fee for all levels of licensure is $100. LBSW and LMSW applicants can request a temporary license for an additional $75. You will need to pay an additional fee to receive your license; the amount varies depending on the level of licensure.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education (CE) Information

Social workers in Alaska must renew their licenses every two years by submitting the Social Worker License Renewal form to the Board and paying the required fee. As of March 2019, the renewal fees are $225 for LBSWs, $275 for LMSWs, and $325 for LCSWs. During each renewal period, social workers must complete 45 continuing education (CE) hours. Of the required 45 CE hours, six hours must be on the topic of substance abuse and three must be in professional ethics. During your first renewal period, six of your CE hours must be from education in cultural topics related to Alaska Natives; in subsequent renewal periods, you must complete six CE hours in cross-cultural education with at least three hours in topics related to Alaska Natives. See the Board’s continuing education page for more details on CE requirements and a list of approved courses.

Alaska Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

2,660 social workers were employed in Alaska in May 2017, most of whom (1,570) held jobs in child, family, and school social work.2 The average annual income for social workers in the state was $55,220; healthcare social workers reported the highest average salary ($67,450).2 It is projected that between 2016 and 2026, jobs for all types of social workers in Alaska will increase by 9.7%, amounting to about 190 new social worker jobs during the 10-year period.5 The fastest growth in Alaska social work jobs is expected in healthcare social work (26.3%) and mental health and substance abuse social work (18.6%).5 As of May 2017, Alaska had the highest concentration of child, family, and school social work positions in the United States and the third-highest concentration of mental health and substance abuse social work positions.3,4

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 1,570 $46,810
Healthcare Social Workers 280 $67,450
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 620 $47,350
Social Workers, All Other 190 $59,270

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2017.2

Social Work Associations in Alaska

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Can I begin practicing independently once I become licensed as a social worker in Alaska?

Answer: Yes, once you have obtained an Alaska social work license, you can practice general non-clinical social work independently. However, LCSWs are the only social workers in the state who are able to practice clinical social work without supervision.

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 the 10 years prior to the date you submit your LCSW application to the Board.

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

Answer: While you are earning the supervised hours required to become licensed as an LCSW, you must be supervised by a licensed clinical 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 minimum of a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) to become licensed in Alaska. To practice clinical social work, you must hold a master’s degree in social work (MSW). For all levels of licensure, your degree must be earned at a CSWE-accredited program or the University of Alaska.

References:
1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Alaska: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/ak
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Alaska: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ak.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Child, Family, and School Social Workers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211021.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2017 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211023.htm
5. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm