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To earn licensure as a social worker, students must first earn a social work degree. Social workers help people in need within a variety of contexts. Some work primarily with children, such as victims of abuse or those in foster care, while others work with adults who suffer from alcohol addiction, drug abuse, or behavioral disorders. Clinical social workers work with individuals with mental or emotional health disorders through diagnosis and treatment. Some social workers focus on schools or correctional facilities while others work in hospitals, helping people manage their illnesses and navigate lifestyle changes.

Alaska boasts the country’s third-highest concentration of mental health and substance abuse social workers. BLS

Despite Alaska’s small population — fewer than 750,000 people as of 2017– the state boasts the country’s third-highest concentration of mental health and substance abuse social workers. Alaska presents an interesting field for social workers due to its multicultural population and underserved remote communities. Isolated and impoverished communities require social workers to offer care. Social workers in Alaska must hold either a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in social work. Outside of social work careers, people in possession of a social work degree can also enter entry-level positions in community outreach, therapy, life coaching, health care administration, and nonprofit fundraising.

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How to Become a Social Worker in Alaska

Alaska social workers need either a bachelor’s or master’s degree in social work from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Degree-holding students can then pursue their license from the Alaska Board of Social Work Examiners. The state offers three types of licensure, depending on a student’s level of education and experience: a baccalaureate social work license (LBSW), a master’s social worker license (LMSW), and a clinical social worker license (LCSW).

To earn a license, all social workers must complete an application and pass the bachelor’s, master’s, or clinical-level Associate of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam.

To earn a license, all social workers must complete an application and pass the bachelor’s, master’s, or clinical-level Associate of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam. Students must submit official transcripts, professional recommendations, and a fee for both the application and the license itself. The clinical license also requires that students document two years of professional experience. After submitting their application, LMSW and LBSW applicants can apply for a temporary, one-year license that allows them to practice while they prepare for their ASWB exam. The exam consists of 170 questions; students who fail to pass may retake it after three months.

Applicants will hear back from the state in about three months. Every two years, social workers in Alaska must renew their license and complete 45 continuing education hours. Social workers earn most of these hours through academic courses, seminars, and workshops, but can also earn credit for publications. Of these hours, three must cover professional ethics, six must cover substance abuse education, and six must explore cross-cultural education focused on serving Alaskan natives.

Types of Social Work Degrees in Alaska

Students earn various levels of social work degrees, ranging from associate-level to doctoral-level. Students with higher-level degrees qualify for more jobs and typically earn a higher salary. Most importantly, social workers need an advanced degree in order to receive their professional license. In Alaska, social workers need a bachelor’s degree to receive licensure, and clinical social workers need a master’s degree. Social workers hoping to practice independently in Alaska also need a master’s degree. Students with advanced social work degrees earn significantly more throughout the arc of their career. Students who possess doctoral degrees from social work schools in Alaska also qualify for upper-tier jobs in social work or academia.

Associate Degree

Students typically earn their associate degree in two years. Although an associate degree does not qualify students to earn their social work license, it does prepare them for entry-level jobs in the field. Associate degree holders work as mental health technicians, social worker assistants, case manager aides, community outreach workers, and life coaches.

Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) typically requires four years of school and qualifies students to earn their Alaska social work license. Students in a bachelor’s of social work program take courses in topics like human behavior and social welfare policy. They work as child and family counselors, case managers, and substance abuse counselors.

Master’s Degree

A master’s degree in social work (MSW) typically requires two years of study after the bachelor’s level, but can require as few as one year for those who hold a bachelor’s degree in social work. An MSW qualifies students to enter higher-paying clinical-level social work positions. Clinical social workers diagnose and treat clients with psychological, behavioral, or emotional health issues. They work as school social workers, child welfare social workers, and rehabilitation directors.

Doctoral Degree

A doctoral degree in social work typically requires three to four years of study, but schools often allow students up to eight years to earn their degree. Doctoral students earn either a Ph.D. in social work or a D.S.W. (doctor of social work). A Ph.D. focuses on research while a D.S.W. prepares students for higher-level professional practice. Graduates can enter management positions in social service organizations, influence social work policy, or teach college-level social work.

Finding a Social Work Program in Alaska

Students should consider several factors when selecting the right social work program in Alaska. They should research how much the degree will cost, and how that price compares with other programs. Students should also determine how long it will take to complete their degree. Depending on a school’s summer course options, transfer credit policy, or accelerated course formats, some programs may take longer to complete than others. Students should also make sure their social work program serves their specific career goals. Some programs may not offer coursework in every specialization.

Students should also think about their program’s location. Alaska’s unique geography provides both benefits and drawbacks. Despite the state’s natural beauty and recreation opportunities, students should ensure that they feel comfortable with Alaska’s winters, which can feature little sunlight, cold temperatures, and significant snowfall. Although most of the state’s colleges are in larger towns like Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska’s location makes travelling to and from the lower-48 more difficult and expensive. Students uncertain about living in Alaska should consider earning their degree online. The next section discusses online social work programs in Alaska.

Can You Earn a Social Work Degree Online in Alaska?

Students can earn their bachelor’s in social work online through The University of Alaska, Fairbanks. The school’s BSW program offers face-to-face, hybrid, and fully online program options, allowing students to earn their degree conveniently. All students, including remote learners, must complete supervised fieldwork to graduate. Because the program enjoys CSWE accreditation, graduates leave the program prepared to sit for the ASWB exam and earn their bachelor’s-level licensure.

After earning their bachelor’s degree, students can pursue their master’s in social work online from The University of Alaska, Anchorage. The school only offers the program online, but does require some on-campus meetings. The program typically requires two years of study for full-time students. However, students who already possess a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program can complete an advanced standing pathway, thus providing a smooth transition for students who hold a BSW from the school’s Fairbanks campus. The school’s MSW program is CSWE-accredited, meaning graduates qualify for the state’s master’s-level licensure, which, after two years of professional experience, qualifies them to apply for clinical licensure.

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

The time it takes to become a social worker in Alaska depends on a few factors. First, bachelor’s and master’s programs in social work vary in length depending on accelerated program or course options, transfer credit policies, course loads, and summer course options. Some programs offer individual pace courses, meaning students advance toward their degree at their own pace. Cohort learning, by contrast, means that students advance toward their degree at the same pace as their peers.

Bachelor’s and master’s programs in social work vary in length depending on accelerated program or course options, transfer credit policies, course loads, and summer course options.

Most online bachelor’s programs require 120 credits of coursework and take full-time students four years to complete. An associate degree typically requires half the credits and half the time of a bachelor’s degree. An online master’s in social work program usually requires an additional two years of coursework, but some MSW programs offer an accelerated option for students who already hold a BSW from a CSWE-accredited program. Those pursuing an online D.S.W. or Ph.D. in social work typically earn their degree in three to four years, completing two or three years of study and taking roughly a year to complete their dissertation, capstone project, and/or residency requirements. Depending on factors like transfer credits, program format, and the size and complexity of the dissertation/capstone, some students may take longer.

How Much Does a Social Work Program Cost in Alaska?

The cost of becoming a social worker in Alaska depends primarily on how much it costs to earn a BSW or MSW degree. The cost of tuition fluctuates depending on the school and factors like courseload, type of credit hour (undergraduate vs. graduate), residency status, and financial aid and scholarships. With the exception of students in online programs, in-state students nearly always pay less than out-of-state students; students considering a face-to-face social work program in Alaska should first look into becoming a resident.

Without scholarships or financial aid, and without taking into account the cost of living on-campus, bachelor’s programs in Alaska typically cost between $25,000-$40,000 per year, depending on residency status. Master’s programs in Alaska cost about $27,000-$37,000 per year. However, master’s programs tend to offer fellowships, scholarships, and teaching assistantships, allowing recipients to finance their MSW degree. Before applying to master’s programs, students must also take the GRE, which costs $205.

After earning a degree, students must pay for the cost of earning their social work license in Alaska. The ASWB exam costs between $230 and $260, depending on the level of the exam. Applying for the license costs an additional $360.

Types of Social Work Licenses in Alaska

Every U.S. state requires that social workers possess a license. However, the licensure process and the licenses themselves differ from state to state. Alaska, for instance, recognizes three levels of licensure: licensed baccalaureate social worker (LBSW), licensed master social worker (LMSW), and licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). All licenses require professional references, a resume, a fee, and that students pass the ASBW (Associate of Social Work Boards) exam.

Students who want to begin practicing social work quickly should consider becoming a social worker in Alaska. While other states require social workers to possess a master’s degree, in Alaska, social workers can earn their LBSW with only a bachelor’s. However, for a clinical social work license, Alaska requires a master’s degree and a significant face-to-face experience. After earning their master’s in social work, graduates must complete two years of supervised professional experience before receiving their LCSW. During these two years, social workers can earn their LMSW, leading to higher-level and higher-paying jobs.

While professional certifications do not lead to licensure in Alaska, they still serve as valuable additions to state licensure. Social work certifications help social workers stand out, qualifying them for higher salaries and leadership roles. Though several certifying bodies exist, the National Associate of Social Workers (NASW) confers highly sought-after certifications. To earn a certification from the NASW, social workers undergo a critical review of their experience, skills, and educational preparation. NASW offers two types of certifications: professional social work credentials and advanced practice specialty credentials. The former serves as an all-encompassing certification that requires a master’s in social work. The latter recognizes excellence in specific areas of expertise (e.g. gerontology or youth and family) and serves both bachelor’s-level and master’s-level social workers.


To earn an LCSW in Alaska, students need a master’s degree in social work from an accredited school, at least two years or 3,000 hours of social work experience (including 100 hours of supervised experience), and a passing score on the ASBW clinical-level exam. The exam costs $230 and consists of 170 multiple-choice questions.


Advanced Practice Specialty Credentials


To earn this credential, social worker case managers need a bachelor’s degree from a CSWE-accredited school, a license or a passing score on the ASWB bachelor’s-level exam, and at least three years and 4,500 hours of paid and supervised case management work. Students can expect a processing time of six weeks.


Career and Salary Outlook for Social Work Degree Graduates

Social workers can enter a variety of career paths, each serving a different population. They can work in rehabilitation centers with addicts trying to recover or find employment in schools with children who exhibit behavioral or academic problems. They can become probation officers, work in hospitals advocating for people diagnosed with terminal illness, or help parents adopt a baby. Whatever course a social worker pursues, they will find themselves making a difference in people’s lives.

Social worker

Social workers help particular populations that need assistance. These populations include vulnerable children and families, people who suffer from addiction, people who are sick or aging, and school children. To practice at the clinical level social workers need advanced licensure.

Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselor

These counselors work with people who suffer from drug addictions, alcoholism, and eating disorders. Counselors evaluate their patients’ needs, recommend treatments, and assess progress.

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists

Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work with probationers and parolees. They provide general support and help clients access services like therapy, rehabilitation programs, and job trainings.

School and career counselors

School counselors help students struggling with academic success, bullying, or behavioral issues at school. They often collaborate with teachers and parents. Career counselors work with students to determine a plan for the student’s academic future and career goals.

Social and human service assistants

Social and human services assistants work alongside social workers to determine a plan of treatment for clients. They help elderly, mentally ill, and disabled clients identify, access, and maintain services like food stamps, personal care aides, and rehabilitation centers.


 EmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
Child, family, and school social workers1,570$46,810
Healthcare social workers280$67,450
Mental health and substance abuse social workers620$47,350
Social workers, all other190$59,270

Source: BLS

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Scholarships for Social Work Majors in Alaska

Students earning their degree in social work in Alaska can apply for a variety of scholarships. While some scholarships specifically serve social work students, others exclusively target students earning their social work degree in Alaska. Some scholarships reward students for their academic achievements, while others are awarded to specific groups of people based on their background or identity.

Social Work Scholarships


Who Can Apply: The University of Alaska, Anchorage offers this scholarship to fully admitted social work students (both BSW and MSW) who hold a 2.0 GPA.


Resources for Social Work Students in Alaska

  • National Association of Social Workers – Alaska Chapter Part of the larger NASW, the Alaska NASW connects more than 500 social workers who serve Alaska communities. Members enjoy continuing education opportunities, leadership development, professional recognition, networking opportunities, access to malpractice insurance, publications, credentialing services, and discounts on conferences and travel.
  • UAA BSW Coalition The University of Alaska, Anchorage’s BSW Coalition connects and supports social work students in Alaska. Students also connect with NASW and rural communities around the state. Members participate in study groups, social activities, volunteer opportunities, and annual meetings.
  • UAA MSW Coalition Geared toward master’s candidates, the University of Alaska, Anchorage’s MSW Coalition brings together current graduate students, community members, professional social workers, and future social work students. Members benefit from professional development opportunities, a vibrant community, and mentorship.
  • Phi Alpha Honor Society for Social Work Students Phi Alpha Honor Society, which operates a chapter at UAA, connects social work students who demonstrate excellence in social work. Members connect through meetings, volunteer opportunities, mentorships, and community service projects. The society also offers awards, scholarships, competitions, and travel grants. Employers and the social work community recognize membership as a sign of achievement in the field.
  • Clinical Social Work Association The CSWA serves clinical social workers across the country, providing membership benefits such as up-to-date clinical information and research, free consultations about ethical and legal questions, discounted professional liability insurance, social work advocacy at the state and national level, and professional networking opportunities.