Social Work Degrees in Arkansas

Over 14,000 community and social service professionals work in Arkansas to enhance the quality of community living throughout the state. While many of these professionals work as social workers with government agencies, others with a social work degree in Arkansas work for private organizations, such as religious institutions. Additionally, while the national average for all workers reaches just over $37,040 per year, the average social worker in Arkansas makes over $40,000 annually. Social work programs in Arkansas offer students the chance to understand social systems, learn about human behavior, and effect change in their communities.

Social work programs in Arkansas offer students the chance to understand social systems, learn about human behavior, and effect change in their communities

Many positions in the field require a bachelor's in social work. Other, higher-paying positions require a master's degree in social work. Higher learning institutions in Arkansas offer flexible online social work degrees that offer these degrees and allow students to pay in-state tuition. Furthermore, students who want to practice in Arkansas should study and take their licensing exams in the state given that programs in Arkansas design curricula that meet the state's requirements.

To practice as a social worker in Arkansas, candidates must first obtain a bachelor's degree from an accredited social work program. The Council on Social Work Education accredits bachelor's and master's programs in the field. Upon completing social work programs in Arkansas, students must then sit for the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) bachelor's-level exam. Those who wish to practice at a master's level must complete an appropriate social work program and pass the ASWB's master's-level exam. Before the Arkansas Social Work Licensing Board will award a license, applicants must undergo a background check and pay the required exam fees.

Some jobs require applicants to hold a Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW) title. To achieve this, professionals need a master's in social work, 4,000 hours of postgraduate working hours, and a passing score on the ASWB National Clinical Social Work Examination. All licensed social workers in Arkansas need to complete 48 hours of continuing education coursework every two years to renew their licenses. These continuing education courses ensure that social workers remain up to date on the latest research and practices. Upon completing the required continuing education courses, social workers need to apply for renewal with the state board and pay the required fee. Arkansas also grants licenses to professionals who practice outside the state and wish to transfer credentials. If the previous state holds to the same standards as Arkansas, social workers can apply to the state's board without taking the exam.

The educational requirements for social workers in Arkansas vary widely. While some jobs require an associate degree, this degree typically only lands workers entry-level jobs without much upward mobility. Licenses earned through further education provide graduates with more opportunities. Arkansas recognizes three levels of social work licensure: licensed social worker (LSW), licensed master social worker (LMSW), and licensed certified social worker (LCSW).

An LSW requires a bachelor's degree and a passing grade on the bachelor's-level licensing exam. Professionals who want to become LMSWs must obtain a master's degree in social work and pass the master's-level exam. The LCSW licensure serves as the highest level and requires a master's degree, 4,000 hours of supervised work, and a passing grade on the corresponding exam. For any clinical social work position, applicants must earn a master's degree in the field. Few positions require a doctorate, but those hoping to teach need this degree.

Associate Degree
Students seeking an associate degree in social work take introductory courses in subjects such as sociology, psychology, public health, and crisis intervention. Those who hold an associate in social work often fill roles as case management aides and community outreach coordinators. An associate degree in social work prepares students to seek a bachelor's degree in the social work space.
Bachelor's Degree
Learners who enroll in social work schools in Arkansas in pursuit of a bachelor's degree focus on welfare policy, social work research, human behavior, and case management. Upon earning their degrees, graduates can sit for the bachelor's level licensing exam. Once licensed, professionals can become entry-level social workers under the supervision of a clinical social worker.
Master's Degree
Learners often conduct research to uncover new techniques and further the social sciences. These graduates can sit for the master's level licensing exam or complete a supervised practicum to qualify for the certified-level exam.
Doctoral Degree
Students who pursue a doctoral degree in social work often focus on research and teaching. Schools like the University of Arkansas offer a program in which students earn both a master's in social work and a juris doctorate. These graduates can practice law with a specialty in social work.

Social workers specialize in areas like healthcare, substance abuse, and school social work. Healthcare social work specialists help patients and their caregivers make medical decisions, navigate the medical system, and find social programs. Other social workers may help drug addicts cope with their addiction, while still others work in schools to help students succeed in spite of personal or academic struggles.

Child and Family Social Worker

Social workers in the child welfare sector may work in private agencies, municipal government agencies, hospitals, or emergency shelters. In each setting, the social worker helps identify and place children within the safest possible environment.

School Social Worker

Schools foster safe environments for children, and social workers in schools often serve as the first people to help students. These professionals identify problems in school kids, find appropriate resources, and advocate for young learners.

Healthcare Social Worker

Healthcare social workers can practice in any medical environment, including hospitals, in-patient recovery centers, and doctor's offices. These professionals act as an intermediary between the patient and medical workers. They may also help with paperwork and locating resources.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker

Unfortunately, the country faces a substance abuse crisis, especially with the spread of opioid addictions. As such, many areas need more mental health and substance abuse social workers. These professionals often work as liaisons between patients and caregivers.

While all states require social workers to earn their license before practicing, each jurisdiction lists its own requirements. Arkansas allows those with a bachelor's degree to sit for the bachelor's-level licensing exam even though some states require a master's degree to earn any type of licensure. Upon passing, these graduates earn their LSW.

While LSWs sometimes practice as social workers, they can rarely advance into management or other areas. For that reason, Arkansas also offers the LMSW licensing and classification. To earn this credential, professionals need a master's degree in social work and must pass the LMSW exam. The LCSW, a mandatory credential for anyone hoping to practice clinical social work, serves as the highest level of social work licensure. Students who want to work as counselors or as part of a treatment team in mental health institutions need this license. In addition to the master's degree in social work, those who seek a LCSW must work under the supervision of someone with a current LCSW for 4,000 hours and pass the LCSW exam.

those who seek a LCSW must work under the supervision of someone with a current LCSW for 4,000 hours and pass the LCSW exam

Arkansas also utilizes provisional licenses for new social workers. Graduates with a bachelor's or master's degree in social work can works as LSWs or LMSWs for one year after their application. In that time, provisional social workers may take their exam up to three times. This rule allows recent graduates time to study for the exam after finishing their coursework.

Not everyone who works in social services needs a license. For example, employees with the State of Arkansas who hold the following titles receive exemption status: family service worker, social service worker, and adult protective services worker. Those who must obtain licenses should earn them from the Arkansas Social Work License Board. Certifications, on the other hand, serve as resume boosters that allow social workers to become experts in an area. Certifications may come from professional organizations, higher education institutions, or other governing bodies.

Advanced Practice Specialty Credentials

Finding the right social work program serves as an important step for any aspiring social worker. Cost, location, and concentration areas count as some of the factors to consider. First, students should consider the cost to attend each potential school. For this, learners should think about the cost per credit hour, the number of hours necessary to complete the program, whether the student can work while in school, and fees.

Students who know what type of certifications they want to earn can use this information to choose a program. For example, learners who know that they want to work in a hospital setting should prioritize schools that offer concentrations in that area.

Those who want to find a social work degree program in Arkansas should also think about where they will live for the duration of the program. Social work degrees often require students to complete internships or practicums. However, online social work programs in Arkansas allow students to complete the rest of their work from almost anywhere.

Can You Earn a Social Work Degree Online in Arkansas?

Online social work degree programs in Arkansas can help students receive a flexible and convenient education. However, many social work programs require at least some in-person components. For example, the University of Arkansas in Little Rock offers an online master's program with asynchronous courses, but students must come to campus five times each semester. The flagship campus of University of Arkansas in Fayetteville does not, however, require master of social work students to come to campus -- but still requires in-person internships. Prospective students should consider the distance and time spent on campus in their decision-making process.

All social work students in Arkansas should ensure that their chosen program holds accreditation. The Arkansas Social Work Licensing Board will only license graduates from programs that the Council on Social Work Education approves, and the Higher Learning Commission serves as the regional accrediting body for Arkansas. Students should ensure that their institution holds accreditation from one or both of these organizations, especially if they hope to transfer credits.

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

The time it takes to become a social worker depends on the student's current education level, the level of education sought, the number of credits taken per semester, and the length of the program. For example, a high school senior can go to college full time and receive either an associate degree in two years or a bachelor's degree in four. On the other hand, someone with a bachelor's in social work or another subject may obtain a master's degree in social work in three years while taking part-time classes and working. Afterward, that same person could hold a two-year supervised position and take the exam to earn an LCSW in Arkansas.

The average online bachelor's program in social work requires 32 or more hours of core university courses and 68 hours of social work related courses. Master's programs vary depending on a student's undergraduate major. Someone with a bachelor's in social work can earn a master's with about 39 credit hours, while someone from outside the field may need a total of 63 credits to earn this degree.

How Much Does a Social Work Program Cost in Arkansas?

When determining the overall cost to become a social worker, students should first determine how many credit hours they will need and the cost per credit. Students who live in-state or in-county often receive discounted prices, and students who earn a degree online as opposed to on campus also sometimes receive lower tuition rates.

Prospective students should also consider the costs of the licensing tests and applications. The cost varies based on factors such as test level and the organization offering the test. In some cases, employers pay for social workers to attend classes and take exams, but in other cases professionals still need to pay for their own continuing education and certifications. Licensed social workers must complete continuing education every two years to keep their credentials.

Directory of Social Work Programs in Arkansas

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Social workers work in hospitals, family homes, offices, and rehabilitation facilities. As such, many different types of people become social workers and find fulfillment. Those who empathize well, display patience, and possess outstanding organizational skills often excel in this field.

Health Educators and Community Health Workers

Professionals in these positions work within a certain population to promote healthy lifestyle choices and design programs that encourage healthy behaviors.

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

These clinical professionals help people through addiction and mental illness. Students who want to fill these rolls must earn a master's degree and an LCSW license.

School and Career Counselors

Social workers in the school setting can help students through crises and ensure that their school is a safe space. Most entry-level positions require a master's degree.

Social and Human Service Assistants

These professionals work closely with licensed social workers and typically need only minimal education.

Social Workers

Every day, social workers help people across Arkansas find the resources they need. With a bachelor's degree, social workers can help in a variety of ways. However, a master's degree and a clinical license allows social workers to diagnose and treat people.

Median Salaries and Employment For Social Work Specialties in Arkansas

  Employment Annual Mean Wage
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 1,380 $36,260
Healthcare Social Workers 1,340 $42,380
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 990 $40,300
Social Workers, All Other 560 $47,660
Source: BLS

Paying for college proves difficult for many people seeking a social work degree, but scholarships can help offset some of the costs. Schools and the government offer special scholarships to residents of Arkansas and to prospective social workers.

Social Work Scholarships

Arkansas Single Parent Fund Varies

Who Can Apply: Single parent students who reside in Arkansas or Bowie County Texas may apply. The recipient cannot live with an adult who helps parent the children. View Scholarship

Cornerstone Scholarship Charitable Trust Varies

Who Can Apply: African American students who demonstrate financial need may apply. Applicants need a high school diploma or GED and legal residency status. View Scholarship

NAJA Scholarship Varies

Who Can Apply: The NAJA Graduate Scholarship Program accepts applicants who want to work to better the lives of children and people with special needs, including students hoping to become social workers. Graduate students who live in Arkansas may apply. View Scholarship

Verne LaMarr Lyons Memorial MSW Scholarship Varies

Who Can Apply: Students pursuing a master's in social work with an interest in helping African American populations in the mental health space qualify. Applicants need a 3.0 GPA and must work toward a master's degree in social work. View Scholarship
  • National Association of Social Workers - Arkansas The Arkansas chapter of the NASW offers accessible and affordable continuing education for its members. They advocate for policy changes at the state level that affect social workers. Through its website, students can find helpful information about industry news, how to launch a career, and licensing processes.
  • Arkansas Department of Human Services Many social workers Arkansas find employment at the Arkansas DHS, making it a great resource for potential future social workers. Students learn more about social workers' goals, the department's mission, and types of job openings through the organization's website.
  • Arkansas Social Work Licensing Board Students preparing for graduate school should keep this organization in mind. Through its website, learners can see fees associated with licensing, learn about the criminal background check process, and discover laws that affect licensure.
  • NASW Student Center Learners can sign up for discounted membership, learn about top schools in the field, and find financial aid options. NASW focuses on ushering in the next generation of great social workers.
  • Journal of Social Work This journal publishes the latest research focused on social work. Students who want to stay on top of their profession and impress their professors can subscribe to this journal to get the latest news.