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If you want a career that focuses on helping children, families, and the greater community, earning a degree in social work serves as a great option. Social work degrees enable graduates to improve the lives of those with whom they work by assisting families, increasing community access to healthcare, supporting rehabilitative care, and working against poverty. Employment as a social worker generally requires a bachelor’s degree in social work, though students wishing to pursue clinical social work (LCSW) and more advanced careers need to earn their master’s degree.

social workers in Hawaii earn $72,290 in mental health care and substance abuse and $74,290 in other specialized field

Earning a social work degree in Hawaii is a great option for professionals looking to start or advance in the field. In addition to earning a median salary higher than the country’s average — $47,980 median salary in the U.S. versus $54,615 in Hawaiisocial workers in Hawaii earn $72,290 in mental health care and substance abuse and $74,290 in other specialized fields. Moreover, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the social worker space to grow 16% through 2026. In Hawaii, you must earn at least a bachelor’s in social work (BSW) to earn the license needed for employment. As a licensed social worker, you can work in a variety of settings and with the population about whom you are most passionate. Licensure prepares holders for positions as a community health workers, social services managers, and health educators.

Featured Online Programs in Social Work

How to Become a Social Worker in Hawaii

Students wishing to become social workers in Hawaii enjoy several options. Hawaii divides social workers into three levels. To apply for state licensure, entry-level social workers need a BSW from a school accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). After completing the degree, graduates can sit for the Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW) licensing exam. Successful completion earns students their license and enables them to begin entry-level social work in Hawaii.

For students already in possession of a BSW or a BA in a field other than social work, graduate social work programs in Hawaii prepare students for more advanced career tracks. Graduate students can become Licensed Social Workers (LSW) or Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW). Both require either a master’s degree in social work from a school accredited by the CSWE or a doctoral degree accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges prior to sitting for the licensing exam.

LCSW is the most advanced career level in Hawaiian social work, and professionals perform clinical diagnosis and psychotherapy. Before taking the licensing exam, however, hopeful LCSWs must complete 3,000 hours of clinical work. Regardless of license level, social workers must complete continuing education credits and renew their licenses every three years.

Types of Social Work Degrees in Hawaii

Students can complete degrees in social work at a variety of levels and in several specialities. An associate degree in social work generally takes only two years to complete and offers commensurate salary expectations. A BSW takes four years of full-time study to complete, and a master’s program in social work typically takes two additional years after earning a BA — though some accelerated programs only take one year. A doctorate takes at least three additional years.

The more advanced your degree in social work, the more opportunities and higher salaries employers will make available to you. For example, clinical social work jobs — the most advanced licensed position — require a minimum of a master’s degree for employment.

Associate Degree

An associate degree teaches students the foundations of the field. Learners complete courses in sociology, psychology, and social work practice. After graduation, students can apply for support roles such as a community outreach worker or a case management aide. In Hawaii, an associate degree does not prepare students to sit for licensure.

Bachelor’s Degree

A BSW focuses on core social work education, including human behavior, research methods, social issues, and social welfare policy. An additional practicum component provides hands-on experience. A BSW prepares students for professional careers in social work, and enables holders to sit for entry-level licensure in Hawaii.

Master’s Degree

MSW degrees prepare students for the advanced practice skills required of LSW and LCSW positions. Classes focus on interventions, diagnostics, and specific populations like youth and family. Students can also expect to complete comprehensive fieldwork in a variety of settings.

Doctoral Degree

A doctoral degree enables graduates to work as researchers and advanced educators. Students can focus on either research or practice. Graduates may become social services directors, university professors, or researchers.

Finding a Social Work Program in Hawaii

Finding the right social work program often proves challenging given factors like cost, program offerings, and location. Knowing both your salary expectations and your program’s per-credit costs will help you determine the program that fits your current and future needs. Additionally, online social work degrees typically cost less when considering the absence of commuting costs and campus-associated fees.

Program structure also varies from school to school. Most BSW programs take four years to complete, while MSWs take two. However, accelerated MSW programs enable those with a BSW to finish within a year. Each of these program types offer unique curriculums and specialization tracks. Pick a school that focuses on your interest areas and helps pave the way for future credentialing.

Also consider location. For traditional programs, you will attend your courses on campus. Some online programs also require practicums or occasional in-person meetings. For whichever program type you choose, ensure that it holds accreditation and prepares for state-specific licensing requirements. For many prospective students, online social work degrees provide the most feasible choice.

Can You Earn a Social Work Degree Online in Hawaii?

Students in Hawaii enjoy a selection of different social work degrees. Three Hawaiian universities offer on-campus social work degrees, and students can also complete online BSW and MSW programs offered by schools around the country. All online MSW programs require an additional field-education component that students complete at an approved, nearby location. These online degrees offer a qualitative education that boasts accessibility and affordability.

After completion of your online degree, you will need to obtain a LBSW, LSW, or LCSW. To apply for one of these licenses, your school must hold accreditation from the CSWE. After graduation, you must send your transcripts to the State of Hawaii Professional and Vocational Licensing department. After department approval, you may sit for the ASWB exam administered on Oahu. Only after passing can you obtain your license.

See The Best Online MSW Programs

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

Becoming a social worker in Hawaii requires a significant time commitment. A bachelor’s degree typically takes 120 credits to complete and serves as the minimum level of education required for licensing. Students pursuing a MSW sign up for an additional one to two year commitment, depending on the school and the focus of their bachelor’s degree. Doctoral degrees, either a Ph.D. in social work or a DSW, take an additional three to four years.

Other factors that affect the time commitment include required fieldwork components, needed specialization credits, a full-time or part-time load, and cohort or individual pacing. Cohort programs accept students into a sequence of classes that students complete at the same pace. Individually paced programs allow students to choose their courses and credit load, but they must complete their degree within a certain timeframe. Most students enter programs with cohort-based formatting.

How Much Does a Social Work Program Cost in Hawaii?

Becoming a social worker in Hawaii requires a significant financial investment. Three universities offer social work degrees in Hawaii — with a range between $5,000 and $24,00 per year for tuition. Additional costs include room and board, campus fees, and books. Online degrees in social work typically cost less and also exclude fees associated with on-campus learning.

Master’s degrees average $13,800 at public institutions and $36,300 at private institutions. Graduate applications sometimes require the GRE, which currently costs $205. Doctoral program costs vary widely depending on the school, its program requirements, and the external funding available. Consider that acceptance also requires previous completion of a bachelor’s and a master’s degree.

In Hawaii, an application for a license currently costs $60, and licensing exams currently cost $230 or $260. Social workers must also complete at least 15 continuing education hours annually to remain licensed. Pursuing specialized credentialing can require additional continuing education costs, as well.

Types of Social Work Licenses in Hawaii

All states require that social workers hold a license to practice. In Hawaii, social workers need to hold one of three types of licensure. The LBSW designation serves as the entry-level, non-clinical licensure option in Hawaii. For more advanced clinical roles, prospective license holders need a master’s degree. A master’s in social work program in Hawaii covers the curriculum necessary to take the licensing exam for a LSW or LCSW. LSWs can perform research and psychosocial assessments and offer treatment in addition to the job duties of a LBSW. They do not need additional experience hours beyond the conclusion of their degree. A LCSW, on the other hand, can perform advanced clinic duties such as diagnostics and psychotherapy. Before sitting for the exam, however, LCSW candidates need a substantial amount of clinical experience.

The LBSW designation serves as the entry-level, non-clinical licensure option in Hawaii.

Social workers may also obtain certifications in addition to their licenses. While only one of several certifying organizations, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) administers professional and advanced speciality credentials that indicate a social worker’s growth and dedication. The NASW describes licensure as the minimum requirement for practice, while credentialing demonstrates a voluntary pursuit of excellence. Members can only attain credentialing by meeting required amounts of education, skill, experience, and supervised hours. The earned credentials generally highlight either leadership skills or a speciality such as clinical work, education, or palliative care. Holding a certification may provide new opportunities for networking and advanced job roles.


To become a LCSW and practice clinical work, applicants must earn their MSW and complete 3,000 hours of supervised experience — with 2,000 hours in direct clinical care over a 2-5 year period. Applicants also need to pass the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) advanced generalist or clinical exam.


Advanced Practice Specialty Credentials


C-SWCMs work off of the biopsychosocial model, which links environment to the psyche and aims to strengthen environmental support systems. Application requires a BSW, at least three years of professional experience, and completion of the ASWB exam or previous licensure.


Career and Salary Outlook for Social Work Degree Graduates

A degree in social work prepares students for a variety of career paths, from clinical diagnostics to addiction counseling. Many social workers provide clinic or case management services to individuals, families, and communities. They work in schools, hospitals, nonprofits, nursing homes, hospices, and governmental agencies. Social workers often select programs and licenses that focus on the populations and communities for whom they want to provide care.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers

These licensed clinical social workers assess and treat individuals and families affected by mental health disorders and substance abuse. They typically find employment in outpatient healthcare centers, rehabilitation facilities, and hospitals.

Social and Community Service Managers

Managers in this field develop and supervise community programs and provide social services to those in need. A bachelor’s in social work prepares professionals for this position, though some advanced roles require a master’s.

Probation Officer and Correctional Treatment Specialist

If students earn a bachelor’s in social work and pass examinations, they may become probation officers. These professionals assist in rehabilitation of law offenders and often work in high-crime areas.

Social Work Teacher

Social work teachers train students in social work concepts, human behavior, and research methods. Most professorships require a doctorate, though some colleges hire a professional with a master’s degree and field experience.

Healthcare Social Worker

Healthcare social workers reduce barriers to healthcare and promote healthy living. They also specialize in counseling patients or families affected by illness. This career requires a master’s in social work.

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 EmploymentAnnual Mean Wage
Child, Family, and School Social Workers1,760$55,940
Healthcare Social Workers910$61,880
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers400$72,290
Social Workers, All Other270$74,290

Source: BLS

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Scholarships for Social Work Majors in Hawaii

Schools and the government make several scholarship options available to students pursuing an education. Some of these scholarships cater specifically to students pursuing a social degree, some to students in Hawaii, and some to both.

Social Work Scholarships


Who Can Apply: The NHHSP supports healthcare professionals dedicated to working within the Hawaiian community. In exchange for the award, recipients must serve for at least two years in a medically unserved Hawaiian community. Native Hawaiian students enrolled in a master’s program in social work may apply. View Scholarship


Resources for Social Work Students in Hawaii

  • National Association of Social Workers, Hawaii Chapter The Hawaiian chapter of the NASW promotes the quality and effectiveness of the social work field in the state. It offers members admittance to conferences, continuing education, networking opportunities, and a job board. This resource also provides access to ethics lawyers for members in need of ethical advice.
  • University of Hawaii at Manoa School of Social Work As the only Hawaiian university that offers a bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. in social work, UH serves as an excellent resource for prospective social work students. The university offers several areas of concentration, assists students in finding appropriate resources, and offer connections to multiple professional organizations.
  • Clinical Social Work Association The CSWA provides its members with informational newsletters, social and professional services, job boards, and career support. It aims to support best practices in the field, and it offers complementary ethical and legal advice.
  • American Clinical Social Work Association The ACSWA connects clinical social workers around the country. It helps social workers network, track trends and best practices in the profession, and provide access to discussion boards and free clinical publications. Additionally, social work students may apply for scholarships through the association.