Social Work Degrees in Montana

Every day, thousands of Montana social workers help those in need overcome addiction, find safe places to rest, and secure access to healthcare. Students who want to make an impact in their communities through fulfilling daily work should consider attending social work programs in Montana. Social work degrees prepare learners to navigate governmental and societal systems, helping the individuals who need it most. Learners study subjects like psychology, sociology, and case management to develop a skill set that fits this diverse field.

However, individuals who do not want to work in healthcare or with family services also have other options

While child and family social workers make up the majority of social workers in Montana, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also projects that other areas in the field will experience significant growth in the coming years. According to the BLS, the fastest-growing area of social work in the state is found in the healthcare sector. These professionals also tend to earn the highest wages among social workers in Montana. However, individuals who do not want to work in healthcare or with family services also have other options. For example, school social workers collaborate with teachers, students, family members, and the school system to ensure that all young learners get access to the resources they need.

Mental health and substance abuse social workers also place vital roles in the community; these professionals work with teams of health professionals to diagnose, treat, and counsel individuals struggling with addiction and/or mental health disorders. While some people can find social work jobs that only require a bachelor's degree, Montana only offers licensure to professionals with a master's degree.

To become a social worker in Montana, students must first earn a bachelor's degree. While it can be helpful to have this degree in social work, some graduate programs allow students from other backgrounds to apply. Individuals with a bachelor's degree in social work can work as case managers, advocate specialists, and assume different support roles. However, those who want to become licensed social workers in Montana must complete a master's or doctorate in social work. These graduate programs also need to hold accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). After completing a master's program, individuals can apply to be a social work licensure candidate (SWLC). This designation represents a provisional license, allowing a candidate to work toward becoming a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW).

During this provisional time period, an aspiring LCSW must complete 3,000 hours of supervised clinical work, half of which must be in direct contact with clients. Additionally, the supervisor of this work must hold a current license in the state of Montana as a social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist.

Furthermore, the supervisor must have at least three years of relevant experience after gaining their license. After completing the required hours, a social work candidate must submit an application to the Montana Board of Behavioral Health and pass either the advanced exam or the clinical exam of the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). The applicant must also submit to a background check. Aspiring social workers should allow up to eight weeks for this background check to clear. To renew their license, LCSWs in Montana must complete 20 hours of continuing education per year.

Professionals who hold a bachelor's degree in social work can serve in support roles but not as clinical practitioners. For example, someone with a bachelor's degree can become a community health worker, which is a fulfilling career for many people. Other social workers choose to pursue a graduate degree due to the increased number of opportunities an advanced degree provides. For example, earning a graduate-level social work degree in Montana allows professionals to work with a provisional license and apply for their own license. However, it can take more than four years of post-baccalaureate work and study before an individual receives their social work license. Degree candidates should weigh career opportunities and potential salary benefits against the time and money required to earn a master's degree before enrolling in graduate school.

Associate Degree
Students who want to see if the social services field is right for them before committing to a four-year degree can start by earning an associate degree in social work. Some schools offer concentrations and certificates at this level.
Bachelor's Degree
Some social work schools in Montana offer bachelor's programs that prepare graduates to work as generalists in the social work field. These programs emphasize cultural diversity, especially with respect to Native-American populations. Learners who earn this type of degree can assume entry-level positions or go on to pursue a master's in social work.
Master's Degree
A master's degree is the minimum degree required for students who want to become licensed social workers in Montana. These graduate programs allow students to further specialize in an area of social work, such as healthcare or family services. Students learn to conduct research, think critically, and advocate for others.
Doctoral Degree
As of May 2018, no universities in Montana offer a doctoral degree in social work. Students who wish to earn such a degree can find out-of-state online offerings.

Individuals who pursue a career in social work can choose from several specialities. The most popular of these options in Montana is specializing in child and family social work; these specialists work with families to ensure the safety of children in their communities. Social workers also work in hospitals, acting as liaisons between nurses, doctors, patients, and insurance. Professionals in this field may also work in schools, mental health facilities, and addiction treatment centers.

Child and Family Social Worker

Child and family social workers investigate reports of neglect and abuse, work with families to keep children safe, and help foster parents open their homes to children. They often work on-the-go, driving from home to home for appointments.

School Social Worker

School social workers serve as staff members at schools. They help identify potential problems in students' home lives and then work with families, students, and teachers to find solutions. They typically follow schedules similar to teachers.

Healthcare Social Worker

The healthcare system can be complex and overwhelming, especially for people dealing with a health crisis. Healthcare social workers advocate for patients as they navigate treatment options, find answers to insurance questions, and overcome personal trauma. These professionals can work in hospitals or any medical office that sees patients.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker

Substance addiction and mental health disorders present patients and families with unique challenges. Social workers in this arena work at in-patient facilities to help individuals overcome obstacles. These professionals may provide counseling and help patients access resources.

Every state in the country requires some type of licensure for social workers. However, these standards differ across state lines. While some states have different types of licenses, and even licenses for bachelor's-level candidates, Montana only offers one license and one provisional license. First, license candidates must graduate with a master's degree in social work from an accredited program. At that time, graduates can apply for the state's SWLC credential. After earning this provisional license, new social workers must complete 3,000 hours of supervised, paid work to become an LCSW. Many rules regulate how professionals must complete and document these hours. For example, only people with specific qualifications can act as a supervisor, the social worker must complete the hours within a period of 2-5 years after becoming an SWLC, and at least 1,500 hours must occur through face-to-face interactions with clients.

In Montana, social workers who do not perform clinical duties do not need licenses. These professionals often have bachelor's or master's degrees

In Montana, social workers who do not perform clinical duties do not need licenses. These professionals often have bachelor's or master's degrees. However, employers may require non-clinical social workers to have certain certifications. The difference between licenses and certifications may seem minor, but the distinction is important. The state board issues licenses that allow professionals to legally practice social work in the state. Alternatively, certifications prove a social worker's aptitude in a specific area. Typically, professional organizations grant these certifications when a social worker meets certain criteria and applies for a certificate. For example, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) offers many certifications to its members who complete certain continuing education requirements and have experience in the specialization in question. These credentials can help social workers become experts in a particular area and obtain higher-paying jobs.

Advanced Practice Specialty Credentials

Prospective students looking for the right social work degree in Montana typically consider many variables. The cost of attending school represents the primary concern for most learners. Fortunately, higher learning institutions in Montana tend to have lower tuition rates than other states, which can help keep costs down. Additionally, many learners in Montana qualify for significant scholarships. To fully understand the cost of a social work program, students should consider tuition and additional fees, potential financial aid sources, their salary potential after graduation, and whether working while taking classes is possible. Furthermore, degree candidates looking for the right social work program should consider the program format and whether or not the curriculum features any internship requirements.

Prospective students should also determine the average length of time it takes to obtain their desired degree. For example, learners who want to work as a clinical social worker should consider how long it takes to earn a master's degree. Additionally, degree candidates should prioritize schools that offer degree concentrations that best match their career goals.

Can You Earn a Social Work Degree Online in Montana?

As of May 2018, none of the colleges or universities in Montana offer online social work degree programs. Therefore, students interested in the convenience provided by online coursework must look outside the state for an appropriate program. This may mean paying more for out-of-state tuition; however, many distance programs do offer in-state tuition to all online students, regardless of their state of residence.

When investigating different online programs, the most important variable to look for is a school's accreditation status. Social work programs should hold CSWE accreditation. CSWE is a national organization that judges higher learning institutions across the country based on social work curriculum. Since Montana's social work board requires graduates to have a master's degree from a CSWE-certified program, online students who attended out-of-state universities can still successfully apply for licensure.

Students who choose to take online classes from an out-of-state university should also ensure that a program allows students to carry out internships near their homes. Furthermore, aspiring social care workers should endeavor to attend nonprofit and regionally accredited schools; diplomas from these institutions tend to be viewed more highly by potential employers.

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

Becoming a social worker in Montana takes time and dedication. However, the exact amount of time it takes depends on many variables, including the level of education desired and individual program requirements. Additionally, full-time students earn their diplomas much faster than learners who can only attend school part-time.

Most social work positions require individuals to complete a bachelor's program, which takes about four years. Then, to become licensed in Montana, learners also need earn a master's degree, which typically takes two more years of study. At that point, graduates can operate under a provisional license, but they still need to accrue two years of experience to be eligible for licensure. Finally, these well-educated professionals need to take the appropriate exam to become an LCSW. In total, this process can take about eight years. However, learners who already have some college experience may be able to shorten the timeline somewhat. Furthermore, students who want to work in the field in a non-clinical role may only need a bachelor's degree; these individuals can earn bachelor's-level certification and carry out fulfilling careers as community health workers.

How Much Does a Social Work Program Cost in Montana?

On average, students residing in Montana pay around $150 per credit for college tuition. Generally speaking, learners need 120 credits for a bachelor's degree and at least 40 more credits for a master's degree. The number of credits needed for a master's degree can change depending on a student's previous coursework, their chosen specialty, and any unique program requirements. To understand the tuition costs for a degree in social work in Montana, learners should figure out how many credits they need to graduate and whether their program charges tuition on a flat-rate or per-credit basis. Also, it is important to remember that undergraduate and graduate courses may have different tuition rates.

In addition to tuition, students who want to become a licensed social worker in Montana should consider the costs of taking the licensing exam and other associated fees. Licensing fees cost between $80 and $175, and sitting for the exam itself costs $260. Licensed social workers must also complete 20 hours of continuing education each year, although some employers pay for these credits. Classes typically cost $20-$60 and may earn the social worker 2-15 continuing education hours.

Directory of Social Work Programs in Montana

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Social workers in Montana have many career paths from which to choose, and those who have a passion for a particular area of social services can pursue work that matches their passion. For example, individuals who have witnessed first-hand the struggle of addiction may want to help others by pursuing work as a substance abuse social worker. People who have patience, an organizational mind, and a natural empathy toward others tend to thrive in the field of social work.

Community Health Worker

These professionals work on a macro level to encourage communities to adopt health programs and improve wellness on a larger scale. These professionals do not need to be licensed, but individuals with a formal education and on-the-job training tend to find employment more easily.

Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists

These workers practice at the intersection between criminal justice and social work. They often hold a bachelor's degree and work in detention facilities. Treatment specialists may work with inmates, preparing them for life after parole.

Rehabilitation Counselors

These counselors require a master's degree and help people with disabilities live more independent lives. As the U.S. population ages, growth in this area is projected to be above average.

Social Workers

Social workers can serve in a variety of settings, including with families and children. These professionals hold bachelor's or master's degree, but licensed social workers must hold a master's degree. With a projected growth rate of 16% over the next several years, this position is growing much faster than the average position in the U.S.

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

As the opioid crisis continues to grip the country, these counselors find themselves in increasingly high demand; the BLS projects this position to increase by 23% from 2016-2026. These social workers, who must earn master's degrees, work with people who battle addiction and/or mental illness.

Median Salaries and Employment for Social Work Specialties in Montana

  Employment Annual Mean Wage
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 1,430 $35,940
Healthcare Social Workers 550 $48,620
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 430 $36,720
Social Workers, All Other 660 $42,340
Source: BLS

College scholarships represent one of the best ways for students to help pay for an education. Unlike other forms of financial aid, including federal and private loans, learners never have to repay scholarships. Montana residents and social work students may qualify for a variety of awards, including the ones listed below.

Social Work Scholarships

Bud Daniels Memorial Scholarship $500

Who Can Apply: The Montana Farmers Union sponsors this scholarship. It invites student with a parent in the union to apply for this award. Applicants must be Montana residents attending a state university, college, or vocational technical college. Students must be a sophomore or above and hold a minimum 2.8 GPA. View Scholarship

Judith Holm Award $1,000

Who Can Apply: Students in their final year of graduate school working toward a degree in social work can apply for this national scholarship. To apply, individuals write an essay addressing a prompt provided by the foundation. View Scholarship

Bethesda Lutheran Communities Service Scholarship $3,000

Who Can Apply: Students who belong to the Lutheran church and intend to pursue a career helping people with developmental disabilities can apply for this national scholarship. Applicants need to be a freshman, sophomore, or junior attending an accredited higher learning institution and hold a GPA of 3.0 or higher. View Scholarship

Carl A. Scott Memorial Fund $500

Who Can Apply: CSWE awards this scholarship to students in their final year of a social work degree program. Applicants must also hold a 3.0 GPA and demonstrate dedication to social justice. View Scholarship
  • CSWE Press This publication from CSWE focuses on the needs of social work educators and their students. Subscribers can learn about current events in the field of social work education and stay up-to-date on research.
  • Montana Board of Behavioral Health This state board helps students prepare for licensure examinations and keep up with laws related to social work in Montana. The board's website also answers frequently asked questions and hosts news stories that students may find useful. Finally, the board's site is also a good resource for learning about continuing education opportunities.
  • NASW Montana Chapter In addition to awarding certifications to social workers, NASW offers opportunities for networking and career development. On the Montana chapter's site, students can find information specific to social work in Montana, upcoming networking events, and news about advocacy programs.
  • Montana Department for Human Health and Services DPHHS is one of the largest employers of social work professionals in Montana. The department's site can also help students find job opportunities and news about the sector.
  • National Child Welfare Workforce Institute Social work students who want to work with children and families should consider joining the NCWWI. This organization provides networking opportunities, webinars, and services for social work professionals in this area.