While a social work degree is beneficial anywhere, it is a particularly rewarding degree in Alaska. With its many remote communities and villages, Alaska provides social workers with plenty of independent practice opportunities. With the exception of cities like Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau, the vast majority of Alaska is composed of small towns and villages.
Alaska is home to over 735,000 people, and it has one of the most diverse populations in the country. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that almost 15% of Alaska’s citizens are American Indian or Alaskan Native. Because of the sizable native population, there is a great need for social workers that have the cultural competency to work with Alaskan Natives.
Due to its fairly remote layout, Alaska is home to just two schools with Master’s of Social Work degrees. Both schools, located in Anchorage and Fairbanks, are part of the University of Alaska system. The average cost of tuition for an MSW degree is $6,352, and the average scholarship award is $2,327.
Both schools have fairly stringent entrance requirements, since becoming a social worker allows you to work with vulnerable and at-risk populations. Your Bachelor’s degree must be in social work, psychology, or another human services field. When you apply for your program, you’ll need to choose if you will be completing the two-year full-time program or the four-year part-time program.
As part of your degree, you have to complete several course sequences. The University of Alaska Anchorage includes five sequences as part of their program: a Policy Sequence, a Research Sequence, a Practice Sequence, a Field Education Sequence, and a Human Behavior Sequence. You must complete early courses in the sequence before proceeding onto more intensive courses. For example, you must complete Foundation Research Methods before moving onto your MSW Research Project.
In addition to a thorough education in the fields listed above, both programs give you several elective choices. If you plan on working in Private Independent Practice, you may want to take business-minded courses like Marketing in the Social Sector. You can take courses that prepare you for work with specific demographic groups, such as Clinical Social Work with Children, Clinical Group Therapy, and Social Work with Families.
Different educational paths prepare you for different types of employment in the social sector. Across the board, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 41% of social workers work for state and local governments. If you want to work in the fields of child welfare or substance abuse, you will likely be employed by a government agency.
After you have used your MSW to work for two years, you can apply to become a licensed clinical social worker. You may use this licensure to open a private practice where you offer therapy and counseling services. This is a particularly beneficial option in Alaska; due to the layout of the state, many communities do not have any access to mental health care. If you are willing to live in a remote area, you may have many private independent practice options.
The Board of Social Work Examiners is responsible for social work licensure in Alaska. There is a $50 application fee. You must sit for the state-required licensing exam. Passing this allows you to work as a LMSW (Licensed Master Social Worker).
Many social workers continue on to become an LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker). If this is your goal, you must complete 100 hours of supervised practice after becoming a LMSW.
You need 45 hours of continuing education hours every two years. Six of these hours must be on Alaskan Native cultural studies, six must be on substance abuse training, and three must be on professional ethics.
Salaries vary considerably depending on what your specialty is and where you work. Healthcare social workers are the highest paid in Alaska; the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that they earn an average salary of $50,750 per year. Child and family social workers earn an average salary of $41,470 per year, followed closely by substance abuse social workers, who earn an average salary of $41,200 per year (BLS, 2012).
The overall job outlook for social workers in Alaska is very positive. The two most in-demand fields are healthcare social work and mental health social work. Job growth for both fields is expected to increase by 27% through 2020. Job openings for child and family social workers are expected to grow 17% in the same time frame.
Schools in Alaska Offering Masters in Social Work Programs
- Masters in Social Work (MSW)
- $5,475 Tuition Cost
- $1,864 Scholarship and Financial Aid Awards
- Urban Campus Setting
- Masters in Community and Social Psychology
- $5,475 Tuition Cost
- $2,789 Scholarship and Financial Aid Awards
- Suburban Campus Setting