Alaska licenses social workers at multiple levels: baccalaureate, master’s, and clinical. All social work candidates must complete approved academic programs, meet examination requirements, and provide professional references. Clinical social workers must also meet supervised practice requirements. The practice of clinical social work includes psychotherapy and diagnosis of mental disorders.
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Social work education is considered approved if the program is offered by the University of Alaska or is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. CSWE-accredited programs are located throughout the nation.(See: Master’s of Social Work Programs in Alaska)
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The Examination Process
Candidates will need to pass licensing examinations at the appropriate level. Examinations are administered by the Association of Social Work Boards. They are in multiple choice format (https://www.aswb.org/exam-candidates/about-the-exams/). The cost of examination is $230 at the bachelor’s or master’s levels and $260 at the clinical level; this is as of early 2018. The Alaska Board notes that the ASWB has made practice examinations available for $85 – and that they have heard positive comments about the practice exam from candidates and from members of other state boards (https://www.commerce.alaska.gov/web/cbpl/ProfessionalLicensing/SocialWorkExaminers/FAQs.aspx).
Candidates apply for permission to test. (Essentially, this means they submit license applications before all requirements have been met.) ASWB registration can then be carried out online (https://www.aswb.org/exam-candidates/exam-registration/).
Candidates are expected to pass the examination within one year. In some cases, the Board may grant an extension. Candidates should be aware that the wait time imposed after a failed attempt is approximately three months.
The ASWB has partnered with Pearson VUE. Testing centers are also located throughout the nation. The Pearson VUE website lists three Alaska testing centers: in Anchorage, Kodiak, and Fairbanks. Candidates who live in very remote locations may have the opportunity to set up appointments through special arrangement.
Supervised Practice Requirements
Prospective clinical social workers must work under supervision for a minimum of two years. They will need to accrue at least 3,000 hours; a part-time schedule typically means that the person must work longer than two years.
In order for hours to be credited, the individual must earn the recommendation of his or her supervisor.
The individual will need 100 hours of clinical supervision. It is to be distributed in an equitable manner over the course of the supervision period. The supervision will consist of face to face meetings with a clinical social worker, psychiatrist, or psychologist except in cases where the Board grants an exception. In most cases, no more than 50 hours of group supervision can be credited.
Clinical supervision focuses on professional identity development, ethics, regulatory issues, and skills required for clinical work, practice management, and continuing competency.
The Application Process
Application materials can be downloaded from the website of the Alaska Board of Social Work Examiners (https://www.commerce.alaska.gov/web/cbpl/ProfessionalLicensing/SocialWorkExaminers/ApplicationsForms.aspx). Forms are revised periodically.
The licensing agency requires certified copies of qualifying transcripts. It also requires verification from any other states where a license has been held.
Applicants will need three references. An applicant who is currently employed in the field is expected to provide a reference from his or her work supervisor. An applicant who has been employed in the field in the past is generally expected to provide a reference from a past supervisor; there can, however, be situations where this is not possible.
References who have not provided supervision in an employment context should be professionals who have graduate degrees in social work or hold one of the following alternate credentials: marriage and family therapist, professional counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist, psychological associate, physician, advanced practice mental health nurse, or RN with a master’s in psychiatric nursing.
An applicant who has had a criminal conviction will need to provide a thorough explanation. Explanation is also required for other circumstances which could call into question professional fitness.
The applicant will pay a $100 nonrefundable application fee. There is a separate licensing fee that can be remitted at the time of application or held until such time as the examination is passed. Licensing fees range from $300 to $400, depending on level; this is as of early 2018.
The application requires notarization.
Applications are considered at Board meetings (https://www.commerce.alaska.gov/web/cbpl/ProfessionalLicensing/SocialWorkExaminers/UpcomingMeetings.aspx).
License by Acceptance of Credentials
Social workers who hold current licensing in other states can be licensed by acceptance of credentials if the license meets standards and the applicant is able to demonstrate that continuing competency requirements have been met. The professional is expected to have practiced a minimum of 1,500 hours during the preceding five-year period; work experience verification forms are included in the application package.
The applicant must provide references.
Renewal is biennial. Alaska has a continuing education requirement. Moreover, licensees need to take classes in specific practice-related areas: substance abuse, ethics, and cross-cultural education.
A list of approved continuing education courses can be found on the Board website (https://www.commerce.alaska.gov/web/cbpl/ProfessionalLicensing/SocialWorkExaminers/ContinuingEducationCourses.aspx). The page also includes information about other acceptable continuing education activities.
A candidate who has recently passed an examination may utilize this in place of the usual continuing competency requirements. Requirements are described on the Board FAQ page (https://www.commerce.alaska.gov/web/cbpl/ProfessionalLicensing/SocialWorkExaminers/FAQs.aspx).
Licensing information is available from the Alaska Board of Social Work Examiners (https://www.commerce.alaska.gov/web/cbpl/professionallicensing/socialworkexaminers.aspx). The licensing agency can be reached by email at ‘license at Alaska.gov’.