The below page will serve as a detailed guide to give you everything you need to know about how to become a social worker in Arkansas. It covers various social work programs, both in-person and online. It focuses primarily on master’s in social work or MSWs. These advanced degrees are required for clinical licensing and are quite popular with modern social work students.
CONTENTS OF THIS GUIDE
- MSW programs
- Online MSW programs
- How to become a social worker
- License requirements
- Social work jobs and salary
- Job outlook
- School listings
Social work in Arkansas
Arkansas is one of the most diverse regions in the US. It features interior highlands, lowlands by the Mississippi River, and the famous Ozark Mountains. All of these varying geographical features are mirrored by the varying social work needs for its population.
Arkansas is not the most metropolitan state, and the majority of its residents live in smaller, rural towns the likes of which are being hit the hardest with the substance abuse and poverty issues currently sweeping across the nation. As a result, social workers in this state will inordinately be asked to focus on mental health and substance abuse and child, family, and school issues compared to other types.
However, Arkansas is also an excellent state for social workers in terms of salary, as the low cost of living means every dollar goes farther. Let’s break down exactly what you can expect from learning about social work within this diverse and challenging state.
MSW programs in Arkansas
MSW programs are the key credential target that all aspiring social workers will want to reach. But while all MSWs are valuable, only those certified or accredited by the Council on Social Work Education are worth your time and money. That’s because these programs are required for most states’ licensing boards.
A CSWE-accredited MSW program will include:
- A wide variety of modern and up-to-date social work classes. These ensure that new social workers are taught with modern ethics and understandings of social problems
- Specializing classes that allow social work students to focus on a particular field or type of social work, like healthcare or mental health
- A certain number of practical hours to be completed for graduation, with further hours being required to achieve clinical licensure
- Electives to round out your education or to pursue a secondary degree depending on the program
Although Arkansas is a more rural state than many, there are multiple top-tier MSW programs and schools to choose from.
The University of Arkansas is one such place: it’s a public institution with over 20,000 undergraduate students every year. It features both bachelor’s and master’s level social work degrees, plus a one-year, full-time online advanced standing MSW program for those who already have a BSW. Any advanced standing students will begin during the summer and earn their credentialing one year or less. They also offer a dual degree in social work and law.
Or you can try Arkansas State University. This public university also offers CSWE-accredited BSW and MSW programs. The latter of the two emphasizes rural social work practice and clinical skills: two areas that social workers looking to stay in Arkansas will need to sharpen for a successful career. Furthermore, all students will learn about how trauma can inform practice and certain specific needs for rural communities throughout Arkansas.
Online MSW programs in Arkansas
Technology has made remote learning and online MSW programs a valid alternative for many students. Online programs may be attractive since they allow you to complete your education while maintaining multiple responsibilities. For instance, you can balance a steady family life or a busy job while attending class at night or through another, asynchronous schedule relative to the university. Either way, online MSW programs are just as valuable as their in-person counterparts.
As mentioned, the University of Arkansas features an online advanced standing MSW program for those who already have a bachelor’s degree in the same field. It’s a particularly good choice due to its speed and because students have the opportunity to complete a valuable capstone project. This will combine all of their learning in social work theory with real practice. You can alternatively complete a thesis instead of a capstone, which may be especially valuable if you want to pursue social work academically instead of clinically.
How to become a social worker in Arkansas
In Arkansas, social workers have the opportunity to pursue three separate licenses. Each of them affords different responsibilities and opportunities to practice social work, and in different contexts.
Licensed Social Worker (LSW)
This basic credential only requires a bachelor’s degree in social work. As an entry-level license, it will allow you to complete any nonclinical social work so long as you are supervised by a higher-certified social worker.
- Complete the LSW application and file it with the Association of Social Work Board. This costs $100
- Complete the criminal background check, including mailing your fingerprint into the Board, and received a provisional license
- Pass the ASWB Bachelor’s Exam, which costs $230 and is comprised of 170 multiple-choice questions
- Receive your license if you pass the exam
Licensed Master Social Worker
As the name suggests, you’ll need an MSW for this credential. It’s mostly used as a stepping stone credential to clinical licensure, and it allows you to provide extra social work services so long as you are supervised.
- Complete your application and submit it to the Board, and pay the $100 fee
- Complete your background check and received a provisional license. This provisional license is valid for up to one year
- Pass the ASWB Master’s Exam, which costs $230 and which has 170 questions
- Receive your license if you pass the exam
Licensed Certified Social Worker
This last level of licensure allows you to work independently and clinically in the state of Arkansas. You must have an MSW degree, of course.
- Gain the necessary experience for licensure
- Complete your application and pay the $100 fee
- Complete the criminal background check and get a provisional license
- Pass the ASWB Clinical Exam, which costs $260 and has 170 questions
- Receive your license if you pass the exam
Social work license requirements in Arkansas
The Arkansas Social Work Licensing Board dictates all social work licensure requirements for this state. To become an LCSW, applicants must have 4,000 hours of postgraduate and supervised social work experience.
Furthermore, this experience has to be completed in at least two years and one hour of face-to-face supervision per week must be maintained. A Supervision Plan form must be submitted to the Board within 60 days of beginning your supervised work.
All Arkansas social workers must renew their license every two years on the last day of the original month of licensure issuing. Social workers must pay $80 and complete 40 hours of continuing education every two years, and only a maximum of 20 hours can be obtained through home study or Internet courses.
Arkansas also offers social worker licensure by “reciprocity”. This means social workers licensed in other states can become license in Arkansas without having to retake the appropriate exam. You just need to complete an application form and submit a $100 fee.
Social work jobs and social worker salary in Arkansas
To determine average salaries for Arkansas social workers, we can look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The break down all salaries into four categories:
- Child, family, and school social workers can expect an average annual salary of $40,620 or an hourly wage of $19.53. There are 1,440 of these social workers in Arkansas right now.
- Healthcare social workers should expect an annual salary of $50,480 or $24.27 per hour, and 1,280 of them practice in Arkansas.
- Mental health and substance abuse social workers will receive an average annual salary of $37,440 or $18 per hour. Only 1,070 mental health social workers practice in Arkansas.
- All other social workers should expect an annual salary of $49,730 or an hourly wage of $23.91. There are currently about 570 other social workers in Arkansas.
This is, ultimately, a bit below the average national salary for social workers around the US, which is closer to $50,000. However, given the low cost of living in Arkansas, it is likely that most Arkansas social workers can live comfortable lives, especially if they live in rural communities.
Outlook for social workers in Arkansas
The job outlook for all Arkansas social workers is difficult to determine. But national estimates point to there being close to 100,000 new social workers by 2029. This will likely translate locally into several thousand new social work positions due to open up over the next year. When you consider the rising healthcare requirements for America’s aging population nationwide, plus all of the need for mental health and substance abuse assistance throughout Arkansas, this makes plenty of sense.
All in all, Arkansas social workers will likely be able to make a solid living and find a stable position within a few months to a year of obtaining their MSW within the state.