This detailed guide will explain everything you need to know about earning an MSW or a master’s in social work degree in Hawaii. It provides information about different levels of social work licensure, what is required in terms of clinical hours, and what programs both in-state and out-of-state students can find in Hawaii. The guide focuses on MSWs since these degrees are required for clinical licensure.
CONTENTS OF THIS GUIDE
- Social work in Hawaii
- MSW programs
- Online MSW programs
- How to become a social worker
- License requirements
- Social worker jobs and salary
- Job outlook
- Expert advice
- School listings
Social work in Hawaii
Hawaii is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful states in the US. But it’s also one of the most expensive places to live, with the median home price hovering at over $500,000. Furthermore, even everyday goods like groceries are around 55 percent more expensive for average citizens. Other costs are similarly high: up to 24 percent higher on average for transportation costs and 10 percent more for healthcare costs.
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Because of this, although Hawaii has a higher than average proportion of the population with education levels greater than high school, it also has a low amount of home ownership and some poverty issues. Furthermore, Hawaii’s population is increasingly growing due to an influx of seniors.
All this is to say that Hawaii, despite its gorgeous setting, does have some issues that social workers are uniquely positioned to tackle. Future social workers in this state will likely focus on poverty, healthcare, and mental health issues above other aspects. There are, luckily, a few ways to get your MSW or another social work degree in this state.
MSW programs in Hawaii
A master’s in social work degree is required if you want to practice independently or clinically as a social worker in Hawaii and other states. As programs for graduate-level degrees, MSW programs normally require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in the field, or at least some core social work credits under their belt.
You’ll also want to target MSW degrees that are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. These programs are basically vetted by key social work organizations, so you know that they have an appropriate level of rigor and teach up-to-date social work concepts. Such programs are usually necessary for clinical licensing, as well.
CSWE-accredited MSW programs will provide:
- Many key social work classes that go over the core concepts you’ll need to succeed
- Some specialized classes that will allow you to focus on one or more social work areas or interests
- Some elective classes so you can round out your education or earn a secondary degree
- A number of clinical practice hours that are needed for both your degree and for clinical licensure. These will be completed at a local clinic or social work center
Since Hawaii is extremely limited in terms of land space, it’s no surprise that there are only a few social work programs overall offered by local universities.
The first MSW program is offered by Hawaii Pacific University, a private institution that offers an advanced generalist focus. It’s a perfect degree for social workers that don’t have a specialty they want to pursue. There’s both a two-year traditional program and a one-year advanced standing program for those who already have a bachelor’s degree in social work. An additional peer mentorship program is offered to new students who come from out of state.
The University of Hawaii at Manoa is another program that offers several specializations, such as focuses on criminal justice, children and families, mental health, or gerontology. The program also offers advanced standing scheduling depending on your experience level, plus dual degree options with degrees such as urban planning.
Online MSW programs in Hawaii
An online MSW program may be a valuable alternative if your schedule is too busy to focus on school alone. Online programs still offer the rigor of an in-person program but allow you to complete your work on an asynchronous schedule. Furthermore, online programs can be completed from anywhere in the world.
You’ll still need to complete the clinical practice hours, but these can be accomplished at a local center or clinic near your home instead of the same clinic associated with the university in question.
Hawaii’s online MSW programs are pretty limited, though the University of Hawaii at Manoa offers their MSW degree with a “child and families” specialization through a uniquely designed online curriculum.
How to become a social worker in Hawaii
Becoming a social worker in Hawaii involves completing all of the prerequisites or educational steps before applying for licensure. Each level of licensure allows for different responsibilities or types of practice. Hawaii offers three levels of licensure overall.
Licensed Bachelor Social Worker (LBSW)
This certificate is a basic license that allows you to practice entry-level social work while being supervised by another, clinically licensed social worker. It requires a bachelor’s degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program.
- Submit your application to the Association of Social Work Board, which costs $60
- Pass the ASWB’s Bachelor’s exam, which costs $230 and which has 170 multiple-choice questions
- Receive your license if you pass the exam. You’ll also need to pay another fee of between $103 and $221 based on your licensure date
Licensed Social Worker (LSW)
This middling license will allow you to practice advanced, though still non-clinical, social work in Hawaii. You’ll be able to do things like perform research or practice psychosocial assessment. You don’t always have to work under supervision with this credential.
- Obtain a CSWE-accredited MSW degree
- Submit your application to the Board and pay the $60 fee
- Pass the ASWB Master’s or Advanced Generalist exam, which costs $230 or $260 and which has 170 multiple-choice questions
- Receive your license if you pass the exam. You’ll need to pay another fee of between $166 and $314
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
This last level of licensure allows you to operate independently and clinically in social work. You need all the clinical practice requirements fulfilled before applying for this certificate.
- Submit your application to the Board and pay the $60 fee
- Pass the Clinical exam, which costs $260 and has 170 questions
- Receive your license if you pass the exam, and pay the additional fee that will be between $238 and $418
Social work license requirements in Hawaii
Hawaii’s social workers are observed by the Hawaiian Professional and Vocational Licensing Division. According to their requirements, all LCSW social workers must have:
- At least 3,000 hours of post-master’s clinical social work experience within two to five years
- At least 2,000 of those hours must be obtained while directly providing clinical services like diagnosis or psychotherapy
- Furthermore, 100 of those hours must be supervised from an LCSW who has 4,500 hours of clinical experience
All social work licenses must be renewed every three years before June 30. Additionally, every license holder has to complete 45 hours of continuing education during every renewal cycle. At least three CE credits have to be in ethics-related courses. On the bright side, you don’t have to complete any continuing education during your first renewal cycle.
Social worker job and social worker salary in Hawaii
We can take a look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which breaks down social workers into four major categories, to see what salary of future social workers can expect when working in Hawaii.
- Child, family, and school social workers will earn an average annual salary of $57,050 or $27.43 per hour. These are the most numerous in Hawaii at around 1,700.
- Healthcare social workers can expect an annual salary of around $71,260 or $34.26 per hour. There are 760 healthcare social workers in Hawaii at the time of this writing.
- Mental health and substance abuse social workers will earn an average salary of $59,330 or $28.52 per hour, and there are only around 420 of these.
- All other social workers might see high salaries of around $81,520 or $39.19 per hour. These are the rarest social workers in Hawaii, numbering 200 in total.
These salaries are either on par with or above the national social worker salary, which is closer to $50,000 on average. This makes sense since Hawaii has a relatively high cost of living, so social workers need higher salaries to make ends meet. Still, this is good news for new social workers – social workers in any discipline can expect good salaries!
Outlook for social workers in Hawaii
The job outlook for social workers in Hawaii specifically is not fully known. But social worker positions overall are expected to grow by nearly 100,000 across the country, and many of these may crop up in Hawaii due to the influx of senior citizens and growing poverty issues. It’s tough to say exactly how many positions will be available, but it’s not out of order to expect at least several thousand to appear in many of Hawaii’s metropolitan centers.
All in all, future social workers in Hawaii should have little issue finding a job, provided they have the right license.
Social Work Programs in Hawaii
- What are the most important factors for students deciding on an MSW program in Hawaii?
- What are the challenges or opportunities for becoming a social worker in Hawaii?
- What types of jobs are MSW graduates finding in Hawaii?
What are the most important factors for students deciding on an MSW program in Hawaii?
All students pursuing higher education should consider their passions and desire for a future career, the marketplace and job openings within that career, and the value of their education as well as their potential future salary. One of the things that makes Hawaii a unique setting for social work is the diversity, which includes the multi-ethnic makeup of Hawaii, the indigenous Hawaiian community, a thriving LGBTQ community, religious diversity, international experiences and populations, as well as a military and VA community. Students who decide to attend the MSW program at HPU are able to experience working with any of these diverse communities, as well as the supervision and guidance of a diverse faculty. Another factor that students should consider when selecting a university is the value for their money. HPU offers small class sizes where MSW students can get individual attention and mentorship. HPU’s curriculum is also guided by an advisory board which maintains close ties with the community as well as the Hawaii Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).
What are the challenges or opportunities for becoming a social worker in Hawaii?
Hawaii is a unique setting, one of the social work challenges here is that Hawaii is a chain of islands with the urban hub on Oahu. Similar to states like Alaska, rural Hawaii residents may need to catch a flight from their island to the urban hub in order to receive certain medical or mental health treatments. This can make providing services in rural Hawaii challenging and may provide social workers with unique opportunities.
What does the future of social work look like in Hawaii?
Overall employment of social workers is projected to grow 13 percent from 2019 to 2029 (U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020). Social work in Hawaii is expanding. The Hawaii State NASW board will be conducting a market analysis in the upcoming year which will shed some light on which areas of the social work marketplace are currently expanding. The COVID-19 pandemic has also caused an increase in mental health concerns and a need for more social workers.
What types of jobs are MSW graduates finding in Hawaii?
MSW graduates in Hawaii have attained employment in a variety of areas including working with Veterans Affairs, child protective services, Hawaii schools as school social workers, the juvenile justice system, working with the Hawaii Legislature, active duty military, hospitals as medical social workers, and in elder and geriatric care. Social workers can be found in almost all service settings and MSW graduates in Hawaii are competitive for these jobs.
Do you have advice or guidance for MSW graduates pursuing a license in Hawaii?
Licensure in Hawaii requires MSW students to take a clinical exam and to accumulate at least 3,000 hours of post-graduate supervised clinical social work experience in an agency setting. Full requirements for licensure can be found cca.hawaii.gov. Due to COVID-19 state testing sites have had long wait times and social workers on outer islands have had difficulty scheduling to take the licensing exam. My advice to MSW graduates pursuing licensure in Hawaii would be to plan ahead and schedule the exam in advance and to contact the licensing board with any questions.