Social Work Degrees, Schools, and Careers in Arkansas
According to the Council on Social Work Education, Arkansas has 11 accredited social work degree programs within its borders and just two of them are offered by private institutions. For those unwilling to do the math that means the Arkansas Department of Higher Education is responsible for the oversight and facilitation of the vast majority of social work education in the state. Six of the nine accredited degree programs offered by state universities are of the Bachelor of Social Work variety (BSW) and the other three are Master of Social work degree programs. This allows students inside and outside of Arkansas a wealth of different options to choose from when it comes to picking a program and path towards licensure.
Arkansas, as one might expect from a state with so many degree programs offering the opportunity to start a career in social work, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the state also has a sizable professional community that is diverse in both the type of professionals and the pay scale of those professionals. Child, family and school social workers (1,240) and healthcare social workers (1,050) make up well more than half of the state’s roughly 4,000 professional social workers according to the latest data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. But there are also at least 960 substance abuse social workers in the state and another 680 other types of social workers as well. These social workers make an annual average salary of between $45,380 for mental health and substance abuse social workers and $56,630 for healthcare social workers.
The Arkansas Social Work Licensing Board is responsible for approving licensure for applicants in the state. It approves three levels of licensure in the state. They are:
Licensed Social Worker (LSW)
The requirements include: a bachelor's degree in social work from an accredited program; successful completion of the Bachelor’s level examination; and passing a criminal background check. This license really only serves as a foot in the door because licensees are not allowed to practice clinical social work under state law.
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)
The requirements include: a master's degree in social work from an accredited program; successful completion of the approved examination; and passing a criminal background check. This is for applicants who want clinical licensure but have not yet received or earned the required social work experience. They too may only perform specific duties and cannot administer licensed clinical care.
Licensed Certified Social Worker (LCSW)
The requirements include: a master's degree in social work from an accredited program; 2 years (roughly 4,000 hours) of post-master's LCSW supervised social work experience; successful completion of the examination; and passing a criminal background check.
The Board may grant a license without examination to an applicant meeting all the requirements for licensure in Arkansas but currently is licensed out of state. Application costs are less than $200, but the exams can be a little bit pricier and are offered through the Association of Social Work Boards.
Arkansas Social Work Degrees, Schools, and Careers
There are a number of programs throughout the state that offer high quality degree programs. For example, Arkansas State University offers both a BSW and MSW program. The BSW has been accredited since the late 1970s while the MSW program was accredited in the last 10 years. This MSW offers a concentration in rural based clinical social work practice and students can also complete a certificate in Addictions Studies while completing their MSW. The University of Arkansas in Fayetteville is another school that offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in the subject and has a program ranked among the Top 105 in the country according to US World News & Report. The program also includes a field requirement and the mission of the school is “to improve the lives of vulnerable persons, families, groups, organizations and communities, especially those in economic risk”. The program is particularly well-acclimated with the community and working with the community to create great social workers.
The other school that offers both a BSW and MSW program is the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The MSW program at the university is the oldest in the state and has been accredited since 1969. The program offers concentrations in clinical practice, community development and management. It also has certificate options for marriage and family, gerontology and non-profit management.
The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers a BSW program that has been accredited since 1989 while the University of Arkansas at Monticello has a BSW program that has only been accredited since 2000. The other three schools in the state that offer social work degrees are Southern Arkansas University, which has a BSW program accredited since 2000 as well; Harding University, which is one of the two private schools offering a BSW option; and historically black Philander Smith College.
Online Social Work Schools in Arkansas
Unfortunately, despite all of the traditional options. Arkansas has been a late entrant into the online education space and none of its universities offer any online accredited degree programs in social work. This doesn’t mean that students in Arkansas are out of luck however. There are a number of CSWE-accredited online degree programs that are open to students across the country.
For example, Western New Mexico University and Humboldt State both offer part-time and full-time online options with very few in-person and on-campus requirements. Arizona State, USC, Boise State and Boston University all offer online MSW programs from prestigious schools that are ranked around the country and do not have stringent on-campus requirements for any part of the program.
Career Opportunities for Social Workers in Arkansas
Arkansas has a wide array of career opportunities that are both traditional and unique to the state. For example, the Department of Human Services and Department of Veteran Affairs in Little Rock are looking for supervisory social workers currently and always seem to need extra hands in that department. The North Arkansas Regional Medical Center in Harrison is looking for social workers currently, as is the Arkansas Hospice, Inc. and Hope Cancer Resources in Springdale.
Even the Department of Corrections, the National Guard, and the Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp. are currently looking for social workers. For more information, visit the website for the Arkansas Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. It has a job board and is a great resource for tips on passing the licensure exam and passing all the necessary licensure requirements.
For more information about the process of becoming a social worker in Arkansas, visit our page on Arkansas social worker license requirements.
2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics job market trends and salary figures for social workers, child, family, and school social workers, healthcare social workers, mental health and substance abuse social workers, and social workers (all other) are based on national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed July 2023.
Child, Family, and School Social Workers Salary in Arkansas
|Fort Smith, AR-OK||$20,800||$27,930||$32,270||$38,650||$46,200|
|Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR||$22,510||$31,650||$37,470||$47,040||$59,470|
|Pine Bluff, AR||$20,060||$24,160||$31,640||$39,080||$56,510|
Table data taken from 2020 BLS (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211021.htm)
Healthcare Social Workers Salary in Arkansas
|Fort Smith, AR-OK||$27,460||$37,290||$46,690||$58,120||$68,170|
|Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR||$30,120||$36,400||$51,680||$60,760||$71,370|
Table data taken from 2020 BLS (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211022.htm)
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers Salary in Arkansas
|Fort Smith, AR-OK||$19,350||$22,130||$26,660||$39,850||$53,430|
|Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR||$21,850||$26,090||$32,170||$37,750||$52,900|
Table data taken from 2020 BLS (http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211023.htm)