Social Work Degrees in Kentucky

Social work degrees in Kentucky open the door to meaningful careers in social services, addiction services, community care, and counseling. Licensed graduates direct clients toward resources that will help them improve their lives. Social work programs typically cover topics such as child and family services, group therapy, and human growth and development. Several schools in Kentucky provide on-campus and online social work degrees in a variety of concentrations.

It's projected that by 2024, jobs for healthcare social workers in Kentucky will increase by 37.4%. Projections Central

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that jobs for social workers will grow 16% by 2026, providing approximately 110,000 new jobs throughout the country. Kentucky faces a particularly strong demand for social workers and related occupations. Projections Central projects that by 2024, jobs for healthcare social workers in Kentucky will increase by 37.4%. The organization also projects increases of 31.5% for mental health and substance abuse social workers, 27.5% for postsecondary social work teachers, and 22.9% for social and community service managers in Kentucky. In comparison, the average rate of growth for all positions in the U.S. is just 7%. The following guide describes the process for becoming a social worker, online social work programs in Kentucky, job prospects for social work majors, and the various licenses and certifications available.

Becoming a licensed social worker in Kentucky requires, at minimum, a bachelor's degree and a licensing exam. Students at social work schools in Kentucky can choose from associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs, depending on their desired career goal. While a bachelor of social work allows individuals to obtain licensure, professionals seeking managerial roles or specific clinical careers need a master's at minimum. Students hoping to conduct research or teach at the postsecondary level need a doctorate.

Becoming a licensed social worker in Kentucky requires, at minimum, a bachelor's degree and a licensing exam.

Students should look for programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education to ensure they can apply for licensure and certification. During bachelor's and bachelor's programs, degree seekers participate in a practicums or internships to gain valuable real-world experience. These field experiences usually last one or two semesters and take place at a site approved by the school.

Upon graduation, students apply to their state's board of social work licensure, complete any training or additional requirements, and sit for the exam. In Kentucky, bachelor's candidates can earn the licensed social worker credential, while candidates with master's degrees can apply to become a certified social worker or a licensed clinical social worker. To maintain their licenses, social workers must complete continuing education credits and apply for renewal every two years.

Social work programs in Kentucky prepare graduates for a variety of professional and educational opportunities. Most aspiring social workers complete at least a bachelor's degree, since no certifications are available at the associate level. Individuals looking to take on more managerial roles or direct service positions often opt for a master's degree. Professionals interested in teaching at the college level should pursue a doctoral program.

Generally speaking, students with more education typically earn higher salaries, find better job opportunities, and obtain more senior-level positions. The following list describes each level of degree and the jobs available to graduates from each program.

Associate Degree
Associate degrees introduce students to foundational topics such as case management, diversity, and human service methods. While degrees at this level offer a great start toward becoming a social worker, students generally need more education.
Bachelor's Degree
A BSW provides students with a general understanding of the field. Topics include individuals and families, community intervention, and integrative practice. Graduates from these programs can apply to become licensed social workers in Kentucky.
Master's Degree
A master's in social work – known as an MSW – allows students to concentrate their knowledge in an area such as substance abuse, gerontology, or children and families. Graduates qualify for certification and licensure in a range of specialties.
Doctoral Degree
The highest degree attainable in the field, DSW programs require students to complete considerable independent research or create a unique project that contributes to the field. In addition to qualifying for certifications and licensure, individuals with these degrees are eligible to teach at the postsecondary level.

Since social workers work in many different clinical and nonclinical roles, most postsecondary programs offer concentrations to help learners hone specific skills and gain specialized knowledge. Each of the specializations highlighted below corresponds with different career paths. Students unsure which path to pursue should discuss options in-depth with their academic or career advisor.

Child and Family Social Worker

With a focus on bettering the lives of children and families, CFSWs connect clients with vital services such as housing, school vouchers, and food stamps. They also ensure children avoid abusive situations. Some CFSWs arrange foster care and adoptions.

School Social Worker

These social workers team up with administrators, students, and parents to identify students' challenges, create strategies for success, and combat problematic behavior.

Healthcare Social Worker

Healthcare social workers help patients cope with diagnoses, create plans of action, and develop strategies to manage illnesses. They may work in pediatrics, geriatrics, or community health.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker

These social workers support clients with mental health issues or substance dependencies. They may work in private practice, in-patient clinics, or outpatient programs.

Child and Family Social Worker: With a focus on bettering the lives of children and families, CFSWs connect clients with vital services such as housing, school vouchers, and food stamps. They also ensure children avoid abusive situations. Some CFSWs arrange foster care and adoptions. School Social Worker: These social workers team up with administrators, students, and parents to identify students' challenges, create strategies for success, and combat problematic behavior. Healthcare Social Worker: Healthcare social workers help patients cope with diagnoses, create plans of action, and develop strategies to manage illnesses. They may work in pediatrics, geriatrics, or community health. Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Worker: These social workers support clients with mental health issues or substance dependencies. They may work in private practice, in-patient clinics, or outpatient programs.

All 50 states require clinical social workers to hold a license, and most states also require nonclinical social workers to hold a license. As part of the application process, students provide documents related to their education and proof of an internship or practicum experience, pay a fee to their state's board of social work, and sit for an exam. Specific licensure requirements vary between states, and licenses do not always transfer over state lines.

Kentucky offers three licenses: licensed social worker (LSW), licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), and certified social worker (CSW).

Kentucky offers three licenses: licensed social worker (LSW), licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), and certified social worker (CSW). The LSW, considered the entry-level license, allows candidates with a bachelor's degree to receive licensure. However, these professionals cannot work in a clinical setting. The CSW credential allows individuals with an MSW to complete the two years of supervised experience required for an LCSW. Professionals with an LCSW can conduct clinical work such as diagnosing and treating patients.

Licensure is a board-issued credential that legally allows social workers to practice in their state. Certifications, on the other hand, demonstrate expertise and competency in a particular area. Such certifications recognize recipients' continued learning and specialized skill sets. They are usually optional, although certain employers may require candidates to hold certification to do work in a particular area. According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), these credentials allow potential employers to feel confident that a candidate has the specialized knowledge, personal commitment, and professional achievements needed to fulfill a specific role. To receive certification, applicants must meet a number of criteria, including education, work experience, and continuing education credits. They must also pay an application fee and pass a relevant exam. While a number of professional organizations provide certifications, the ones listed below all come from the NASW.

Advanced Practice Specialty Credentials

Before deciding on a social work program, students must consider several factors. For many, cost is the most important factor in where they ultimately attend school. In general, in-state public schools provide the best value, while out-of-state public schools and private schools cost significantly more. However, these schools may offer scholarships to make the price difference less significant. Students must decide if they want to stay in their current location or move to another city. Some questions to ask when considering location include access to support services, internship locations, and student housing. Location matters less for online students, but distance learners should still ensure there are acceptable internship locations closeby.

Degree seekers should also ensure that their preferred school offers a specialization relevant to their interests and career goals. Even if a school meets all the other requirements, if it fails to prepare students for the job they want, it is likely a poor fit. After answering all these questions, some learners may feel drawn toward an online program rather than a traditional campus-based degree. Online programs are more flexible, but also require self-discipline and strong time management skills.

Can You Earn a Social Work Degree Online in Kentucky?

Online social work degrees provide flexibility for students who want to pursue postsecondary education but lack the time to visit campus multiple times per week. Interested students can review the Eastern Kentucky University's BSW and the University of Louisville's MSW, both of which are offered entirely online. Students considering a Kentucky online social work degree should ensure any school they pick has received approval to offer degrees in their state of residence.

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) provides all programmatic accreditation for social work programs.

When finding a degree, the most important step is to ensure the program has received proper accreditation. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) provides all programmatic accreditation for social work programs. Many states require students to receive a CSWE-accredited degree in order to obtain licensure. Degree seekers can review a directory of accredited programs on the CSWE website. Prospective students should check with the Kentucky Board of Social Work to ensure their program meets licensure requirements. Students can also contact the Association of Social Work Boards.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Social Worker in Kentucky?

Each level of degree requires a different time commitment. Most associate programs take two years to complete, while most bachelor's degrees take approximately four years of full-time study. Master's degrees require 30-60 credits, depending on each student's concentration and if they pursue a clinical or nonclinical track. These programs typically take two to three years of full-time study. Doctoral degrees typically take four to seven years, depending on how long students take for their dissertation.

However, several factors can affect these timeframes. The vast majority of online Kentucky social work degrees require a supervised internship or practicum component. Students balancing school alongside work or family obligations may not be able to complete the required hours as quickly as their full-time counterparts. Some programs may not offer required classes every semester, meaning students need an extra semester to complete mandatory coursework. Other schools may offer accelerated, self-paced, or cohort-based courses. Self-paced programs allow students finish coursework more quickly or slowly depending on their needs. Cohort programs, on the other hand, require students to move through courses at the same pace as their peers.

How Much Does a Social Work Program Cost in Kentucky?

When deciding on a social work degree in Kentucky, students need to know the cost of education at various schools. According to College Board, the 2017-2018 tuition for public two-year schools was $3,570 per year. Public four-year schools charged $9,970 for in-state students and $25,620 for out-of-state students. Private schools, meanwhile, averaged $34,740 annually. Learners should work with their institutions to secure scholarships, fellowships, and grants. Learners should also seek funding from social work organizations or private foundations.

Licensing exams range from $75 to $200 in Kentucky, depending on the type of licensure. Certifications range from $150 to $450 depending on the type of certificate and whether the applicant is a member of the NASW. Continuing education courses typically vary in cost, but social workers should check with the KY Board of Social Work to ensure all credits meet state requirements. LCSWs and CSWs must complete 30 credits per renewal period, while LSWs must complete 15. All Kentucky social workers must complete credits in Kentucky social work ethics, pediatric abusive head trauma, domestic violence and elder abuse training, suicide prevention training, and HIV/AIDS.

Directory of Social Work Programs in Kentucky

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Social workers find employment in many different industries and fields, including counseling, rehabilitation, education, and social services. Individuals employed in these fields typically enjoy working with others, are passionate about helping people, and have a keen understanding of how to create change. The following list describes a few common jobs for social workers.

Social Workers

Social workers help people overcome a variety of social or mental health problems. They may also treat people for behavioral and emotional imbalances.

Health Educators

These professionals teach clients how to live a healthy lifestyle. Health educators provide one-to-one coaching and develop wellness programs. Most hold a bachelor's degree, both those with a master's or certification earn higher wages.

Correctional Treatment Specialists

These specialists help to rehabilitate offenders, connect them with social services, and reconnect them with family. Most roles require a bachelor's degree, but a master's degree makes candidates more competitive.

Career Counselors

Career counselors help clients find potential career paths, learn about jobs, and make educated decisions about which occupation to pursue. Many roles require a bachelor's degree, but as the field matures, master's degrees are becoming more common.

Social and Community Service Managers

Working with various community stakeholders, these professionals develop programs and connect clients with meaningful social services. Depending on the role and organization, some positions may require a master's degree.

Median Salaries and Employment For Social Work Specialties in Kentucky

  Employment Annual Mean Wage
Child, family, and school social workers 7,790 $40,370
Healthcare social workers 1,710 $49,150
Mental health and substance abuse social workers 760 $36,590
Social workers, all other 550 $55,230
Source: BLS

While most students don't graduate completely debt free, there are ample scholarships and grants that can significantly lower the cost of education. Students should research awards from individual schools, government agencies, local businesses, professional organizations, and private foundations. Below are a few scholarships for students pursuing a social work degree in Kentucky.

Social Work Scholarships

John Reginald White Scholarship $1,000

Who Can Apply: The Kentucky Guardianship Association grants this award to junior or senior social work majors who plan to work with adult populations. Applicants must deliver a short speech at the KGA conference and provide a cover letter, transcripts, and a short essay. Candidates must be in good standing with their school. View Scholarship

Dr. Anthony Goldson Memorial Scholarship Varies

Who Can Apply: This award, provided by Eastern Kentucky University's social work department, assists social work majors residing in Eastern Kentucky. EKU prefers applicants who have volunteered in organizations focused on diversity. Candidates should write an essay about their financial need and the importance of cultural competence and diversity. The funds cover costs associated with the practicum component of the degree. View Scholarship

Bachelor of Social Work Scholarship $100-500/year

Who Can Apply: Social work majors at Western Kentucky University can apply to this award. Candidates must submit an essay discussing their career goals and maintain a reasonable GPA. View Scholarship

College of Social Work Alumni Scholarship Varies

Who Can Apply: The University of Kentucky awards this scholarship to a student age 30 or older who has a minor child and is returning to school after leaving for five or more years. Candidates must also demonstrate financial need. View Scholarship
  • National Association of Social Workers – KY Chapter In addition to taking advantage of national member benefits, learners and practitioners who join NASW-KY receive access to student resources, information about continuing education credits, data on licensure requirements, local networking events, and advocacy efforts. Members can also sign up for the newsletter and keep up with the group on social media.
  • Kentucky Board of Social Work Students and licensed social workers can access the KYBSW website for information about state licensure, continuing education units, license verification, and steps for renewing a license. Individuals moving to KY can also find information about the process for receiving state licensure.
  • The Kentucky Society for Clinical Social Work In addition to educating the state about clinical social workers, KSCSW provides networking opportunities, continuing education, and legislative advocacy. The organization also maintains an active blog.
  • Kentucky Association of School Social Work The KASSW provides several member resources, including the annual school social worker of the year award and a history of school social work in Kentucky. The group hosts an annual fall conference held in different parts of the state and regularly sends out newsletters with relevant updates.
  • National Organization of Forensic Social Work Although Kentucky doesn't have a local organization devoted to forensic social workers, members of NOFSW can access the annual conference, opportunities for networking, a professional journal, regular newsletters, job listings, and career assistance.