Our social work guide for Kentucky covers many different aspects of the profession. Average salaries for varying social work occupations, total employment figures, in-state social work licensure as well as the steps necessary to become a social worker in Kentucky.
In the educational segment of the guide there is a special focus on MSW programs. Most social workers choose to take a master’s degree rather than a bachelor’s, as master degree holders can earn more and advance to higher positions within the field of social work.
CONTENTS OF THIS GUIDE
- Social work in Kentucky
- MSW programs
- Online MSW programs
- How to become a social worker
- License requirements
- Social worker jobs and salary
- School listings
- Expert advice
Social work in Kentucky
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) there are 10,860 social workers in Kentucky. While these social workers are employed in a variety of roles, from healthcare to counseling, one of their key responsibilities is in mitigating the effects of the drug abuse epidemic. For instance, while the fatal drug overdose rate was falling in Kentucky for several years, this last year it rose sharply by 5 percent.
Social workers can make a difference in communities affected by drug abuse. They can offer counseling to addicts and provide support for recovering drug users to help them stay clean. Roughly 60 percent of all overdose deaths in Kentucky are associated with fentanyl and healthcare social workers can teach members of the community how to administer narcan, a fast and effective way to save a person from overdosing.
Child and family social workers can counsel children and ensure that they’re getting a good education even if there is drug abuse present in the family. There is a steady demand for social workers in Kentucky and a rewarding career begins with getting a good education.
MSW programs in Kentucky
Before applying to a university a student should ensure that the program is CSWE-accredited. A CSWE certification ensures that a master’s program is teaching the latest and best practices in the field of social work. Furthermore, many employers will only consider hiring social workers who have graduated from CSWE accredited universities.
Western Kentucky University (WKU) offers a CSWE accredited, master’s in social work program. According to the program description, “graduates are prepared as integrated social work practitioners with the values, theoretical knowledge and skills to function at many levels of intervention: individual, family, group, organizations, and community.”
Due to the rural nature of Kentucky, the WKU program places a strong focus on preparing students for rural social work, including both clinical and non-clinical social work. A full curriculum for the WKU master’s in social work program is available here.
Students may also complete a master’s in social work at Northern Kentucky University (NKU). Although the NKU course prepares students for a generalist career in social work, there is also a concentration in children and family social work. The MSW program is CSWE certified and is available in two formats.
The advanced standing program requires only 30 credit hours of study and can be completed in one year. Students must have an undergraduate degree in social work in order to take the advanced standing program. The regular standing program can be completed in two years and requires 60 credit hours of study. It is open to students with an undergraduate degree in any field.
Online MSW programs in Kentucky
The University of Kentucky (UK) offers one of Kentucky’s most popular online MSW programs. The program is 100 percent online with no requirement to attend classes on campus (although UK also offers a hybrid program, a combination of online and campus-based classes). The advanced standing program can be completed with 30 credit hours of study while the regular standing program requires 60 credit hours.
According to the University of Kentucky, students in the MSW program will, “build on your passion for helping others as you learn to provide innovative, effective support to diverse communities.” More than just a slogan, the UK program has even won a national diversity award for being a LGBTQ-friendly college. An overview of the entire curriculum is available here.
Students who are interested in learning more about the UK online MSW program, as well as other MSW programs throughout the United States, can visit our online MSW degree page.
How to become a social worker in Kentucky
An aspiring social worker can follow these steps in order to enter the profession. While it’s possible to find work with a bachelor’s degree, this guide assumes that the job seeker has their master’s.
- Graduate from a CSWE certified MSW program
- Apply for a CSW license from the Kentucky Board of Social Work. The application fee is $25 and there is an additional $125 fee at the point that the candidate actually receives their license. More information is available here
- Take and pass the ASWB master’s level exam. The exam consists of 170 questions and the fee for the exam is $230
- Pass a background check
- After the applicant has passed the ASWB exam and the background check they will be issued the CSW license
- If a social worker wishes to practice clinical social work they can begin practicing supervised social work with their CSW license. Once they’ve gained the requisite number of supervised hours they may apply for a LCSW license so that they can practice unsupervised clinical social work
A majority of social work is done by master’s degree holders in Kentucky. However, there are certain tasks that require a PhD in social work. Managing a large community center or shelter, writing high level public policy and creating surveys and using statistical analysis to interpret the results.
For social workers who are interested in this kind of work a PhD may be the best choice. More information about a PhD in social work is available on our doctorate degree page. The page also contains a directory of some of the best social work PhD programs currently available in the United States.
Social work license requirements in Kentucky
Kentucky’s Board of Social Work website is the best place to seek information about social work licensing requirements in the state. Licensing requirements and fees are subject to change at any time and the Board’s website typically offers the most up to date information.
The following are the three most common types of social work licenses in Kentucky.
Licensed Social Worker (LSW)
Students with a bachelor’s degree in social work can apply for the LSW license. While the license does allow the holder to practice unsupervised social work, the license holder is not permitted to practice unsupervised clinical social work.
Certified Social Worker (CSW)
Only students who have a master’s degree from a CSWE certified institution can apply for the CSW license. This license permits the holder to practice independent, non-clinical social work. Social workers with the CSW license may practice supervised, clinical social work and once they have enough hours of experience they may apply for the LCSW license.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
The LCSW is the only license in Kentucky which allows the social worker to practice unsupervised, clinical social work. Before a social worker can apply for a LCSW license they must have a MSW degree from a CSWE certified university, a CSW license and two years of full time, supervised clinical social work.
License renewal in Kentucky
Kentucky is lenient in their license renewal policy in that social workers must only renew their license once every three years. Most other states require an annual or bi-annual renewal. The license renewal fees are as follows
- LSW – $75
- CSW – $125
- LCSW – $200
All social workers must complete a certain amount of ongoing education before they can renew their license.
Social worker jobs and social worker salary in Kentucky
Employment surveys carried out by the BLS have shown that there are currently 10,860 social workers employed in Kentucky and the average social worker earns $44,235 per year. The highest paid social workers (which fall in the “all other” category below) earn up to $55,690 per year. The lowest paid are mental health and substance abuse social workers at $39,520 per year. A comprehensive breakdown of the salaries is shown below.
Child, family, and school social workers — There are currently 7,520 child, family, and school social workers in Kentucky and they earn an average salary of $42,570 per year.
Mental health and substance abuse social workers — There are currently 900 mental health and substance abuse social workers in Kentucky and they earn an average salary of $39,520 per year.
Healthcare social workers — There are currently 1,890 healthcare social workers in Kentucky and they earn an average salary of $49,770 per year.
All other social workers — There are currently 550 social workers employed in various other fields, including in private practices. These social workers earn an average salary of $55,690 per year.
Social Work Programs in Kentucky
- What are the most important factors for students deciding on an MSW program in Kentucky?
- Do you have advice or guidance for MSW graduates pursuing a license in Kentucky?
What are the most important factors for students deciding on an MSW program in Kentucky?
First and foremost, it is important to confirm that an MSW program in Kentucky, or in any state, is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Currently, there are eight accredited MSW programs in Kentucky. Students can check the accreditation status on the CSWE website
Do you have advice or guidance for MSW graduates pursuing a license in Kentucky?
If you plan to practice as a social worker in Kentucky, you should plan to get your license. Some graduates do go to work for agencies that are exempt from the licensing requirement, but I recommend that you pursue your license, nonetheless. Chances are very high that you will not always work for that exempt agency, and you don’t want to be in the position of needing to act quickly on a new job opportunity that requires a license or needing to take the exam five years after graduation when the material is no longer fresh in your mind. The good news is that you can apply for your license six weeks before you graduate. You can find the application forms on the Kentucky Board of Social Work’s. You will need to attach your unofficial transcript to your application. Note that there are three fees to be aware of: the application fee (that you send with your application to the Board), the examination fee (payable to ASWB), and the actual license fee (also payable to the Board). Once you are licensed, make sure that you are aware of the relevant laws in Kentucky that govern practice, especially the Code of Professional Conduct, and that you obtain at least the minimum continuing education hours: 30 units for each renewal period for MSW-level practitioners (CSW and LCSW). In your first renewal period, plan to obtain training in the Kentucky Code of Ethics (3 hours), Suicide Assessment, Treatment, and Management (6 hours), and Domestic Violence and Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation (3 hours). Lastly, be aware that your license must be renewed every 3 years, so be careful not to let it lapse!