Become a Social Worker in Kentucky

Begin your career in social work alongside the canyons of the Red River Gorge, the distilleries of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and a state-wide network of over 10,800 social workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The East Kentucky nonmetropolitan area also has one of the highest concentrations of child, family and school social workers in the United States. 

This guide for how to become a social worker in Kentucky explains educational requirements, how to get licensed, social work organizations to join and more. Once you complete the steps to become a social worker in Kentucky, you can embark on a meaningful, fulfilling career helping others in the Bluegrass State. 

Information below was retrieved May 2022 and is only meant to be a high-level overview. Requirements may change, always check with the state licensing board for complete and up to date information.

Sponsored Online Social Work Programs

Howard University

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

The online Master of Social Work program from Howard University School of Social Work prepares students for advanced direct or macro practice in culturally diverse communities. Two concentrations available: Direct Practice and Community, Administration, and Policy Practice. No GRE. Complete in as few as 12 months.

University of Denver

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

The University of Denver’s Online MSW Program is delivered by its top-ranked school of social work and offers two programs. Students can earn their degree in as few as 12 months for the Online Advanced-Standing MSW or 27 months for the Online MSW.

Fordham University

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

Fordham’s skills-based, online MSW program integrates advanced relevant social work competencies, preparing students to serve individuals and communities while moving the profession forward. This program includes advanced standing and traditional MSW options.

Simmons University

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

Aspiring direct practitioners can earn their MSW online from Simmons University in as few as 12 months. GRE scores are not required, and the program offers full-time, part-time, accelerated, and advanced standing tracks.

University of Southern California

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

The MSW@USC is the online Master of Social Work from top-ranked USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. USC offers virtual and in-person field education, and students focus on adults, youth or social change.

Syracuse University

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

Syracuse University’s online Master of Social Work program does not require GRE scores to apply and is focused on preparing social workers who embrace technology as an important part of the future of the profession. Traditional and Advanced Standing tracks are available. 

Baylor University

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

Complete the Master of Social Work online program at Baylor University in as few as 12 months. Serve populations in Texas and around the world while ethically integrating faith and social work practice. No GRE required.

Case Western Reserve University

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Master of Social Work (MSW)

In as few as a year and a half, you can prepare for social work leadership by earning your Master of Social Work online from Case Western Reserve University’s school of social work.

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Common Steps to Become a Kentucky Social Worker

Before becoming a social worker in Kentucky, you must obtain a bachelor’s degree in social work and a social work license depending on what career path you choose. Kentucky offers three types of social work licenses. Based on your goals, there may also be additional requirements such as a background check and clinical supervision. Below are the steps on how to obtain social work licenses in Kentucky, which were retrieved from the Kentucky State Board of Social Work.

1. Earn a CSWE-accredited social work degree

To become a licensed social worker in Kentucky, you will have to complete a BSW or Master of Social Work (MSW) program accredited by the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE). You can pursue these degrees in Kentucky through various formats, including full time, part time and online.

2. Fulfill your social work supervised experience requirement and pass your national/state exams

Kentucky has three levels of social workers, according to the state’s licensing board, with increasing requirements:

Licensed social worker (LSW): A person with an accredited bachelor’s degree in social work or related field that has passed the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) bachelor’s exam.

Certified social worker (CSW): A person with an accredited master’s degree in social work that has passed the ASWB master’s exam. 
Licensed clinical social worker (LCSW): A person with an accredited master’s or doctoral degree in social work that has passed the ASWB clinical exam. Those looking to attain this license must have also earned 3,120 hours of supervised social work experience.

3. Get licensed

Once you’ve completed your hours and experience, you may apply to become a licensed social worker in Kentucky.

Learn more on how to become a social worker.

Social Work Degree Programs in Kentucky

There are 20 accredited BSW and MSW degree programs in Kentucky. A bachelor’s degree in social work online or on campus can enable a student to enter an advanced standing program in an MSW program, where you may be able to complete an MSW in about one year. A BSW also prepares students for entry-level social work positions. There are 13 universities offering accredited BSW programs in Kentucky.

In order to obtain higher-level licenses in Kentucky, however, a minimum of an MSW is required. Some individuals further their education and experience in social work by pursuing a Doctor of Social Work (DSW) degree.

Master of Social Work (MSW) Programs in Kentucky

MSW programs in Kentucky teach students advanced social work theories and practical knowledge. MSW programs may include coursework on topics such as human development, social work policy and intervention. There are four fully accredited MSW programs in Kentucky.

Online MSW Programs in Kentucky

There are six online MSW programs in Kentucky that are fully accredited. The online MSW programs offer the same curriculum and coursework traditional on-campus Kentucky programs do. Students are taught by the same professors and also complete fieldwork as part of the program.

Social Work Licenses in Kentucky

Kentucky has three types of licenses for social workers: licensed social worker (LSW), certified social worker (CSW) and licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). While you may practice entry-level social work with a BSW, the Kentucky Board requires an MSW or DSW to practice more specialized social work. All information on LSW, CSW and LCSW below was retrieved from the Kentucky State Board of Social Work.

Licensed Social Worker (LSW) in Kentucky

Becoming an LSW means that you’ll be able to practice non-clinical social work and clinical social work under Board-licensed supervision.

  • Education Requirement: Bachelor of Social Work Degree
  • Field Requirements: None
  • Exams: ASWB Bachelor’s Exam
  • License Renewal: 40 hours of professional development in continuing education

Certified Social Worker (CSW) in Kentucky

Becoming a CSW allows you to practice non-clinical social work independently and clinical social work under supervision.

  • Education Requirement: Master of Social Work Degree
  • Field Requirements: None
  • Exams: ASWB Master’s Exam
  • License Renewal: 40 hours of professional development in continuing education

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in Kentucky

Becoming an LCSW allows you to practice clinical and non-clinical social work independently. After three years of licensed experience, LCSWs may take a board supervisor training course to directly manage other social workers in training.

  • Education Requirement: Master or Doctor of Social Work Degree
  • Field Requirements: 3,120 hours of social work
  • Exams: ASWB Clinical Exam
  • License Renewal: 40 hours of professional development in continuing education

Social Work Salaries in Kentucky

Kentucky Social Work CareerNumber of Social Workers in KentuckyAverage Mean Social Worker Salary
Child, Family and School Social Workers
6,700
$43,440
Healthcare Social Workers
1,640
$55,540
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers
1,660
$44,560
Social Workers, All Other
760
$56,810

Information on the above social work salaries in Kentucky was retrieved from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates: Kentucky in May 2022.

Kentucky Social Work Scholarships

For those just starting on their path to social work, there are state-wide scholarships and programs in place to assist you. While each state has different offerings, below are some grants and loans to help you become an LSW, CSW or LCSW in the state of Kentucky.

Kentucky Social Work Organizations

There are countless local and national associations and organizations with goals to promote, develop and protect the practice of social work and social workers. Better social work means better solutions for issues such as welfare, child welfare, elderly welfare, health care reform and other issues affecting the disadvantaged populations in Kentucky and beyond.

FAQs

Does Kentucky offer social work license reciprocity?

Kentucky doesn’t have formal license reciprocity with other states—out-of-state applicants must apply to become licensed social workers via the same process as first-time licensees and pay the associated fees. To apply for licensure, supply your official transcript, your official ASWB exam scores and verification from the state you previously held a license from and submit.

What are the social work continuing education (CE) requirements in Kentucky?

Social workers must renew their license every three years. Additionally, LSWs must complete 15 hours of continuing education during the renewal period, and CSWs and LCSWs must complete 40 hours. To renew, complete the online renewal form and pay the associated fee.

What is the best way to look up my social work license in Kentucky?

Search for your social work license at the Kentucky Board of Social Work search. The site’s options will allow you to search your name and find your license number, license status and details surrounding your professional information.

Last updated in May 2022.