How to Become a Social Worker in Kentucky

Kentucky Social Work License Requirements

Practicing the profession of social work is about offering support to vulnerable groups that can include those with physical disabilities, mental disabilities and people with emotional or mental health issues. Social work requires an extensive amount of training to be engaged in effectively, and practitioners must be licensed in whatever state they practice in.

In Kentucky there are three different licenses available to potential social workers:

  1. Licensed Social Worker (LSW)
  2. Certified Social Worker (CSW)
  3. Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

Individuals who are interested in pursuing a social worker’s license in the state of Kentucky must first obtain the necessary coursework, and in some cases, must obtain experience in the field. All candidates must pass a state-level examination in order to obtain a social work license. Below is a general outline of the requirements for obtaining a social worker’s license in Kentucky. For more in-depth information, please refer to the National Association of Social Workers; Kentucky Chapter.

LICENSE TYPE
EDUCATION REQUIREMENT SUPERVISED EXPERIENCE EXAM
Licensed Social Worker (LSW) Bachelor's Degree in Social Work

No clinical experience required for licensure.

Passing grade in an examination prepared by the Kentucky Board of Social Work
Certified Social Worker (CSW) Master's or Doctorate Degree in Social Work

No clinical experience required for licensure.

Passing grade in an examination prepared by the Kentucky Board of Social Work
Licensed Clinical Social Worker Master's or Doctorate Degree in Social Work

Two-years full time clinical experience completed after obtaining master’s degree or three-years part time experience.

Passing grade in an examination prepared by the Kentucky board of social work

Learn more about social work degrees in Kentucky

Continue reading to get more information about the specific requirements for the three types of social work license in Kentucky as well as continuing education guidelines for keeping a license active.

LSW Requirements in Kentucky

  1. Education: Applicants seeking to become a licensed social worker in the state of Kentucky can meet the educational requirement in two ways:
    • Completing a bachelor’s degree in social work or social welfare from a school accredited by the Council on Social Work
    • Completed a bachelor’s degree in another discipline and completed course deemed equivalent to a social work or welfare program by the KSB

    More information about qualifying social work courses can be found in the Laws and Regulations booklet provided by the KBSW.

  2. Exam: The exam requirement to become a LSW is the same as the requirement to become a CSW: a passing grade in an exam prepared by the KBSW that may not come within three months of receiving a failing grade.

CSW Requirements in Kentucky

  1. Education: To acquire a license as a Certified Social Worker (CSW) in the state of Kentucky, applicants must have completed a master’s or doctorate degree in social work. Both degree types must be completed at a university, college or other educational institution that has received approval by the Kentucky Board of Social Work (KBSW). A list of pre-approved institutions can be obtained from the KBSW.
  2. Exam: An applicant will only be licensed after receiving a passing grade in an applicable social work exam that has been developed and administered by the KSB. The applicant also cannot have failed the examination within three months prior to passing said examination.
  3. Contracting: After receiving their license, a certified social worker is allowed to practice clinical social work by contracting with a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). The contract must be made in writing, must be approved by the KBSW and signifies that the LCSW will supervise the CSW during the course of clinical social work. The LCSW will also be responsible for the CSW throughout the duration of their practice.

LCSW Requirements in Kentucky

Because a licensed clinical social worker is able to practice at the clinical level and provide supervision for contracted CSWs, the requirements for licensure are more extensive. They are as follows:

  1. Education: Applicants for a clinical social work license must have completed a master’s or doctoral degree from an educational institution that has been approved by the KBSW.
  2. Experience: After completion of their degree but before licensure, an applicant must have engaged in two of the following:
    • Two years of full-time clinical experience that consists of thirty hours a week minimum
    • Three years of part-time clinical work consisting of twenty hours of work a week minimum

    Clinical experience must be directed under appropriate supervision and comprise of the methods generally employed in clinical social work practice.

  3. Exam: A licensed clinical social worker must have received a passing grade in an exam prepared by the KBSW for measuring competency in clinical situations. The applicant cannot have failed this exam within a three-month period prior to attaining a passing grade.
  4. Contracting: Once a license has been obtained, a LCSW may contract with a clinical social worker and provide supervision and assume responsibility for the CSW while they practice in a clinical setting. The contract must be written and approved by the KBSW before any social work may take place.

Continuing Education

Every licensed social worker in the state of Kentucky must seek license renewal after three years. To achieve renewal, all licensees must have engaged in a certain amount of continuing education. For CSW and LCSW the required continuing education hours must be no less than thirty. For LSW, no less than fifteen continuing education hours must be acquired. Consult the Law and Regulation booklet provided by the Kentucky Board of Social Work for more information on what counts as continuing education.

Social Worker Career Outlook In Kentucky

In May of 2014, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics collected employment and wage information in all industries including social work in the state of Kentucky. The BLS reported that there more than 10,000 professional social workers employed across the Bluegrass State. There were 7,070 child, family and school social workers in the state, 1,610 social workers in a healthcare setting, 1,390 substance abuse social workers and 770 specialty social workers. These social workers earned an annual average salary of between $35,140 for substance abuse social workers and $48,600 for specialty social workers.  Child, family and school social workers earned a median annual salary of $37,360 while those in a healthcare setting earned a median annual salary of $43,560. For more information on the occupational data and wage estimates in this state, please visit the Kentucky Occupational Employment Statistics Page with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you are an aspiring social worker in Kentucky, start with the job board available through the Kentucky chapter of the NASW.

The Importance of CSWE Accreditation

Although not every license for social work in Kentucky requires a degree from a school accredited by the Council of Social Work Accreditation, accreditation is still important for many reasons. Social work requires very specific training in many different areas of knowledge. The multi-step accreditation process employed by the CSWE guarantees that accredited schools are training future social workers with the highest standards so that they will be ready to effectively serve their chosen communities.

Persons without a CSWE-accredited degree could potentially apply with their respective state board for an exemption. However, the majority of exemptions are typically granted to individuals already licensed to practice other related disciplines like medicine or psychology.

Search Accredited Social Work Programs

Additional Resources for Social Workers Kentucky: