Now is a great time to consider a career in social work, especially in the Bluegrass State. According to the Kentucky Statewide Occupational Employment Outlook, social work occupations are expected to grow exponentially. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that overall employment of social workers is expected to grow 12 percent through 2024, a rate that is faster than the national average. In general, this growth will be driven by increased demand for healthcare and social services. This is why certain social work specialties will experience faster growth than others, with healthcare social workers and mental health and substance abuse social workers seeing a 19 percent increase in demand.
Other reasons for growth in the social work field are an aging population, rising student enrollment in schools and an increase in rehabilitation strategies instead of incarceration for drug abuse crimes. Aside from demand, salary potential for social workers is also on the rise. The BLS reports that the median annual wage is $45,500, with the lowest 10 percent earning less than $28,240 and the highest 10 percent earning more than $75,850. For 2016, Salary.com reports that social workers can expect to earn $52,351. Data like this points to why many students are choosing to pursue a degree in social work.
Becoming a Social Worker
Social workers help individuals and communities gain access to needed services and improve their quality of life. In addition, clinical social workers are qualified to diagnose and treat mental, behavioral and emotional issues. There are certain skill sets, most of which focus on interpersonal relationships and organization, that make for particularly successful social workers. Those who possess traits like the following are well-suited for careers in social work.
- Analytical thinking: The ability to evaluate a complex problem and work through different possible solutions.
- Communication: Speaking clearly and listening closely are important during interviews with clients, as well as in evaluating problems. Also, writing reports for records requires writing skills.
- Caring and kindness: Being compassionate toward clients is necessary to provide effective guidance and service.
- Empathy: Social workers must be able to relate to their clients and the problems they face. This enables them to understand any pain or frustration they may be feeling. Connecting with clients is vital in order to help them work through issues.
- Organization: Because social workers usually balance heavy caseloads and may also have to travel to visit clients at home, maintaining organized records and being detail-oriented are important to stay on top of responsibilities.
- Patience: Sometimes, client progress can be slow. Rather than getting frustrated, successful social workers maintain a positive attitude in the face of setbacks.
- Time management: Workdays are full for social workers, so they should be able to make effective use of time to ensure they complete all required tasks.
Social Work Licensure in Kentucky
Kentucky offers three classes of social work licensure: Licensed Social Worker (LSW), Licensed Certified Social Worker (CSW) and Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). For those who are interested in pursuing a social work career in Kentucky, the first step is obtaining the necessary education. Then, for certain types of licensure, field experience is required. All candidates must pass a state-level examination in order to obtain a social work license, as well as pass a criminal background check. The following explains the specific requirements for each type of licensure in detail.
- Licensed Social Worker (LSW): Individuals who want to pursue an LSW must first graduate from an accredited bachelor’s-level social work degree program. They will then need to take the state examination. There are no field requirements for obtaining an LSW. After earning a bachelor’s degree, individuals are qualified to sit for the Bachelor’s Level Examination offered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). However, before taking the test, each candidate must be approved by the Kentucky Board of Social Work. Licensure renewal, which is required every three years, requires successful completion of 15 hours of continuing education during the three-year period.
- Licensed Certified Social Worker (CSW): To obtain CSW licensure in Kentucky, individuals must first graduate from an accredited master’s-level social work program. There are no field requirements for this type of licensure. Upon completion of a Master of Social Work (MSW) program, individuals are qualified to sit for the ASWB Master’s Level Examination, which they must pass. Before taking the exam, approval by the Kentucky Board of Social Work is required. License renewal is required every three years and can be obtained with proof of 30 contact hours of continued education.
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW): To achieve LCSW licensure, individuals must graduate from an accredited MSW program before obtaining required field experience of at least 200 hours under an approved supervision plan. The 200 hours must include at least two hours of supervision for every two weeks of clinical practice. At least 100 of the hours must be in the form of face-to-face supervision. These hours must be obtained over two years of full-time master’s experience (30 hours per week) or 200 hours over three years of part-time post-master’s experience (20 hours a week). Upon approval from the state board, individuals must then take and pass the state examination to become an LCSW in Kentucky. To renew licensure every three years, LCSWs must successfully complete 30 contact hours of continued education.
It is important to note that prior to taking the examination, an LCSW candidate is able to practice social work under a temporary license. These hours will not accrue as the required supervised hours that will eventually be required. The state board must give permission to a certified social worker before the worker engages in clinical social work activities that are supervised yet do not meet experience requirements for higher licensure.
Social Work Education at BUonline
In order to pass licensure examinations and begin a successful career in social work, the right education is important. Brescia University offers a variety of online degree programs that provide a strong foundation in key social work skill areas like policy, diversity, psychology, research, ethics and more. Our Associate of Arts in Human Services is ideal for those starting their educational journey in social services, while a Bachelor of Social Work can help students prepare for LSW licensure and future graduate study. And starting this fall, Brescia will begin offering an online Master of Social Work degree. Learn more about BUonline’s comprehensive social work education offerings here.