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Kentucky Social Work License Requirements

Kentucky is a good place to start a social work career. The state has a population of 4.4 million; that population has grown by 2% in just four years.1 Healthcare social workers and social workers employed in other categories earn more on average than Kentucky’s median household income, $43,306.1 If you are interested in becoming a social worker in Kentucky, you’ll need to understand the state licensure requirements and paths.

The Kentucky Board of Social Work regulates social work licenses in the state. Continue reading to understand the specific requirements of licenses for social workers in Kentucky.

How to Become a Social Worker in Kentucky

Educational Paths

Social workers interested in working in Kentucky will need a social work license in order to practice. The minimum degree required is a bachelor’s in social work degree (BSW) and a master’s in social work is required for clinical and independent practice. Read below for specific details on each degree and how it will impact your social work career.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

The Kentucky Board of Social Work requires that all licensees possess a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) from a school accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). This accreditation ensures that all social work programs adhere to the same standards and that students are learning the basic requirements to practice social work across the country. BSW programs prepare students for the social work field through classroom education and usually some field experience. Most students will take courses in human behavior, social work policy, professional ethics, and practice methods in their BSW program. After receiving this degree, you become eligible to apply to become a licensed social worker (LSW) in Kentucky.

Master of Social Work (MSW)

If you wish to practice independently or at the master’s level, you will need a master’s degree in social work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited program. After obtaining your BSW, you should look for MSW programs that offer a focus area that interests you and review electives offered to ensure that your graduate-level education is well-rounded. In MSW programs, you are likely to learn about social work policy and social welfare, social work research, crisis management and intervention, and practice with different audiences such as individuals, families, and communities. All MSW programs will have a fieldwork component that gives students real-world experience and helps them understand what social work looks like in practice. If you previously completed your BSW from a CSWE-accredited school, you may be eligible for “advanced standing” in the MSW program, decreasing the duration of the graduate-level program from two years to one year.

After receiving an MSW, you will be eligible to become licensed as a licensed certified social worker (CSW) or a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) in Kentucky.

Steps for becoming a Licensed Social Worker in Kentucky

The Kentucky Board of Social Workers administers the three social work licenses offered in the state:

  • Licensed Social Worker (LSW)
  • Certified Social Worker (CSW)
  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

The state has licensure options for individuals with BSWs and MSWs. Each license will require an application, examination and other varying requirements. The following text details the three licensure options and the requirements for each one. It is unlawful to practice social work without a license.

Licensed Social Worker (LSW)

Possessing a BSW from a CSWE-accredited is the first step to becoming a licensed social worker (LSW) in Kentucky. LSW candidates must be at least 18 and have good moral character. The fee to become an LSW is $75 (as of November 2015). Other steps for LSWs include:

1. Complete the application.

LSW applicants must submit the application for licensure to the Kentucky Board. The application requires an official transcript from your college or university and three references that can attest to your professional competency. A $25 application fee* must be furnished with the application.

*As of November 2015

2. Take and pass the ASWB bachelors exam.

Once your application is approved by the Kentucky Board of Social Work, they will send an approval letter allowing you to schedule your Association of Social Workers Board (ASWB) bachelor’s level exam*. The bachelor’s level exam is a 170-question multiple choice exam; passing scores will have between 96 and 105 correctly answered questions. After completing the exam, you will receive an unofficial score report at the testing site. You must send this score, along with the $75 license fee, to the Kentucky State Board.

*As of November 2015, the exam cost was $230.

3. Receive your LSW.

After completing the steps above and passing the bachelor’s level ASWB exam, you will become licensed to practice social work in Kentucky as an LSW. With this designation, you can practice non-clinical social work under supervision.

Certified Social Worker (CSW)

To become a certified social worker (CSW) in Kentucky, you must have an MSW from a CSWE-accredited school. Because more education is required for a CSW, compensation may be higher for someone who holds this license as opposed to an LSW. There may also be more job or promotional opportunities available for CSWs. If you wish to become an LCSW in the future, you will need to first have a current CSW license. For licensure, you must:

1. Complete the application.

Individuals wishing to become CSWs must complete the social worker application to the Kentucky Board along with the supporting documents. CSW applicants must submit:

  • An official transcript
  • A $25 application fee*
  • Three professional references listed in the application

2. Take and pass the ASWB masters exam

The master’s level ASWB exam is required to become a CSW. Once your application is approved, you will receive an approval letter from the Kentucky Board allowing you to schedule your exam; this letter must be presented on the day of the exam in order to test. The master’s level exam is a 170-question multiple choice exam that requires between 96 and 105 correctly answered questions to pass. After completing the exam, you will receive an unofficial score report that must be sent to the Kentucky Board. The fee for the master’s level ASWB exam was $230*; in addition, you must send the $125* CSW licensure fee to the Board after passing the exam.

*All fees current as of November 2015.

3. Receive your CSW license.

After applying for licensure, receiving approval from the Board, and passing the exam, you will become a licensed CSW in Kentucky. CSWs may practice clinical social work by contracting with a licensed clinical social worker; the Kentucky Social Work Board must approve the contract.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

To practice clinical social work without a Board-approved contract and to practice clinical and nonclinical social work independently in Kentucky, you must possess an LCSW license. Candidates must have a CSW prior to becoming an LCSW. Unlike CSWs and LSWs, LCSWs must acquire a certain amount of clinical experience in order to become licensed. LCSW candidates must have an MSW from a CSWE-accredited school. They must also complete these next four steps:

1. Gain the required experience.

The Kentucky Social Work Board requires LCSW candidates to have supervised experience prior to becoming licensed. By rule, LCSW candidates must have at least two years of post-graduate experience (minimum 30 hours per week), or three years of part-time (20 hours per week) experience. All social work experience must be supervised by a supervisor approved by the Board. Allowed supervisors are LCSWs who have been licensed for at least three years and has completed the Board’s three-hour training course on supervision practices and methods.

Supervisors must be approved by the Board by completing the contract for clinical social work supervision form and submitting it to the Board.

2. Complete the application.

After the experience requirement is met, LCSW candidates must apply for licensure to the Kentucky Board. With your application you must supply an official transcript, the supervised experience documentation form, official scores from ASWB, three professional references, and the $25 application fee*.

3. Take and pass the ASWB clinical exam.

To become licensed, you will need to register for and take the ASWB clinical-level exam. The $260* exam tests the candidate’s knowledge of social work and clinical practice. The 170-question multiple-choice exam requires between 96 and 105 correct answers to pass.

*All fees current as of November 2015.

4. Receive your LCSW license.

Once you have completed the steps listed above, you will become a licensed clinical social worker in Kentucky. LCSWs can practice clinical and nonclinical social work independently and may supervise other social workers after three years of licensed (clinical) experience and after taking the Kentucky Social Work Board supervisor training course.

Request for Temporary Permit

The Kentucky Social Work Board offers temporary permits for clinical and nonclinical social workers. Temporary permits are available for social workers who have satisfied all of the requirements for a specific social work license (CSW, LSW, or LCSW) but have not taken the ASWB exam. The candidate’s place of employment must submit the temporary permit and a signed job description for the candidate to the Kentucky Board.

To receive a temporary clinical permit or temporary nonclinical permit, applicants must complete the social work application and supply an official transcript. Temporary permits will only be given to candidates waiting to take the ASWB exam. The fee for a temporary permit is $25 (as of November 2015).

Social Work License Reciprocity in Kentucky

Kentucky does not have formal reciprocity with any other state. If you were licensed in a state other than Kentucky, you will have to apply to become a licensed social worker using the same process first-time licensees use and pay the associated fees. As a part of the application process, you must supply an official transcript, your official ASWB scores, and verification from the state(s) where you previously held a license. If you hold an LCSW from another state, you must provide verification of a current LCSW license and a signed job description, or other verification approved by the Board, that you have been employed in clinical social work over the past five years. If you are unable to provide this verification, you will have to meet the same experience requirement stated above for an LCSW.

Licensing Renewal and Continuing Education Information

All Kentucky social workers must renew their license every three years. As of November 2015, the renewal fee was $125 for a CSW, $200 for an LCSW, and $75 for an LSW. Social workers must complete the renewal form for their license and pay the associated fee. In Kentucky, you will need 40 continuing education hours in order to renew your license.

Kentucky Social Worker Jobs and Salary Information

In Kentucky, 10,840 social workers are employed in child, family and school, healthcare, mental health and substance abuse, and other areas.3 Social workers earn between $35,140 and $48,600 on average per year.3 Kentucky has the third highest concentration of jobs for child, family, and school social workers in the US, employing about four social workers per 1,000 people.3 The state also has the highest number of employed social workers (in child, family, and schools) for non-metropolitan areas in the country, employing 1,020 social workers in this field.3 Social work jobs Kentucky are on the rise; projections show that by 2022, jobs for social workers will increase by 20%.4 The largest gains are projected for healthcare social workers (30.4%) and mental health and substance abuse social workers (26.2%).4 With this type of projected growth and the range of salaries, Kentucky would be a great place to embark on a career as a licensed social worker.

Type Number Employed Average Annual Salary
Child, Family, and School Social Workers 7,070 $38,090
Healthcare Social Workers 1,610 $44,860
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers 1,390 $35,140
Social Workers, All Other 770 $48,600

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2014.2

Social Work Associations in Kentucky

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Can I begin practicing independently once I become registered as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker?

Answer: Yes, once you meet the requirements for an LCSW and gain approval by the Board, you may begin practicing social worker independently.

Question: For the two years of work experience required, can I count experience I gained years ago?

Answer: Yes. As long as your social work experience was acquired after receiving your CSW and you received at least 30 hours per week, you can count experience from any time period.

Question: What kinds of qualifications are required of the person supervising my experience?

Answer: Supervisors must be LCSWs who have been licensed for at least three years and have completed the Board’s three-hour training course on supervision practices and methods.

Question: What kind of degree do I need to practice social work in Kentucky?

Answer: Social workers need a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) or a master’s degree in social work (MSW) to practice social work in the state. To practice independently in Kentucky, you will need a master’s degree in social work from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education.

References:
1. US Census Bureau Quick Facts, Kentucky: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/21
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Kentucky: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_ky.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Healthcare Social Workers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211021.htm
4. Projections Central, Long Term Occupational Projections: http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm