Campus News

UK Responds to Social Worker Shortage, Launches 1st Online Doctorate of Social Work Program in the State

of
Photo of woman using a computer.
Photo of announcement

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 10, 2020) — It's a daunting but necessary task — serving the most vulnerable members of our community. In a world filled with social injustices and inequality, communities need continued support.  

Social workers provide critically important services aimed at improving community safety and well-being. The hope is, that behind every person going through a difficult challenge — whether it's abuse, addiction, disability, discrimination or poverty — there's a social worker waiting to help address it.

Unfortunately, that's not the case.

There's a critical shortage of social workers across the country — including right here in the Commonwealth. In fact, a recent study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found a 16% increase in the need for social workers nationwide since 2016. Of particular demand, are social work practitioners with advanced training and education. The College of Social Work (CoSW) at the University of Kentucky is committed to meeting that need. 

With the well-being of Kentuckians in mind, the CoSW is launching an online Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) program. 

The first of its kind in the state, the program will successfully prepare students for advanced social work practice, clinical research, administrative leadership and executive roles. The DSW program is designed to prepare students to creatively address society’s most complex social issues.

According to Jay Miller, dean of the CoSW, the program could not come at a more pressing time. “We recognize that as the social challenges become increasingly complex, so too must our response,” he explained. “For now, that response is the DSW program.”

The growth in child abuse and neglect cases, the devastating opioid epidemic and complex mental health issues are overwhelming social workers with complicated caseloads. In an effort to lessen the burden, the DSW program will provide social work practitioners the opportunity to build upon their skills by receiving specialized training in one of three areas: administrative leadership, advanced clinical practice or military behavioral health (MBH).

In a continued effort to make UK programs accessible and attainable, the DSW is fully online and can be completed in two years (full time). There are also part-time options available.

“This program was conceptualized with practitioners in mind,” Natalie Pope, director of CoSW doctoral programs, said. “Our college has made significant investments in educational technology — which ensures that we can offer an academically rigorous educational experience in a flexible and efficient format.”

Ultimately, graduates of the program will be positioned to advance their careers, become transformational leaders and join the greater conversation about creating a stronger society. 

Social workers play a prominent role in improving the lives of those who need it most.

With shortages expected to worsen over the next decade, Miller hopes the CoSW's cutting-edge approach will transform communities and the lives of people who call those communities home.

“The DSW program will fundamentally improve the social work practice and academic landscape in Kentucky and beyond. It will afford social work practitioners an advanced career trajectory and make the profession more desirable for those exploring helping profession disciplines,” he explained. "The program will draw people to social work and address current practice and workforce needs.”  

The first DSW cohort will start Fall 2020. The program will begin accepting applications Feb. 15, 2020.

If you're interested in learning more about the program, visit the CoSW website, call 859-257-6650, text “DSW” to 31996 or email DSW@uky.edu.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.