Social work

Social work in the UK dramatically increases reach, enrollment and impact

LEXINGTON, Ky. (August 25, 2021) From the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to the movement against social injustice, societal challenges have forced us to take a closer look at disparities across the country.

How can we, as a society, meet these unprecedented challenges?

The answer isn’t simple, but the University of Kentucky’s College of Social Work (CoSW) is proving it’s part of the solution.

“Make no mistake about it, social workers and the work they do are essential to the proper functioning of society,” said Jay Miller, Dean of CoSW. “The college has really focused on ways to support social workers by expanding our reach.”

This reach – and this impact – has been overwhelmingly positive.

In 2020, students in the CoSW graduate program scored more than 11 points above the national average on the social work license exam. At the clinical level, graduates scored 12 points above the national average.

Additionally, from spring 2019 to spring 2021, college enrollment increased by 134% – the highest growth rate for the university. CoSW already has another enrollment record for fall 2021. Currently, the college has students from 48 states and several other countries and U.S. territories enrolled in its programs.

“The fact that our college has been able to grow strategically, while maintaining high pass rates for social work licenses, is truly a testament to the incredible work of our faculty, staff, and students,” said Miller.

The increase in enrolments, coupled with exceptionally high licensing pass rates, bodes well for the Commonwealth, where the need for trained social workers is critical.

The growing number of cases of child abuse and neglect, the devastating opioid epidemic, complex mental health issues, and the long-term effects of COVID-19 necessitate the involvement of social work practitioners. The hope is that behind every person or community going through a difficult challenge, a social worker is there to help with it.

“Now there is an increased need for trained social workers to explore and implement innovative solutions to society’s most pressing challenges,” Miller explained. “Expanding the accessibility of our degree offerings, while maintaining the highest standards in social work education, is a recognition that we train individuals to have a positive impact on individuals, groups and communities. It is not a responsibility we will ever take lightly.

To help students become comprehensive practitioners, CoSW has added a wide range of degree courses and certificates, which are detailed below.

Online Bachelor of Social Work (BASW)

The BASW program is designed for anyone who is passionate about being a catalyst for change. Students will gain the knowledge and skills needed for careers in social work and social justice, with a curriculum spanning advocacy, crisis intervention, social policy and more. The program offers a unique lens through which to view individuals, families, communities, and society as a whole.

“The social work profession has a rich tradition of emphasizing the value of people’s experiences and understanding the complexities of inequality,” explained Diane Loeffler, director of undergraduate studies. “Our fully online undergraduate program option will prepare students to practice social work in a wide range of settings, with a focus on social justice.”

With the addition of the online undergraduate program, CoSW has created an online path for motivated students to earn a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree online.

Doctor of Social Work (DSW):

The first of its kind in the state, the program successfully prepares students for advanced social work practice, clinical research, administrative leadership, and executive roles.

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

“This program was conceptualized with practitioners in mind,” said Natalie Pope, director of CoSW doctoral programs. “Our college has made significant investments in educational technology – which allows us to provide an academically rigorous educational experience in a flexible and efficient format.”

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

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that from 2016 to 2026, the number of social workers will grow by 16%, more than double the growth rate projected for all occupations.

Miller hopes that CoSW’s proactive approach will continue to transform communities and the lives of the people who call those communities home.

“We know the power of social work to meet the needs of individuals, families and communities,” he said. “Today, and every day in the future, we seek to fulfill our commitment to the well-being of individuals in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and beyond.”

To learn more about CoSW programs, you can visit the college’s website.