University 1st in Kentucky to Launch Online Doctorate of Social Work degree

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 1, 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, individuals, families, groups, and communities need continued support, advocacy, and professional services.  

Social workers provide critically important services aimed at improving community safety and wellbeing. The hope is, that with every challenge – whether it’s related to abuse, addiction, disability, discrimination, poverty, or others — there’s a social worker to help address that challenge. 

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 need, 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, complex mental health issues, and shifting regulatory dynamics 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.

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 and become transformational leaders within the profession.   

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 those 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 on February 15, 2020. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the program, call (859) 257-6650, text “DSW” to 888-845-0189, or email

For 85 years, the University of Kentucky College of Social Work (CoSW) has been a leader in social work education. As a college, we promote community and individual well-being through translational research and scholarship, exemplary teaching, and vital community engagement. We are committed to the people and social institutions throughout Kentucky, the nation, and the world. Like the University, CoSW is an organization that cultivates a diverse academic community characterized by interpersonal fairness and social justice. We are fiercely committed to developing outstanding social work professionals — leaders who will serve individuals, families, and communities through innovative and effective practices that are guided by cultural competency, systematic ethical analysis, and a keen and pragmatic understanding of the human condition.  

University 1st in Kentucky to Launch Online Doctorate of Social Work degree