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About the University of Kentucky College of Social Work

exterior of UK building

Who We Are

The University of Kentucky College of Social Work (UKCOSW) has advanced social work practice for more than 80 years. As an integral part of the Commonwealth’s flagship university, we remain anchored in our mission to educate, innovate, heal, and serve. Our graduates carry this sense of responsibility forward, serving others and making a positive impact in their communities with an understanding of how issues in social justice impact lives at every turn.

Watch the video to see how issues in social justice can impact lives.

“Over the last century and a half, the University of Kentucky has been a proud and worthy instrument for the ideals of the land-grant mission. Yet, our work remains unfinished; the challenges to our state and nation persist, making the public, flagship research university more essential than ever before to finding the solutions to those challenges most intractable and unyielding to our world.”
– Eli Capilouto, University of Kentucky President
mascot hugging female student

Build on Your Passion for Helping Others

We’re driven to help you find your unique pathway to success. Grounded in the Advanced Generalist model of practice, our social work program allows you to build on your passion for helping others while you work one-on-one with experts versed in child welfare, substance abuse, gerontology, and suicidology, among other areas of interest.

You will graduate from UKCOSW exceptionally prepared to succeed in your chosen area of the social work profession.


The University of Kentucky College of Social Work BASW and MSW programs are accredited by the Council for Social Work Education (CSWE).

This affirms our commitment to the core competencies, outcomes, and practices required by the CSWE, the nation’s premier social work accrediting body for almost 70 years.

Note that there is no formal accreditation available through CSWE for DSW programs.


The University of Kentucky and its programs are regularly ranked among the nation’s best:

  • No. 1 Social Work program in Kentucky by College Factual, 2019
  • Best of the Best Top 30 LGBTQ-Friendly College – Campus Pride, 2019
  • Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) and Diversity Champion Award – INSIGHT Into Diversity, 2019

What Sets UK College of Social Work Apart

  • 3 primary degree programs
  • 50 years of CSWE accreditation
  • 6,000+ graduates in the Commonwealth and beyond
  • Licensure pass-rates above the national average
  • Curricula rooted in the highest ideals of social work

Learn more about UK’s College of Social Work.

Request more information or a consultation

You’re likely to have questions as you make your decision about pursuing an online degree. From program information to application process details, we’re here to help you find the answers you need.

Interview with COSW Dean Justin “Jay” Miller, PhD

Listen as UK Perspectives’ Josh James interviews our Dean of UK’s College of Social Work Dr. Justin “Jay” Miller, PhD about his vision for the College to provide accessible world-class education, such as the Online MSW program, foster a culture of engagement, and invest in teaching and research.

“We really want to ensure that we are in a space to make education accessible to folks, and really want to target populations that traditionally have been isolated from academic and educational processes.”

– Justin “Jay” Miller, PhD, Dean COSW
Listen to the podcast now

Our Vision

At the University of Kentucky College of Social Work, our vision is to make major contributions to knowledge that will alleviate contemporary social problems as the social work profession enters its second century of service.

We consistently strive to earn a place among the foremost schools of social work through our research, teaching, community engagement, and pursuit of excellence. And we hope to invigorate the lives of everyone who joins us in these endeavors. United around collaborative public service, we possess an intellectual and moral seriousness that reflects the enormous challenges faced by our global community.

These achievements require individual excellence, effective partnerships, and innovative solutions. We are up to the task.

Our Mission

The mission of the UKCOSW is to:

  • Develop outstanding social work professionals, scholars, and leaders who serve through innovative, effective practices.
  • Cultivate a diverse academic community characterized by interpersonal fairness and social justice.
  • Promote both individual and community well-being through translational research and scholarship, exemplary teaching, and vital engagement.
  • Nurture students’ cultural competence, systematic ethical analysis, and understanding of the human condition.
  • Commit to people and social institutions throughout Kentucky, the nation, and the world.

Our Values

UKCOSW is composed of social work educators, students, and professionals who value the social justice foundation of our profession. The core values of social work guide everything we do, including service, the dignity and worth of the person, the importance of human relationships, integrity and competence.

COSW students standing by brick wall

Field Education: Work Directly in Your Community

A key component of our social work programs is Field Education. Through a series of in-person practicums, you apply what you’ve learned to direct practice in your community—all while being supervised and supported by experienced social workers.

In your practicum, you might:

  • Make a difference in the lives of youth looking for a support system at foster care agencies.
  • Provide planning and administrative services to neighborhood organizations.
  • Utilize treatment and intervention methods at addiction and substance abuse programs.
  • Connect with aging individuals at senior centers and nursing facilities.
  • And much more.

Our Field Education office coordinates with 300+ local and state agencies across Kentucky. If you’re an online learner living outside of Kentucky, they’ll work with you to find a great location for your field education.

old photograph of University of Kentucky building

UK History

In 1938, as the nation emerged from the Great Depression and devastating unemployment, UK established its first Department of Social Work. The initiative was led by Frances Jewell McVey—former Dean of Women and an English professor—who’d long dreamed of bringing social work education to UK.

The new department was chaired by Dr. Vivian Palmer, formerly of Macalester College and the University of Chicago, and offered undergraduate and graduate programs. Just four months later, the school’s programs were accredited by the American Association of Schools of Social Work.

In 1969, the department became the College of Social Professions, and in 1980, it was renamed the College of Social Work. Throughout its 80 years, the UKCOSW has worked to improve well-being with programs based on social work’s highest ideals.

Learn more about the University of Kentucky.