Known as the “sunflower state,” Kansas is home to jazz, barbecue and country music. It’s also known for its excellent education system and commitment to agricultural advancements.
Most people know about the wide-open spaces and sweeping plains of Kansas, but most outsiders are unaware of how its vibrant cities are bursting with opportunity and growing exponentially. Kansas social workers have the opportunity to work with two distinctly different populations, each of which have very different needs and lifestyles.
Two Distinctly Different Populations to Serve
Kansas is facing a unique problem dubbed “rural flight.” People are fleeing the rural parts of Kansas to move to the cities, leaving behind over 6,000 ghost towns and many sparsely populated areas. The people who remain in rural Kansas struggle to make the best of a sluggish economy, dwindling career options and severely limited social services (1). The state government has responded with the Rural Opportunity Zones Program – the waiving of state income taxes for up to five years and student loan repayment opportunities of up to $15,000 per person (2). However, the rural parts of Kansas still remain underserved and in need of social workers.
Meanwhile, Kansas cities, now some of the fastest growing populations in the country, are dealing with the social issues that accompany rapid urban growth which results in an increased demand upon existing mental health and social service facilities. As the population explosions in Kansas City, Topeka, Witchita and Lawrence continue, demand for social workers in those areas should also increase.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Kansas has an average percentage of the population diagnosed with mental illness, and a slightly higher than average percentage of the population diagnosed with severe mental health issues. If you are interested in serving the mental health social work community, Kansas might be the right place for you (3).
Becoming a Social Worker in Kansas
According to the 2014 US News & World Report school rankings, the University of Kansas School of Social Welfare in Lawrence is ranked number 26 in the nation for graduate social work schools. Three other Kansas graduate schools also ranked in the top 200 (4).
The University of Kansas School of Social Welfare in Lawrence is particularly impressive because it offers a comprehensive degree program that will take you from undergraduate through doctoral level programs. It’s the oldest school of social work in the state and is internationally recognized for innovation in social work theory development. It also offers unique courses that support spirituality in social work practice, an option that sets the school apart from the rest (5).
Social workers in Kansas who are willing to work in “Health Professional Shortage Areas” (HPSA) may qualify for a loan forgiveness program. You will need to check out your state’s particular eligibility requirements on the National Health Service Corps website (NHSC) to see how much loan forgiveness is available to you. You might also want to apply for the Kansas State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP), another program aimed at encouraging social workers to find employment in the state.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most of the social workers in Kansas are employed as child, family and school social workers at a median annual salary of $37,640, or as healthcare social workers at a median annual salary of $42,100.
Mental health and substance abuse social work positions are harder to find. Approximately 650 social workers are currently employed in this capacity at a median wage of $37,150. Most of those who work in the areas of mental health and substance abuse social work are employed in the Kansas City metro area.
The best paying jobs are in academia. Approximately 120 postsecondary social work professors are currently employed, making an average of $64,990 per year. You can also find top paying jobs in the larger cities like Topeka, Kansas City and Wichita (6).
Licensure and Professional Development Resources
- Kansas Board of Registration of Social Workers
- National Association of Social Workers, Kansas Chapter
Master of Social Work Programs in Kansas
- Kansas Population, 2014. World Population Review. http://worldpopulationreview.com/states/kansas-population/
- “Rural Opportunities Zone Expands by 23 Counties,” 2013. Kansas Department of Commerce. http://www.kansascommerce.com/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=875
- National Mental Health Services Survey, 2010. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. http://www.samhsa.gov/data/DASIS/NMHSS2010_Web.pdf
- Graduate School Social Work Programs: Kansas, 2014. US News & World Report. http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/search?spp=10&program=top-social-work-schools&name=&zip=kansas&program_rank=Any&sort=&sortdir=
- At a Glance: School of Social Welfare, 2014. The University of Kansas. http://www.socwel.ku.edu/about/glance
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013. http://www.bls.gov/