Kentucky state government is made up of three branches: the Legislative Branch, the Judicial Branch, and the Executive Branch.
The Legislative Branch is made up of the elected members of the Kentucky General Assembly and staff. Legislators are chosen by voters in their districts to serve in either the House of Representatives or the Senate. With the aid of their professional staff employed in the Legislative Research Commission (LRC), they write and enact the laws of Kentucky. LRC employees are not covered by the merit system in KRS Chapter 18A.
The Judicial Branch includes the state's court system. It interprets and applies the laws under the Kentucky and United States Constitutions. As with the Legislative Branch, Judicial Branch employees are not covered by the merit system in KRS Chapter 18A.
The Executive Branch, headed by the governor, carries out the laws through "agencies" – cabinets, departments, boards, commissions, and offices. Most Executive Branch employees are covered by one of the three personnel systems: KRS 18A, KRS 16 and the Career and Technical System. Employees in state government are assigned to an agency within the Executive Branch. An employee appointed to a position in the classified service whose appointment and continued employment are subject to the classified service provisions of KRS 18A is considered to be under the 'merit system'. Within the Executive Branch, agencies are grouped into "Cabinets." There are currently eleven program cabinets: Transportation, Economic Development, Finance & Administration, Tourism, Arts & Heritage, Education & Workforce Development, Health & Family Services, Justice & Public Safety, Personnel, Labor, Energy & Environment, and Public Protection. The General Government Cabinet is comprised of departments headed by elected officials.
The first step to determine which career path is best for you is to understand the differences between the types of state employment--classified and unclassified, also referred to as merit and non-merit employment.
The majority of employment positions in the Executive Branch of Kentucky state government are within the classified service or "merit system". Positions outside the merit system are in the "unclassified service". The merit system is administered by the Personnel Cabinet under the Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS Chapter 18A).
In general, merit positions are selected from a register and the selected candidates must meet the minimum requirements for the job classification. Vacancies for merit positions are posted for a minimum of 10 calendar days on the careers website.
The merit system emphasizes making personnel decisions (hiring, promoting, assigning work, and other matters) based on an individual's qualifications and performance. The merit system also protects state employee against arbitrary actions and discriminatory practices. For example, as discussed below, any disciplinary actions brought against a merit employee with status must provide specific written notice of the reasons for the action and provide a right of appeal to a neutral decision-maker, such as the Personnel Board.
Merit system employees serve a probationary period when they begin working for the state. Usually, the probationary period lasts six months, but may be as long as twelve months depending on the classification. When the probationary period is over, employees gain merit system "status," which gives employees certain additional rights and privileges.
The Personnel Cabinet and the Personnel Board administer and enforce the merit system. The merit system is codified in Chapter 18A of the Kentucky Revised Statutes, and in various administrative regulations. Additionally, KRS Chapter 16 and Title 502 of the Kentucky Administrative Regulations govern sworn officers in the Kentucky State Police. Certified and equivalent employees of the former Workforce Development Cabinet, now part of the Education Cabinet, are governed by KRS Chapter 156.
Non-merit or unclassified service includes positions not under the merit system hiring process and generally includes the staffs of the governor and lieutenant governor, policy-making managers, and agency leaders. (See KRS 18A.115.) These positions have no formal selection criteria and are not appointed from a register. Employees in these positions may be terminated 'without notice of cause' without recourse. Vacancies may be posted on the careers website. (click the Search Jobs button above)
For your convenience, we have the following links available for you to learn about these other employment opportunities.
While the vast majority of jobs within the Executive Branch of Kentucky State Government are covered under the merit system, also called the 'classified' service, as governed by Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) Chapter 18A, there are certain positions in state agencies that are not subject to the rules governing the merit system. You can find more information about some of these employment opportunities by accessing the websites of the state agencies listed below:
Legislative Research Commission (LRC) https://legislature.ky.gov/LRC/Pages/Career-Opportunities.aspx
Employment opportunities through the Kentucky Career Center can be found on Focuscareer.ky.gov. For information about Kentucky Career Centers go to http://kcc.ky.gov/Pages/default.aspx
Employment opportunities through Kentucky Works can be found on
There are approximately 33,000 employees in the Executive Branch of state government working in all 120 counties across the Commonwealth.