Why Get a Social Work Degree in 2019
Unlike many other professions, social work job openings are on the rise. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment of social workers is expected to increase by 15% for the period of 2016-2026, more than double the average rate for all occupations. 682,100 social workers were employed in 2016, with approximately 47% of those in the area of children, families, and schools, 26% in the healthcare sector, and 18% in the area of mental health and substance abuse. These statistics show that social work is a diverse field that can lead to a variety of positions, and the continued need for social work professionals can be clearly seen across all of these sectors.
As the demand for social services in the United States increases, the need for social workers trained to provide support and assistance to vulnerable populations also grows. Taking a closer look at the career outlook for social workers provides several compelling reasons to pursue social work education in 2018.
Children, Families, and Schools
Child, Family, and School Social Workers “provide social services and assistance to improve the social and psychological functioning of children and their families and to maximize the family well-being and the academic functioning of children.” From 2016 to 2026, employment of Child, Family, and School Social Workers is projected to grow 13%. In other words, 41, 200 new social work jobs in this area will be available by 2026.
Student enrollment in schools has risen 9.9% in the last ten years, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, and social workers are needed to provide support and assistance to the growing number of students and their families. Many Child and Family Social Workers are also employed in Individual and Family Services sector, and these positions continue to be needed to strengthen and support families by working in services and programs related to child abuse, parenting skills, adoption and foster care, and child and family counseling.
Many social workers are employed alongside doctors and nurses in healthcare settings, where they “provide individuals, families, and groups with the psychosocial support needed to cope with chronic, acute, or terminal illnesses.” 32,700 new social work positions in the healthcare sector are expected to be available by 2026 – that’s a substantial increase of 19% compared to 2016, making healthcare the fastest growing sector of the social work profession.
Healthcare social workers are especially needed to work with aging populations and their families, as they transition and adjust to old age. According to the Congressional Budget Office, more than two-thirds of 65 year-olds will require social services in dealing with loss of functioning in their remaining years of life. Healthcare social workers are also vitally needed to work with the increasing number of patients who have suffered heart disease, cancer, and strokes. In all areas of healthcare, social workers are needed to assist in attending to the social determinants of health.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse
Mental health and substance abuse is an important area of social work practice in which many social workers specialize and practice. Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers “Assess and treat individuals with mental, emotional, or substance abuse problems, including abuse of alcohol, tobacco, and/or other drugs.” Positions in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers are expected to rise by 18% by 2026. That means 22,200 new jobs will be available in this area, compared to those available in 2016.
As more people seek treatment for mental illness and substance abuse, the demand for social workers capable of providing these services is growing. The current opioid crisis has created an increased need for addictions counseling, and the high prevalence of mental illness in the United States creates a high demand for mental health specialists. A recent report by Mental Health America shows that there are significant shortages of mental health workers available to meet these needs, especially in rural areas.
Social workers are needed to ensure the psychosocial and physical wellbeing of thousands of at-risk individuals in the United States. Now more than ever, social workers are needed to stand up for human rights and social justice efforts that strengthen communities, and provide vital social services to improve physical, mental, and behavioral health. To meet these needs, the demand for Child, Family, and School Social Workers, Healthcare Social Workers, and Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers is on the rise.