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The Demand

Some Facts pertaining to the demand for Social Workers, taken directly from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Web Site http://stats.bls.gov/home.htm (Go to this site for more complete information.)

  • While a bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement, a master's degree in social work or a related field has become the standard for many positions.
  • Employment is projected to grow faster than average.
  • Competition for jobs is expected in cities, but opportunities should be good in rural areas.

Social workers often provide social services in health-related settings that now are governed by managed care organizations. To contain costs, these organizations are emphasizing short-term intervention, ambulatory and community-based care, and greater decentralization of services.

Most social workers specialize. Although some conduct research or are involved in planning or policy development, most social workers prefer an area of practice in which they interact with clients.


Employment

Social workers held about 468,000 jobs in 2000. About 1 out of 3 jobs were in State, county, or municipal government agencies, primarily in departments of health and human services, mental health, social services, child welfare, housing, education, and corrections. Most private sector jobs were in social service agencies, hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, and other health centers or clinics. Although most social workers are employed in cities or suburbs, some work in rural areas. The following tabulation shows 2000 employment by type of social worker.

Child, family, and school social workers
281,000
Medical and public health social workers
104,000
Mental health and substance abuse social workers
83,000

 

Job Outlook

Competition for social worker jobs is stronger in cities where demand for services often is highest, training programs for social workers are prevalent, and interest in available positions is strongest. However, opportunities should be good in rural areas, which often find it difficult to attract and retain qualified staff.

Employment of social workers is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations through 2010 (increase 21 to 35%). The elderly population is increasing rapidly, creating greater demand for health and social services, resulting in particularly rapid job growth among gerontology social workers. Social workers also will be needed to help the large baby-boom generation deal with depression and mental health concerns stemming from mid-life, career, or other personal and professional difficulties. In addition, continuing concern about crime, juvenile delinquency, and services for the mentally ill, the mentally retarded, the physically disabled, AIDS patients, and individuals and families in crisis will spur demand for social workers. Many job openings also will stem from the need to replace social workers who leave the occupation.

The number of social workers in hospitals and long-term care facilities will increase in response to the need to provide medical and social services for clients who leave the facility. However, this need will be shared across several occupations. In an effort to control costs, these facilities increasingly emphasize discharging patients early, applying an interdisciplinary approach to patient care, and employing a broader mix of occupations—including clinical specialists, registered nurses, and health aides—to tend to patient care or client needs.

Social worker employment in home healthcare services is growing, in part because hospitals are releasing patients earlier than in the past. However, the expanding senior population is an even larger factor. Social workers with backgrounds in gerontology are finding work in the growing numbers of assisted-living and senior-living communities.

Employment of social workers in private social service agencies also will grow. However, agencies increasingly will restructure services and hire more lower-paid social and human service assistants instead of social workers. Employment in State and local government may grow somewhat in response to increasing needs for public welfare and family services; however, many of these services will be contracted out to private agencies. Employment in child protection services will grow due to increased concern over the safety of children. Employment levels may fluctuate depending on need and government funding for various social service programs.

Employment of substance abuse social workers also will continue to grow over the projection period. Substance abusers are increasingly being placed into treatment programs instead of being sentenced to prison. As this trend grows, demand will increase for treatment programs and social workers to assist abusers on the road to recovery.

Employment of school social workers is expected to grow due to expanded efforts to respond to rising student enrollments. Moreover, continued emphasis on integrating disabled children into the general school population will lead to more jobs. However, availability of State and local funding will dictate the actual job growth in schools.

Opportunities for social workers in private practice will expand, but this growth will be inhibited to a certain degree by funding cutbacks and by restrictions that managed care organizations place on services. The growing popularity of employee assistance programs also is expected to spur some demand for private practitioners, some of whom provide social work services to corporations on a contractual basis.

Earnings

Median annual earnings of child, family, and school social workers were $33,150 in 2002. The middle 50 percent earned between $26,310 and $42,940. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,270, and the top 10 percent earned more than $54,250. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of child, family, and school social workers in 2002 were:

Elementary and secondary schools $44,100
Local government 38,140
State government 34,000
Individual and family services 29,150
Other residential care facilities 28,470

Median annual earnings of medical and public health social workers were $37,380 in 2002. The middle 50 percent earned between $29,700 and $46,540. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $23,840, and the top 10 percent earned more than $56,320. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of medical and public health social workers in 2002 were:

General medical and surgical hospitals $42,730
Local government 37,620
State government 35,250
Nursing care facilities 33,330
Individual and family services 31,000

Median annual earnings of mental health and substance abuse social workers were $32,850 in 2002. The middle 50 percent earned between $25,940 and $42,160. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,050, and the top 10 percent earned more than $52,240. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of mental health and substance abuse social workers in 2002 were:

State government $38,430
Local government 35,700
Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals 34,610
Outpatient care centers 31,370
Individual and family services 31,300
CSWE
The USF Social Work Program is accredited by CSWE (the Council on Social Work Education).

For more information go to:
Frequently Asked Questions (from web site http://www.cswe.org )
 

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