Highlights from the Latest National Social Work Workforce Study

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Highlights from the Latest National Social Work Workforce Study

Social workers and social work students are diverse, and the latest National Social Workforce Study shows this. Created by the Council on Social Work Education and the National Workforce Initiative Steering Committee, the study sheds light on the current status of social work and those entering the community. From the result, we can glean the answers to many intriguing questions.

Who Are Social Workers?

Today’s social workers are predominantly female. In fact, women make up about 83 percent of all social workers, and they are also most graduates from social work master’s programs.

Additionally, the median age for bachelor’s degree graduates from social work programs is 23. The median age for graduates from social work master’s degrees is 28.

How Educated Are Social Workers?

Social work continuing education and college degrees are important to consider when analyzing the role social workers play in their communities and places of employment. One interesting revelation of this study is that many social workers don’t have a degree in social work but still work in social work roles.

According to the American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, statistics suggest there were about 850,000 individuals working in social work careers in 2015. About 650,000 of them had bachelor’s degrees, but only 350,000 were licensed social workers.

The key to understanding the varying roles social workers play is to consider the different educational pathways that exist toward working in the industry. About 45 percent of social workers have a master’s degree, but only 12 percent have a bachelor’s degree in social work. About 43 percent of social workers have a bachelor’s degree in an entirely different subject area, like sociology or psychology.

Who Employs Social Workers?

The most common employers for today’s social workers are private, non-profit, and charitable organizations. In fact, these employers hire about 34 percent of all social workers unless you combine local, state, and federal government jobs (which make up 41 percent of all social workers). Private companies and other businesses hire the remaining social workers.

Education is a major factor in determining where individuals work. Social workers with master’s degrees are more likely to work in schools and hospitals, for example.

Person working at a desk with their laptop and document.

While men and women prevail in social work careers, women dominate the industry.

Are Social Workers Satisfied?

Individuals with master’s degrees may have an average salary of $45,000. New social workers generally express satisfaction with their role and associated benefits. At the same time, social workers express less satisfaction with their income. Right now, about half of all social workers with master’s and bachelor’s degrees report finding positions in which they feel satisfied with the salary and setting.

Will the Social Work Industry Grow?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social workers should expect to see job growth in the industry. In fact, the BLS expects to see an 11.5 percent jump in job growth before 2024. The most prominent growth is likely to occur in the healthcare subsection of social work, creating a better job market for individuals with master’s degrees.

The study shows that the northeastern states have the highest number of social workers per capita while southern states have the fewest. Social workers may see changes in opportunity availability in these areas.

One way to take advantage of any new opportunities in the social work industry is to stay up-to-date with social work continuing education. Education will update your knowledge base and give you an edge over the competition. Check out our social work courses today.

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