For students who are considering pursuing a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) or Master of Social Work (MSW) degree program, it is important to first become aware of the current career outlook for social workers to determine whether there will be favorable job prospects after graduation.
As a diverse helping profession with career opportunities in multiple sectors, social workers are involved in helping individuals or groups cope with overcoming problems in their everyday lives. Licensed social workers are commonly responsible for assessing clients' needs, developing improvement plans, referring clients to community resources, responding to crisis situations, and advocating for human rights. According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following is an overview of the job outlook for each of the major specialty areas in social work.
Child, Family, and School Social Workers
Due to the rising need for social services for youth and their families, the employment demand for child, family, and school social workers is expected to grow faster than the average for all professions by a rate of 15 percent between 2012 and 2022. In other words, the U.S. Department of Labor projects that there will be an estimated 43,100 new job opportunities created specifically for child, family, or school social workers before 2022. Child and family social workers will be in demand for helping families strengthen their parenting styles, solving familial problems, and preventing the occurrence of neglect or child abuse. Although more school social workers will be needed as student enrollments continue to grow, the availability of state or local funding may slightly hinder employment growth for K-12 school settings.
Medical Social Workers in Healthcare
As one might expect in the thriving healthcare industry, it is predicted that medical social workers will be experiencing the most promising job outlook within the social work profession. Between 2012 and 2022, employment for qualified social workers in healthcare settings is expected to skyrocket much faster than average at an impressive rate of 27 percent, which will create around 39,200 new jobs for medical social workers. While there will be plentiful job opportunities for all medical social workers who are trained to help patients adjust to serious health concerns, the greatest growth will be for those focusing their career in geriatrics. As the large baby boomer population continues to age, medical social workers will be in-demand for helping the elderly and their families find appropriate healthcare.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Social Workers
Since the prevalence of mental health disorders and drug addictions continue to rise, it is no surprise that both mental health and substance abuse social workers will have a favorable employment outlook in the coming decade. Job prospects for substance abuse and mental health social workers is projected to rapidly grow much faster than average at the rate of 23 percent between 2012 and 2022 to create 26,000 new openings. As more offenders are also being sent to specialized treatment programs for their mental illnesses or substance abuse disorders rather than jail, there will be a rising demand for social workers in these settings.
Overall, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the increased demand for healthcare and social services will spur an average projected employment growth of 19 percent for social workers in a variety of specialty areas. In order to take advantage of the very promising career outlook for social workers, it is highly recommended that interested individuals pursue a master's degree in social work and obtain experience in a supervised clinical setting to receive the best career opportunities.