Career Path Forecast
social workers is expected to increase by 16 percent during the 2008–18
decade, which is faster than the average for all occupations. The growing
elderly population and the aging baby boom generation will create greater
demand for health and social services, resulting in rapid job growth among gerontological social workers. Employment of social
workers in private social service agencies also will increase.
Family and School Social Workers
Employment of child, family, and school social workers is
expected to grow by about 12 percent, which is as fast as the average for
all occupations. Demand for child and family social workers should
continue, as these workers are needed to investigate child abuse cases,
place children in foster care and with adoptive families. However, growth
for these workers may be hampered by the budget constraints of state and
local governments, who are amongst the largest employers of these workers.
Furthermore, demand for school social workers will continue and lead to
more jobs as efforts are expanded to respond to rising student enrollments,
as well as the continued emphasis on integrating children with disabilities
into the general school population. There could be competition for school
social work jobs in some areas because of the limited number of openings.
The availability of Federal, State, and local funding will be a major
factor in determining the actual job growth in schools.
Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers
Mental health and substance abuse social workers will grow
by almost 20 percent over the 2008–18 decade, which is much faster than the
average. In particular, social workers specializing in substance abuse will
experience strong demand. Substance abusers are increasingly being placed
into treatment programs instead of being sentenced to prison. Also, growing
numbers of the substance abusers sentenced to prison or probation are,
increasingly being required by correctional systems to have substance abuse
treatment added as a condition to their sentence or probation. As this
trend grows, demand will strengthen for treatment programs and social
workers to assist abusers on the road to recovery. Opportunities for social
workers in private practice will expand, as they are preferred over more
costly psychologists. Furthermore, the passage of legislation that requires
insurance plans offered by employers to cover mental health treatment in a
manner that is equal to treatment of physical health may increase the
demand for mental health treatment.
and Public Health Social Workers
Growth of medical and public health social workers is
expected to be about 22 percent, which is much faster than the average for
all occupations. One of the major contributing factors is the rise in the
elderly population. These social workers will be needed to assist in
finding the best care and assistance for the aging, as well as to support
their families. Employment opportunities for social workers with
backgrounds in gerontology should be excellent, particularly in the growing
numbers of assisted-living and senior-living communities. The expanding senior
population also will spur demand for social workers in nursing homes,
long-term care facilities, home care agencies, and hospices.
Job prospects. Job prospects are expected to be favorable. Many job
openings will stem from growth and the need to replace social workers who
leave the occupation. However, competition for social worker jobs is
expected in cities where training programs for social workers are
prevalent. Opportunities should be good in rural areas, which often find it
difficult to attract and retain qualified staff. By specialty, job
prospects may be best for those social workers with a background in
gerontology and substance abuse treatment.
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US
Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor