Social workers are in high demand, and the US Department of Labor predicts continued growth in the employment of social workers into and beyond 2019. Overall, job prospects should be positive for social workers in all fields.
Employment for social workers is expected to grow 16% from 2016 to 2026 according to the Department of Labor’s Bureau for Labor Statistics, with steady growth over the decade. Social work employment is growing at a much faster rate than the national average for all occupations, which is projected to grow only 7% over the same time period.
With more than twice as much projected growth in the field of social work, the demand for well-trained and skilled social workers is expected to increase. The increased need in healthcare and social service industries will drive the need for social workers in general, but statistics differ by specialization.
Child, family, and school social workers are expected to see increased demand and employment growth, but these public positions will depend on government funding.
Overall, child, family, and school social worker positions are projected to grow 14% in the ten years from 2016 to 2026, twice the projected average for all occupations. However, federal, state, and local budget constraints may limit the growth in employment for these positions.
Healthcare social workers help patients face their diagnoses and provide support through subsequent adjustments in lifestyle, housing, or healthcare. Social workers specializing in healthcare are expected to see the highest increase in employment, with a projected 20% growth from 2016 to 2026.
Geriatric social workers are especially in-demand as the elderly population is growing, with the age of Americans 65 and over expected to double between the years 2016 and 2060 according to the Population Reference Bureau.
Healthcare social workers can expect increased demand in jobs relating to geriatric assistance, including positions in nursing homes, hospice and palliative care centers, long-term care and home care agencies.
Mental health and substance abuse social workers are also anticipated to see a significant growth in employment, projected at 19% growth from 2016 to 2026. As awareness has grown for mental health and drug addiction issues, more people are seeking treatment for mental disorders and addiction.
Drug offenders are also increasingly being sent to treatment programs rather than serving jail time, further increasing the need for social workers in this field. Mental health and substance abuse social workers will be needed to support these treatment programs and direct those in need to the proper programs, provide information on services and support groups, and help clients cope with their illnesses.
With increased demand for competent, professional social workers across all specialties, employment conditions are favorable for both experienced social workers and those entering the field. In 2019, social work is expected to see continuing growth and more numerous opportunities for employment.
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