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It’s National Social Work Month
March is National Social Work Month! To honor this holiday, the NASW launched the “Elevate Social Work” campaign, which will run throughout the month. Through the campaign, the NASW aims to educate the public about this important profession and how social workers contribute to society.
To support the NASW’s mission, let’s hear about some important statistics about the social work profession - and what we can do to help social workers make a difference!
The profession is growing
Every year more and more Americans, from new graduates to career changers, are answering the call to enter social work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that over 100,000 new social workers will join the workforce by 2026. This means social work is growing faster as a profession than almost any other industry in the country.
As the number of social workers expands, the number of opportunities for them is also growing. By 2026 the number of vacancies will grow around 16%, a number the BLS rates as “much faster than average” growth than a typical profession in America.
Social workers study their craft in higher education
The vast majority of social work opportunities require some form of higher education. Social workers can earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work (MSW), Master’s Degree in Social Work (MSW), Doctorate of Social Work (DSW), or a PhD in Social Work. As the profession grows, so does the enrollment in these programs. Over 120,000 future social workers are in BSW and MSW programs, with just over 1,000 pursuing doctorate level education.
Social workers work in a variety of positions and settings
The social work profession is extremely varied, which is reflected by the wide variety of settings in which social workers work. A plurality of social workers work in government positions, but many also work in nonprofit industries or for private, for profit companies. A small number, 2.4%, are self-employed.
Among new graduate BSW and MSW social workers, the vast majority begin their careers by working in direct service, either with individuals or groups or larger communities. A much smaller percentage, around 10% of new grads, will start out working in indirect social work or in positions closely related to the social work profession.
Wages remain lower than other professionals
Sadly, the important work social workers provide to our society does not get reflected in their salaries. Social workers remain one of the lowest paid professions in American, even compared to other helping professionals considered traditional underpaid. Professions such as nursing and teaching at the high school or elementary school levels all earn more than social workers. The average social workers earns just under $50,000 a year.
There are ways social workers can increase their salary, though. A BSW social worker who goes back to school to earn the MSW degree will earn, on average, a $13,000 higher salary. By getting a DSW or PhD in social work, that increase rises to $20-25,000. A BSW can earn a higher wage in small communities, while MSW salaries tend to be highest in larger urban areas. For all social workers, the highest pay remains in hospital and medical positions.
Social workers love what they do!
The good news is, despite the profession’s low salaries, social workers report high levels of satisfaction in the profession. A solid 90% of social workers report satisfaction with the way they make a difference in the lives of others.
Let’s celebrate the difference social workers make in March by advocating for higher salaries in this important profession. By raising compensation across the board, it’ll make it possible for more social workers to keep making a difference in the lives of the underserved.
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On March 8, 2019 in
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