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Where Are Most Social Workers Employed?

At any level of licensure, social workers practice in a variety of areas, including schools, health and human services, mental health clinics and hospitals. The number of available social work jobs shifts with the changing dynamics of social need in a given community. The range of services a particular region or population needs shifts with time and will continue to do so as communities develop.

Which Areas Are Most Popular?

2014 saw a rise in the number of child and family social workers, which is the most popular with 305,200 working in this service area. Social workers in this field often work at schools and service agencies that help with parenting skills, child abuse prevention, and the placement of children in the foster care system. The need for social workers in this field is expected to rise 12 percent by 2024, as student enrollment and population growth in metropolitan cities continues.

The second most popular social work service area is in the healthcare field. There were 160,100 social workers employed in the healthcare field in 2014, and this number is expected to grow 19 percent through 2024 to 191,000. Social workers in healthcare fields often work in hospitals, home health agencies, nursing homes and hospice and palliative care practices. The projected increase in these jobs results from the aging of Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964). As this generation continues to age, the need for these services will rise accordingly.

Another social work service area that is growing is mental health and substance abuse care. With a projected addition of 22,000 social work jobs by 2024, social workers can expect to find many opportunities in this area. In 2014, there were 117,800 social workers employed in this field. As mental illness and substance abuse treatment becomes increasingly socially acceptable, more people are seeking treatment. These services are also becoming a part of what is known as dual-diagnosis treatment. This treatment area serves those with both mental health and substance abuse problems, known as co-occurring disorders.

No matter where you decide to land in your search for a social work job, there are plenty of opportunities available, and more are on the way. And as competition heats up for these roles, candidates with an advanced degree such as a Master of Social Work will have an edge over those with only a bachelor’s degree.

Learn more about the LSU online MSW program.


BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook: Social Workers Job Outlook

The Social Work Career Center: Choose the Profession

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