The term “social work” is familiar to most Americans, but the field itself is not often particularly well understood. Exploring some of the more interesting facts about social workers is a helpful way to gain insight into their day-to-day realities and impact. As we consider some surprising things about social workers, we will find that social workers are making a difference in a much wider range of contexts than many realize.
1. Social Workers Have a Long History of Making a Difference
The first social work class was taught at Columbia University in 1898, beginning a decades-long legacy of caregivers and visionary leaders in the field. In the century-plus since its origins, the field of social work has remained a steady force in meeting the needs of individuals, families, and communities. As those needs have evolved and presented new challenges in social work, social workers have learned to adapt and remain relevant and essential.
Social workers’ primary goal has always been to serve people and communities in need. Over the years, that means social workers have played important roles in a wide range of historical changes, including:
- Identifying and treating mental health issues
- Developing key programs such as Medicare and Medicaid
- Leading the way in the improvement of employee treatment and benefits
- Contributing to civil rights progress
- Understanding and offering substance abuse treatment
- Advocating for child wellness and welfare
Throughout sweeping waves of societal changes that forced significant changes in social worker responsibilities, social workers have proven crucial to our shared history.
2. Social Workers Make an Impact on Virtually Every Part of Society
Perhaps one of the most surprising things about social workers is that they work in such a wide variety of contexts. Social workers now can be found in essentially every field, including:
- Schools and universities
- Health care
- Adoption and foster services
- The military and Veterans Affairs
- Child and family welfare
- Corporate settings
- Mental health
- Substance abuse treatment
- Housing and community services
- Hospice care
The stereotypical perceptions of social workers only working in one or two limited fields are limiting and incorrect. While rapid social change is one of the primary challenges in social work, it also presents one of the main benefits of being a social worker. The field is constantly growing, and the need for educated, excellent social workers to serve our communities continues to increase.
3. The COVID-19 Pandemic Created Permanent Challenges in Social Work and New Opportunities
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of society, and the field of social work is no exception. In the short term, a social worker’s daily work typically involves lots of human contacts, so distancing measures have required social workers to get creative in meeting client needs.
The stress of the pandemic also exacerbated many of the needs social workers address while adding new challenges to social work. The International Federation of Social Workers identified several critical themes in the evolving nature and challenges of social work during COVID-19, including:
- Building key relationships via phone or internet
- Prioritizing new client needs with often limited resources or access
- Balancing client rights, needs, and risks with personal risk
- Finding better ways to deal with fatigue and access self-care
- Learning long-term lessons to improve social work in years to come
Ultimately the pandemic demonstrated that quality social work is more important than ever. Social workers excel in helping both those with obvious needs and caregivers find ways to adapt and stay healthy in times of crisis.
4. Social Workers are Key to Movements of Justice and Change
Questions surrounding accessibility and equity create challenges in social work and emphasize the importance of social work. Social workers are often on the front lines of larger systemic problems in our communities. That also makes them some of the best advocates for broader awareness and response to these issues.
The pandemic demonstrated this reality as social workers quickly discovered how low-income populations, minorities, and the elderly were at higher risk during the pandemic. Social workers played a vital role in understanding effectively and compassionately dealing with such inequities in public health.
Historically, social workers have been on the front lines of identifying and understanding these challenges of inequity or injustice. Future-looking education for social workers is crucial in creating a more just society.
5. Businesses are Hiring Social Workers to Serve as Social Responsibility Guides
In years past, social workers primarily focused on direct assistance through various kinds of social services. However, another surprising fact about social workers is that they now have a seat at the table in the corporate world. Opportunities for social workers in both nonprofit organizations and the private sector are growing, and the corporate world, in particular, is recognizing the need for social workers.
Growing expectations from consumers and employees for companies to be socially conscious are driving this change. Corporations are responding, realizing the need for expertise in creating healthy work environments and contributing to society. Social workers offer these skills to help improve workplaces and guide companies to be better stewards of their resources.
6. Social Workers are the Leading Providers of Mental Health Care in the United States
Very few areas of social concern have garnered as much attention in recent years as mental health. As a nation, we have discovered how crucial mental health is to individual and communal well-being and how many challenges we face. A recent study by USAFacts found that nearly one-third of Americans have symptoms of clinical anxiety or depression, and over one-third live in areas facing a shortage of mental health care professionals.
Conversations surrounding mental health may cause you to think only of mental health experts like psychologists or psychiatrists. However, among the interesting facts about social workers is this: As a group, they comprise the nation’s largest providers of mental health care. One of the benefits of being a social worker in this particular era is the opportunity to help address one of the nation’s most acute and growing needs.
7. Social Work Career Opportunities are Growing Rapidly
The challenges of recent years have emphasized the need for well-trained, well-educated social work professionals. Statistics reinforce this reality. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates over 78,000 new social work job openings each year over the next decade.
Those numbers are important, but so are the trends we already have explored in this article. Social workers can now choose from a wide variety of settings in which to work, and society is coming to a better understanding of the important role of social work professionals in helping us prepare for a broad range of challenges to our individual and collective well-being.
Keuka College’s Online MSW in Social Work Creates Opportunities for Social Workers
Keuka College offers two different online Master’s Degree tracks in Social Work – the Traditional Track and the Advanced Track. Both programs provide students with the chance to fulfill their desire to make a difference by earning an advanced degree in social work from right where they live.
A Master’s Degree Matters
Master’s degrees are correlated with higher salaries and better opportunities and rates of employment. An MSW degree will better position you to make the most of your opportunities as a social worker. An MSW degree is necessary for many clinical positions and social work licensure, which creates an even wider range of career possibilities.
The Keuka Difference
Our online MSW degree program focuses on the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental illness, as well as emotional and other behavioral disturbances. Upon graduation, you will be fully prepared to pursue licensure as a clinical social worker, allowing you to serve as a mental health provider and accept insurance referrals.
In addition to gaining clinical mental health treatment skills, you will benefit from versatile social work knowledge that translates to a range of generalist roles and leadership positions. This program prepares you to work in a variety of fields, including mental health, addiction and substance abuse, family and youth services, community outreach, and more.
Our online MSW program is led by licensed social work practitioners who are actively practicing in the field. Through experiential learning and coursework that blends theory with practical application, this clinical-focused degree approaches mental health services through the lens of ethical and social issues, bringing a deep and meaningful perspective to your future practice.
With an online Master of Social Work degree from Keuka College and your license as a clinical social worker, you can address the growing need in our society for mental health services and improve the lives of people in your community.
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