Social work jobs

Social workers often provide social services in health-related settings that now are governed by managed care organizations. To contain costs, these organizations are emphasizing short-term intervention, ambulatory and community-based care.

Social workers help people function the best way they can in their environment, deal with their relationships, and solve personal and family problems. Social workers often see clients who face a life-threatening disease or a social problem. Most social workers specialize. Although some conduct research or are involved in planning or policy development, most social workers prefer an area of practice in which they interact with clients.

Employment of social workers in private social service agencies will increase. Employment in State and local government agencies may grow somewhat in response to increasing needs for public welfare, family services, and child protection services through private agencies. Employment levels in public and private social services agencies may depend on need and government funding levels.

Employment of school social workers also is expected to steadily grow. Expanded efforts to respond to rising student enrollments and continued emphasis on integrating disabled children into the general school population may lead to more jobs. Availability of State and local funding will be a major factor in determining the actual job growth.

As hospitals continue to limit the length of patient stays, social work jobs in hospitals will grow more slowly than in other areas because hospitals are releasing patients earlier than in the past. However, the expanding senior population is an even larger factor. Employment opportunities for social workers with backgrounds in gerontology should be good in the growing numbers of assisted-living and senior-living communities. Expanding senior population will also spur demand for them in nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and hospices.

Growth for social workers jobs in private practice will be somewhat hindered by restrictions that managed care organizations put on mental health services. The growing popularity of employee assistance programs is expected to spur some demand for private practitioners some of whom provide social work services to corporations on a contractual basis.

Employment of substance abuse social workers will grow rapidly in next decade or so. Substance abusers are increasingly being placed into treatment programs instead of being sentenced to prison. As this trend grows, demand will increase for treatment programs and social workers to assist abusers on the road to recovery.

Competition for social worker jobs is stronger in cities, where demand for services often is highest and training programs for social workers are prevalent. However, 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 background in gerontology and substance abuse treatment.