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research studies



National Study of Licensed Social Workers

Social work is a diverse profession, unique among the human service professions in that the term "social worker" is defined so broadly in different organizations and settings. Predicted changes in the country's demographics landscape over the next several decades are expected to increase the need for social work services. However, the lack of a standard definition has left the social work profession without reliable data upon on which to base future projections about the supply of, and demand for, social work professionals. In addition, available data sets were inadequate to describe the scope of professionally trained social workers who provide frontline services to older adults.

To better predict the adequacy and sufficiency of the social work labor force to meet the changing needs of society, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in partnership with the Center for Health

Workforce Studies, conducted a benchmark national survey of licensed social workers in the fall of 2004. Licensed social workers were selected for the sample because they represent frontline practitioners, and because state licensing lists provided a vehicle for reaching practitioners who may not have had any other identifiable professional affiliation. This national study provides baseline data that can guide policy and planning to assure an appropriately trained social work workforce will be in place to meet the current and future needs of older adults. The study examines:

  • Demographic characteristics of professional social workers;
  • Practice setting and work locations;
  • Activities and tasks performed by social workers;
  • Education and training, both initial and continuing, including assessments of adequacy;
  • Current compensation and benefits;
  • Attitudes of social workers about their profession and their work;
  • Perceptions about the job market for social workers.

The financial support of the The Atlantic Philanthropies, John A. Hartford Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is gratefully acknowledged. The findings and conclusion presented in these reports are those of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the foundations.

National Study--Readers' Guide

Quick Facts


  Preliminary Report:
Assuring the Sufficiency of a Frontline Workforce: A National Study of Licensed Social Workers - Preliminary Report
(March 2005, PDF 300KB)

Final Report - Assuring the Sufficiency of a Frontline Workforce: A National Study of Licenced Social Workers Executive Summary (March 2006, PDF 527KB) The executive summary highlights the key findings from the national study of licensed social workers.
Special Reports Practice Areas
- Aging - Behavioral Health
- Children and Families - Health

Reference Documents
The reference documents are compliations of the research data from the study.

Licensed Social Workers in the United States, 2004 (PDF 984KB)
Executive Summary (PDF - 345KB)
Chapter 2 (PDF - 202KB)
Chapter 3 (PDF - 417KB)
Chapter 4 (PDF - 324KB)
Supplement to the National Study of Licensed Social Workers (PDF 1,570KB)
Chapter 1 - Overview (PDF - 20KB)
Chapter 2 - Who Are Licensed Social Workers (PDF - 121KB)
Chapter 3 - Licensed Social Work Practice (PDF - 108KB)
Chapter 4 - Clients of Licensed Social Workers (PDF - 54KB)
Chapter 5 - Perspectives on Licensed Social Work Practice (PDF - 136KB)

Click Here for Access to the National Study of Licensed Social Workers's Database