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National Study of Licensed Social Workers Readers' Guide

Reports from the National Study of Licensed Social Workers are designed to provide comprehensive information about the frontline professional social work labor force, the context of their practice, descriptions of services they provide, and characteristics of the client populations served.

This benchmark study was conducted by the NASW Center for Workforce Studies and the Center for Health Workforce Studies, School of Public Health, University at Albany to help inform workforce planners, policy makers, and the fields of social work education, practice, policy and research.

Research objectives were included to gather expanded data from social workers who serve older adults and those who serve children and adolescents -- both especially vulnerable populations. In addition, the study analysis and reports focus on two major social work practice areas: behavioral health and health.

The study findings are an important resource for understanding the utilization of the professional social workers in the current systems of care as well as a useful tool in planning service delivery systems and workforce development needs.

Note to Workforce Planners

Rapid changes in the demographics of the workforce coupled with the dynamic nature of personnel requirements in evolving service delivery environments pose significant challenges for human resource planners at the local state and federal levels and within the private sector. Findings from the National Study of Licensed Social Workers portend critical issues for workforce planners in all sectors: Consider these findings and implications:

  • A significant sector of the social work labor force will age out at a time when baby boomers reach retirement and the United States experience an increased population of older Americans requiring social services. How will the profession meet these needs with a reduced labor force? Workforce planning strategies must address recruitment and retention of a new generation of professional social workers.
  • Increasingly complex cases are being managed by professional social workers at a time of decreased community resources and support for clients. This type of work requires a high degree of skill and professional training. Workforce strategies must address professional traininissues - not just academics and competencies, but also economic factors that could hinder potential students from pursuing careers in social work
  • The ethnic and racial diversity of the American population is not reflected in the social work profession. The profession has not attracted social workers of color, consistent with the population's demographics. Yet services, to be effective, must recognize and address the needs of diverse populations and cultures. Workforce planners must consider and integrate strategies to increase ethnic and racial diversity within the social work profession.
  • Master's prepared social workers identified a high level of satisfaction with both their jobs and their professional preparation. Planners can capitalize on this when considering recruitment and retention of the next generation of social workers.