Social work is a rich profession with high ethical and practice standards. Social workers must not only graduate from an accredited bachelors or master’s program, but they must pass a national standardized exam and complete thousands of hours of supervised fieldwork. Once licensed, social workers must remain up-to-date on emerging practices through continuing education, additional credentials, and guided by the NASW Code of Ethics, which prioritizes human well-being.
Social workers can be found throughout every corner of Michigan, with nearly 25,000 licensed professionals working throughout the state. Overall, more than 650,000 people currently hold social work degrees in the United States. Michigan is booming with more than 30 accredited social work programs, reaching as far north as Northern Michigan University in Marquette. These programs are crucial to our state’s future, because according to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), social work is the fastest growing careers in the United States. The profession is expected to grow by 19% between 2012 and 2022, much in part due to the increased need for services as the baby boomer generation ages.
For sheer variety, few occupations can match social work, which offers the broadest range of opportunities and settings. Professional social workers are found in every facet of community life—in schools, hospitals, mental health clinics, senior centers, religious institutions, elected office (there are currently three social workers in the Michigan House of Representatives), prisons, military, corporations, and in numerous public and private agencies that serve individuals and families in need. Many social workers also take on the role of small business owners when they develop private practice or community-based non-profits.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), professional social workers are the nation’s largest group of mental health services providers. There are more clinically trained social workers—over 200,000—than psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychiatric nurses combined. Federal law and the National Institutes of Health recognize social work as one of five core mental health professions.
Did You Know?
- The University of Michigan is currently ranked the #1 social work program in the nation
- U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow holds a MSW degree and started her career as a school social worker
- The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs employs more than 10,000 professional social workers. It is one of the largest employers of MSWs in the United States
- More than 40% of all disaster mental health volunteers trained by the American Red Cross are professional social workers
- Jane Addams, the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, is recognized as the founder of the social work profession
Professional social workers often face significant challenges in the workplace, ranging from inconsistent program funding, low salaries, skyrocketing caseloads, crushing student debt, high burn-out rates and an overall lack of respect from other professionals.
The National Association of Social Workers with its partner organizations continue to advocate for social work professionals, create and maintain professional standards, and advance sound social policies.
- Get additional facts from the NASW Center for Workforce Studies: http://workforce.socialworkers.org
- Learn how social workers help individuals, groups and families across the lifespan: www.HelpStartsHere.org
- Explore how the media covers social workers and social work issues: www.SocialWorkersSpeak.org
- Find a School of Social Work in your state: www.BeASocialWorker.org
Duane Breijak, LLMSW is the Director of Member Services & Development for the National Association of Social Workers – Michigan Chapter