Monday, April 22, 2019

CSWE Releases Report on the Careers of Social Work Graduates

In April 2019, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) recently released a report on the careers of social work graduates. The report, From Social Work Education to Social Work Practice: Results of the Survey of 2018 Social Work Graduates, The George Washington University's Health Workforce Institute surveyed graduates of more than 100 MSW and BSW programs across the country to better understand the job market for social workers and the demographic background of new social workers, their educational and career pathways, employment outcomes, and job satisfaction. Below are the key findings from the report:
  • Social workers are employed in a wide variety of settings serving clients with diverse needs. More than a third of MSW graduates focused on children and families, and a quarter focused on mental health issues.
  • Most social workers are employed at private not-for-profit organizations, health-care organizations, and government agencies.
  • Most new MSW graduates are providing direct services to individuals, families, and groups. Relatively few (7.8%) are providing indirect social work services, such as public policy, administration, management; planning; program evaluation; and research.
  • More than three-quarters of MSW graduates are entering social work jobs, although not all such jobs require an MSW. More than 17% of MSW graduates are going into positions that do not have social work titles but in which they are using their social work education and skills.
  • The profession is largely female; there are some differences in practice patterns by race and gender.
  • Salaries of new MSWs are relatively low for individuals with a master’s degree.
  • Online education offers access to educational opportunities in rural and semi-rural areas and to African Americans.
  • The job market for new MSWs is mixed: There are opportunities, but many are not what the new graduates are looking for and the pay is lower than desired.
  • More than one of three jobs taken by new graduates were with organizations with which the graduates had field placements during their social work education.
  • The majority (80 percent) of new MSWs plan to become licensed clinical social workers.
Not surprisingly, macro social work practice ("indirect social work") is severely underrepresented in the social work profession. This reflects social work curriculum primarily focusing on clinical practice (I have nothing against clinical work, but we also need more social workers doing advocacy work in addition to providing direct assistance to high-need populations). This reflects two factors: (1) schools' unwillingness to invest in macro social work curriculum, and the (2) state licensing boards refusing to offer licensure in macro social work. Some states, such as Michigan, do offer a macro practice licensure, but the vast majority of states do not offer this option. For example, the ASWB (which is the equivalent of a state bar exam for lawyers) offers the Clinical and Advanced Generalist exams. Clearly, the latter option could incentivize states to offer macro practice licensure. 

Another surprise is the increasing use of online education ("distance learning") in social work education, especially among African Americans. Rural students who live more than 30 miles from a social work school would benefit under online education. But why are more African Americans shifting to online education? Researchers need to look into why students are seeking online education over brick-and-mortar schools. Is it cost? Is it convenience? The urban areas, in particular, tend to offer many social work schools. Does online education provide a means for some students to keep their day jobs and attend school at the same time? A problem with most social work schools is that they generally offer daytime instruction and prioritize full-time enrollment. While this scheduling works for young college graduates with few family responsibilities, it is not feasible for working parents who need full-time employment to cover child care expenses and transportation.

Overall, this report was timely and necessary to gain a better sense of the social work profession. More work needs to be done to promote macro social work practice and provide more scheduling options for working parents. My recommendation for macro practice social workers is to pursue another degree (e.g., public policy, law, business, education) in your field that will give you a leg up both in terms of salaries and career advancement. Macro social workers have to be entrepreneurial to employers on how the skills they learned in social work can transfer into a non-social work-title position. It is my hope that policymakers use this report to improve social work education.

No comments: