Workforce Studies

Research and data about the social work labor force is critical to determine trends in employment, to address professional training needs, to quantify barriers to quality service delivery, and to inform policy and advocacy efforts. NASW research advances professional development through the dissemination of data on evidence-based practices.

National Study of Licensed Social Workers (2004)


NASW conducted a benchmark national survey of licensed social workers in 2004. Licensed social workers were selected for the sample because they represent front-line practitioners, and because state licensing lists provided a vehicle for reaching practitioners who may not have had any other identifiable professional affiliation.

This report presents a variety of facts and figures about licensed social workers in the U.S. The findings and conclusions are based primarily on the responses to a survey of a stratified random sample of approximately 10,000 licensed social workers in the U.S. conducted in 2004. The report also provides several recommendations for improving the status and conditions of the social work profession.

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 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.

Dataset

Social Workers and Safety
In a 2004 benchmark national study of 10,000 licensed social workers, 44 percent of respondents said they faced personal safety issues in their primary employment practice. This fact sheet shares study data associated with social workers and job safety.

Social Work Services in Behavioral Health Care Settings | Reference documents

This profile of the licensed social work workforce in behavioral health care settings will be an invaluable resource for educators, policymakers, and planners making decisions about the future of the social work profession and its related education programs. The information presented in this report will support the development of effective workforce policies and strategies to ensure that there are adequate numbers of social workers prepared to respond to the behavioral health care needs of individuals and families in the United States.

Social Work Services in Health Care Settings | Reference documents

This report is one of six prepared as part of a national study of licensed social workers conducted by the NASW in partnership with the Center for Health Workforce Studies of the School of Public Health at the University at Albany. It summarizes and interprets the responses of social workers serving children and their families obtained through a national sample survey of licensed social workers in the United States conducted in 2004.

Social Work Services for Children & Families | Reference documents

Licensed Social Workers Serving Children and Adolescents, 2004 is one of six reports prepared by NASW in partnership with the Center for Health Workforce Studies School of Public Health at the University at Albany. It summarizes and interprets the responses of social workers serving children and adolescents obtained though a national sample survey of licensed social workers in the United States conducted in 2004.

Social Work Services for Older Adults | Reference documents

This report is one of six prepared as part of a national study of licensed social workers conducted by NASW in partnership with the Center for Health Workforce Studies of the School of Public Health at the University at Albany. It summarizes and interprets the responses of social workers serving older adults obtained through a national sample survey of licensed social workers in the United States conducted in 2004.

Parity Mental Health Benefits: What Is the Impact on Client Access to Services and on Systems of Care?
In 2001, mental health parity was implemented in health benefit plans for all federal employees. A large-scale study of claims data was conducted to assess the impact of this policy change. Study findings indicate that the implementation of parity in insurance benefits for behavioral health care, combined with care management, improved insurance protection without increasing total costs of care (Goldman, et al., 2006). This study clearly supports efforts to advance mental health parity legislation at the federal level.

Child Welfare Social Workers' Attitudes Toward Mobile Technology Tools: Is There a Generation Gap?
NASW was a member of the National and State Advisory Board of the Family Services Technology Council (FASTech) in 2008. The goal of FASTech was to advance best practices for states on the adoption of technology in child welfare systems. As part of a larger plan, FASTech decided to explore the attitudes and experiences of social workers in child welfare regarding mobile technology tools. 

NASW's Child Welfare Specialty Practice Section was identified as one of the best sources of this information because it is comprised of professional social workers who work in or have an interest in promoting, protecting, and preserving the well-being of children and their families.

Criminal Justice Social Work in the U.S.: Adapting to New Challenges
Social workers have had a defined role in providing services to incarcerated individuals since the inception of the profession in 1904 (Roberts & Springer, 2007). Social work has since evolved as an essential component of the nation’s criminal justice system For the most part, social work practice as performed in the various criminal (and juvenile) justice systems in the United States is variously referred to as criminal justice social work, correctional social work, or forensic social work.




NASW 2009 Compensation & Benefits Study

NASW sponsored and developed this survey in partnership with other social work membership organizations. Data was collected and tabulated by an independent research company.

Download the summary report


Schools of Social Work Research: Recruiting Students to the Profession

This report highlights key findings from 18 interviews conducted with NASW partner schools throughout the United States.

Download the report