Social Work Month Letter to the Editor 2024
March is Social Work Month and the 2024 Social Work Month Theme is Empowering Social Workers
One way to do this is to increase their salaries.
Our nation needs social workers more than ever. The United States is grappling with an opioid addiction crisis that has cut across all regions, races, and economic levels. And homelessness is on the rise, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control, deaths by suicide rose in 2021 after declining the previous two years.
Social workers are people who enter the profession because they truly want to help others. And, they are uniquely qualified to handle these societal troubles. They go through years of education, training, and supervision so they can do the delicate, but important work of meeting people where they are and helping them achieve their goals.
Social workers are trained to work in holistic ways, assisting not just individuals but their entire families, communities, and even the larger society at large—especially if laws and regulations must be changed to benefit people. You will find social workers everywhere – in hospitals, schools, local, state, and federal government, social service agencies, corporations, and veterans centers, too.
The demand for social workers is reflected in the statistics – the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates they field will grow exponentially. There will be more than 782,000 social workers in the United States by 2030, and according to BLS. “Overall employment of social workers is projected to grow 7 percent from 2022 to 2032, faster than the average for all occupations,” the BLS states on its website.
However, social workers need support to meet the high demand for their vital work. Many social workers must earn a master’s degree and go through the expensive process to gain licensure; yet some aren’t able to afford a livable wage. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for social workers in 2022 was $55,350. When you consider too, that in order to do their work, many social workers must earn a master’s degree and go through the very expensive process to gain licensure; this is not enough.
In fact, Ipsos did a National Social Work Public Opinion Survey that found that slightly more than half of respondents think social workers should get higher pay. Few Americans realize that social workers can work in potentially dangerous settings. However, 84 percent would support Congress passing legislation that would provide agencies where social workers work with grants to help improve safety, the survey states.
It is important for the public to support legislation and initiatives that empower and support the social work profession and improve their bottom line. This includes the Improving Access to Mental Health Act, student loan debt relief, and social work safety legislation.
This month, the National Association of Social Workers, the country’s largest social work association, will raise awareness of the social work profession and highlight the need for the government, regulators, and employers to work to improve pay for social workers as a way of investing in addressing challenging social issues.
In March, NASW is planning an online conversation to discuss the reasons behind lower social work pay and how social workers can address this issue. This plan will lead to a larger campaign on the salary gap.
We will feature advice from social workers who are earning better wages, HR professionals, and we’ll chat with members of NASW members and social workers, including social workers in NASW’s NY City Chapter, who are ableto discuss howthey got the state to pay social workers there more.
For more information on the 2024 Social Work Month “Empowering Social Workers!” Campaign contact NASW Communications Director Greg Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.