Job Outlook Like With a Master's in Social Work DegreeIMAGE SOURCE: Pixabay, public domain.

Before you commit to investing your time and money into graduate school, it’s important to consider your career potential. Are there jobs available for candidates who have the kind of degree you’re pursuing, or could you be wasting years of your life and tens of thousands of dollars on a degree that won’t help you? Fortunately for aspiring social workers, the field of social work is projected to see an “above average employment growth rate” over the next several years, according to U.S. News & World Report. Earning an advanced degree, particularly one from one of the top master’s in social work degree programs, can prepare you for any number of career paths in this quickly growing field.

Job Growth for Social Workers

How do you measure the job outlook for a profession? A federal entity called the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) analyzes employment data to predict the amount of job growth that is likely for the occupation over a period of 10 years.

The rate of growth across all occupations in the United States is just seven percent over the course of a decade. However, social workers are seeing a more positive job outlook. The BLS predicts a faster than average rate of growth in this profession, with an expected 12 percent increase in job opportunities for social workers.

There are a number of factors that contribute to this rapid job growth. The greater need for social workers to fill gaps in the healthcare industry as well as the increased demand for social services will lead to an increase in career opportunities, the BLS reported.

Improving Your Job Prospects in the Field of Social Work

A faster than average rate of growth means that job opportunities will be strong for all social work candidates. However, there are still things that you can do to improve your career prospects.

For example, the BLS expects opportunities to be especially promising for candidates who have earned their master’s in social work (MSW) degree and who have gone on to attain a license to practice clinical social work. This license qualifies you to diagnose and treat mental, behavioral and emotional disorders as well as working in advocacy and resource coordination roles. Some licensed clinical social workers choose to open their own private practice, which allows them to be their own boss. To attain your clinical social worker license, you typically need two years of supervised work experience in addition to a graduate degree.

The specialty you choose to work in also affects your job opportunities. Due to cutbacks in local, state and federal budgets, social workers who work with children and families or in school settings will see opportunities increase by only six percent. On the other hand, jobs for healthcare social workers, mental health social workers and substance abuse social workers are expected to rise by 19 percent over the same time period, the BLS reported.

Specializing in one of these in-demand branches of social work can help you expand your career options. Many top-performing MSW degree programs offer the option to pursue an academic concentration in topics such as health or mental health practice.

While the positive job outlook may not be the main reason that students choose to go into the field of social work, the plentiful job opportunities are certainly one of the benefits of getting started in this career at this point in time.