We’re incredibly excited to share our first “State of Social Work” report with the world of Social Workers. The report is derived from 272 responses from the Social Work community collected in December 2022.
It’s our sincere hope that the insights in this report help Social Workers (and aspiring Social Workers) better understand the state of the profession and can make more informed decisions about how to thrive within it.
As we mentioned, this is the inaugural report. We plan to conduct a similar survey each year and we welcome your feedback on the topics we cover and any ways to reach a larger segment of the Social Work population.
Would you like to see the full report and download the infographic? Click this link and share your email address and we’ll send you both: Download Full Report + Infographic
Who Took the Survey?
The 2023 State of Social Work survey reached a diverse group of respondents in terms of experience, age, and geographic location.
Among respondents, 26% had less than three years of experience in the field, 18% had between three and five years of experience, 22% had between five and ten years of experience, 15% had between ten and fifteen years of experience, and 19% had more than fifteen years of experience.
In terms of age, 11% fall in the 21-29 age range, 22% in the 30-39 age range, 34% in the 40-49 age range, 24% in the 50-59 age range, and 9% were 60 or older.
Gender, Race, and Ethnicity
Of the respondents, 90% identified as female, 8% as male, and 2% as non-binary or declined to identify. In terms of race and ethnicity, 52% identified as Black, 44% as White, 3% as Asian, and 1% as American Indian or Alaskan Native. 13% of respondents identified as Mexican, Mexican-American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Cuban-American, or a member of some other Spanish, Hispanic, or Latino group.
The survey reached respondents from 41 states and the District of Columbia. Of those surveyed, 78% were currently employed as Social Workers.
Findings About the ASWB Exam and Licensing
Most respondents (80%) are currently studying for an Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) exam. Of these, 54% are preparing to take the Masters exam and 46% are studying for the Clinical Exam.
Motivation to Take Exam
When asked about their primary reason for taking the exam, 42% of respondents cited the desire to “acquire a valuable credential,” 25% said the exam was “required for a job they are applying for,” 17% said it was “required for their current job,” and 10% said they wanted to “build skills as a social worker.”
Changes Respondents Want to See in ASWB Exam
A few common themes emerged in terms of what changes respondents wanted to see in the ASWB exam in the future. Many respondents wanted to see easier and more straightforward questions with clearer wording, fewer questions overall, and the incorporation of more time or a break into the exam.
Additionally, several respondents called for a more culturally competent and realistic approach to question formats and settings.
Overall, the 2023 State of Social Work survey provides valuable insights into the motivations and experiences of social workers preparing for ASWB exams, as well as areas where improvements could be made in the exam process.
Findings About Social Work Careers
Social work is an incredibly diverse field, with 192 different types of careers mentioned by respondents!
The top 10 categories of social work represented included medical/hospital (20%), clinician/private practice (17%), education (13%), mental health (8%), case management (7%), child and family (6%), substance use and addiction (3%), hospice (3%), homelessness (2%), and employment (1%).
Changing Jobs and Motivations
The survey also found that 44% of respondents were either “somewhat likely” or “very likely” to change their jobs in the next 12 months. Of those planning to change jobs, 64% cited the desire to earn a higher salary as their primary reason, 13% said they wanted to change to a role with lower levels of stress, and 10% wanted to find more flexibility in their work hours.
Most Likely to Change Jobs
When examining the top 10 categories of social work represented, the three types of social work that were most likely to want to change jobs were case management (57% reported being very or somewhat likely to change jobs), mental health (50% reported being very or somewhat likely to change jobs), and medical/hospital (40% reported being very or somewhat likely to change jobs).
Least Likely to Change Jobs
The three least likely to want to change jobs were education (36% reported being very or somewhat likely to change jobs), child and family (36% reported being very or somewhat likely to change jobs), and clinician/private practice (38% reported being very or somewhat likely to change jobs).
Highest Stress Level Social Work Careers
In terms of stress levels, the three types of social work with the highest reported stress levels were case management (57% reported very or somewhat high stress), mental health (50% reported very or somewhat high stress), and clinician/private practice (46% reported very or somewhat high stress).
Lowest Stress Level Social Work Careers
The three types of social work with the lowest reported stress levels were education (39% reported very or somewhat high stress), child and family (43% reported very or somewhat high stress), and medical/hospital (44% reported very or somewhat high stress).
Overall, the 2023 State of Social Work survey provides valuable insights into the diversity of careers within the social work field and the factors that may influence social workers’ decisions to change jobs. It also sheds light on the levels of stress experienced by social workers in different areas of practice.
Findings About the Future of Social Work
According to the 2023 State of Social Work survey, 61% of respondents are either “very positive” or “somewhat positive” about the future of Social Work, while 26% are neutral.
Level of Positivity About Future Varies Based on Experience
However, the level of positivity varies depending on the respondent’s level of experience in the field. Among those with less than three years of experience as a social worker, 71% reported being somewhat or very positive about the future of social work. This number decreased to 60% among those with three to five years of experience, 57% among those with five to ten years of experience, 41% among those with ten to fifteen years of experience, and rises to 71% among those with more than fifteen years of experience.
Reasons for Positivity
For those who were somewhat or very positive about the future of social work, the main reasons cited were the growing need and importance of social workers in various settings and communities, the opportunity for personal and professional growth within the field, the potential for increased pay and autonomy with the attainment of higher licenses, the increasing recognition and value of social work as a profession, and the potential for positive change and progress within the field.
Reasons for Negativity
On the other hand, those who were somewhat or very negative about the future of social work cited low pay and high levels of stress and burnout within the profession, a lack of support and resources for social workers, particularly in terms of the high cost and difficulty of licensing exams, discrimination, and bias within the profession, including a lack of cultural competency and inclusivity, a perception that the profession is undervalued and not fully recognized for the important work that social workers do, and concerns about a lack of meaningful change in response to issues raised by social workers.
Overall, this survey suggests that while many social workers are optimistic about the future of the profession, there are also significant challenges and concerns that need to be addressed in order to support and empower social workers to make a positive impact in their communities.
Download the Full Report + Infographic
Would you like to see the full report and download the infographic?
Click this link and share your email address and we’ll send you both: Download Full Report + Infographic
► Learn more about the course here: https://agentsofchangeprep.com
About the Instructor, Meagan Mitchell: Meagan is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has been providing individualized and group test prep for the ASWB for over four years. From all of this experience helping others pass their exams, she created the Agents of Change course to help you prepare for and pass the ASWB exam!
Find more from Agents of Change here:
► Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/aswbtestprep
► Podcast: https://anchor.fm/agents-of-change-sw
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Disclaimer: This content has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or clinical advice, diagnosis, or treatment