Social Work Trends: Past and Present

Written by Tevera on 9/14/21


Social work, as a field, has grown tremendously in the past decade in terms of issues faced, global awareness, and trends in treatment. This has led to a rise in demand for social workers in different sectors of society, from schools to medical institutions. If a career in social work is the path for you, it is good to stay at the forefront of current social work trends.

In this post, we will take a look at past social work trends and growth as well as current trends and what you might expect in a social work career.

How Did We Get Here? A Quick Look at Past Trends In Social Work

Trauma and behavioral issues have been around for years, centuries even, but they gain more prominence in times of disaster, conflict, and war. People dealt with these issues in isolation for the longest time, with counseling and therapy being considered “taboo” and less access to support services.

Impact of 9/11

But in the early 2000s, all that came to change. With 9/11, the Iran and Afghanistan wars, major natural disasters, and the economic recession, there was a growing need for help and support. That’s where social work came to be accepted more openly in society—from advances in military social work to preparing for school shootings to providing care for families struck by disaster and abuse—with a common trend of finding and developing new ways to deal with trauma.

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act

Then came the passage of the federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 that required large companies to provide insurance coverage to cover mental health services the same way they do for medical services. This made mental health and substance abuse services more accessible and affordable for those who needed them.

Bullying and School Shootings

The need for social work and counseling in schools grew after the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 and the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007. School social workers were trained to create healthy and compassionate school environments and reduce bullying of students, especially LGBTQ youths, and incidents of violence. 

Recognition of Behavioral Disorders in Children

In the same vein, children’s mental health gained prominence as they were diagnosed and treated for various mental health problems like ADHD, bipolar disorder, autism, etc. For some, this was a starting point of children’s mental health; for others, an epidemic of overdiagnosis.

Rise of the Internet and Online Learning and Networking

More recently, we have seen a growth in web-based social work education and training. With access to the internet—and a growing dependence on it—social work schools started to offer online programs and courses. This helped interested students learn while continuing their existing jobs. With the pandemic, online learning has proven even more significant.

With online learning came cloud-based resources to help social workers do their jobs well. These range from management software to online therapy and social networking groups. Social workers can use these services and technologies to market their services, reach more clients, educate potential clients about common issues such as substance abuse, relationship issues, and more.

These past trends have paved the way for a bright and exciting future in social work with access to better technology and higher salaries.

New Trends in Social Work

Trend 1: Technology in School, Supervision, and in Practice

One of the major social work trends is the development and acceptance of technology and internet-based platforms. We now have access to various tools and software to make responsibility and supervision easier and streamlined. In schools specifically, technology has opened up doors to:

  • Online counseling and therapy sessions
  • Video-based tutorials
  • Social network support
  • Tracking and updating patient and client files
  • Greater access to treatment plans
  • EdTech partners
  • Educating and preparing the next generation of social workers
  • Clinical supervision management and time tracking
  • Easy communication with professors and field supervisors, and more.

Social work technology fulfills two purposes:

Project management software solutions, such as Tevera, have helped schools and universities train high-quality professionals and place them in psychotherapy agencies and other institutions. 

On the other hand, companies are constantly developing new and faster technology as resources for social workers. With such technology, social workers reach more patients and students and work with improved efficiency. This way, they can focus more on providing care and support for their patients.

These technologies and software often comply with or follow protocol outlined by social work accrediting bodies such as the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).

Trend 2: Where Social Workers are Practicing

While most social work careers remain the same, a few have garnered more attention and demand than the others. These include school social workers and military social workers

Schools are embracing social workers as a way of making schools a safe space for students. These social workers and counselors focus on creating a healthy and educational environment for students. They assess and identify factors influencing behavior and mental health issues and make appropriate suggestions.

Military social workers work with veterans to help them recover from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and enter society when they are ready.

In both fields, social workers work not only with the patient (student or veteran) but also with their families and support groups. They consider new and innovative forms of treatment to help patients get back on their feet and gradually integrate into society again.

Trend 3: The Job Market for Social Workers

This is perhaps the most exciting trend in social work. Social work as a career is on the rise and has grown tremendously in recent years. In fact, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (US BLS) predicts a 13% increase in the availability of social work jobs by 2029. That translates into the potential for more than 90,700 new jobs.

With a rise in demand comes an increase in salary. According to the US BLS, the median salary for social workers in 2020 is $51,760 per year, which was $49,470 in 2018. Note that the median pay differs from field to field. For instance, healthcare social workers may have a higher median salary than school social workers.

All this demand means there are plenty of social work jobs available for new graduates and professionals looking to switch fields. Look at the social work careers in demand right now on the Tevera Pro job site!

Trend 4: Continuing Education and Professional Development

Another key social work trend is the support for continuing education. As the field grows, we discover new areas of social work to focus on. It is not only important to keep abreast of trends but also make the most of professional development and educational opportunities. 

The NASW, for instance, has a Continuing Education portal where social work professionals can access new educational opportunities online. Similarly, local social work organizations and chapters offer further professional development and networking opportunities.

Add to these trends the growing global advocacy for mental health and support. Businesses and institutions have been focusing more on students’ and employees’ well-being by offering on-site counseling services, mental health days off, wellness packages, and so on. Social workers have never been more in demand. If you are looking for a career in social work, now is the time to create your career path.




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