The U.S. Department of Labor predicts employment in community and social service occupations will grow by 11 percent through 2028, which is much faster than the average for all other occupations. Employment of social workers in all areas will grow much faster than the average in the coming years, with an overall rise of 11 percent. Competition for jobs in cities will be high due to the number of qualified candidates, but openings in rural areas may be easier to obtain. The steadily increasing elderly population will keep demand high for health and social service workers who specialize in helping senior citizens.
Most communities recognize the importance of social services as new social problems develop every day. Most social programs require government funding to continue operating, and bureaucracy and budget cuts can make it difficult to keep a social service running. New initiatives in job retraining and welfare reform could brighten prospects for social services workers, but much depends on government policies.
Opportunities for private social workers or social workers in the private sector are expected to grow, particularly in the areas of mental health substance abuse. The Department of Labor predicts 18 percent employment growth for social workers in these areas through 2028. Jobs for school social workers are also predicted to increase, due in part to more schools integrating children with disabilities into the general school population and assistance and support will be needed. Health care social workers will also be in high demand through 2028; employment in this key field is projected to grow by 17 percent.
As client groups change, so will social services. For example, as the gay, lesbian, and transgender population continue to assert their civil rights and seek legislation protecting them from discrimination, the social services worker will become more involved in providing them advocacy and legal aid. Changes in immigration policies also will change the kinds of social services available to legal and illegal immigrants. In addition, the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has highlighted social services as essential services for people and their communities, particularly in areas most affected by the virus. Social services workers have had to rapidly shift to providing services through various methods, including through online meetings and sessions. These changes in methods may last beyond the pandemic and become a permanent part of social services. As one social services professional put it, "This pandemic has exposed the fragility of nearly every aspect of society. ... It has reveal preexisting conditions–from micro to meta–that contributed to and intensified the effects of inequities. Social work has not been immune to this exposure."