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Top Five Issues Affecting the Social Work Sector Today

The social work sector adapts according to the issues and challenges facing communities and their members, although the core values of the profession remain consistent.  Currently, several sociocultural issues are impacting those who receive social work services, social workers themselves, and the human service career field:

  • Growth in aging populations
  • An increasing need for trauma treatment
  • Bullying
  • Diversity and cultural controversy
  • Substance abuse

Aging Populations

As the Baby Boomer generation ages, the demand for social workers specializing in gerontology and medical social work will continue to grow.  Baby Boomers will need support to determine their long-term care options, ensure that care facilities are providing them with ethical treatment, and work with their families to prepare end-of-life plans.  In addition, increasing medical needs will result in a higher demand for social workers who coordinate medical care and support patients who need a combination of medical and mental health services. 


While social networking has many positive effects, an increase in cyberbullying is an unfortunate negative consequence.  The prevalence of digital interaction places vulnerable children, adolescents, and even adults at increased risk for online criticism and attacks from bullies.  Without intervention, these attacks can have tragic results.  Students in The Catholic University’s Master of Social Work (MSW) online program study clinical social work with children and adolescents.  In this course, students learn about the psychosocial and emotional development of young people and learn to empower children and adolescents via goal-setting, intervention, and therapeutic alliance –techniques that can combat the effects of bullying in the digital age.

Trauma Treatment

While a need for trauma-informed care is present in many settings, it is prevalent among U.S. military service members and veterans.  The Department of Veterans Affairs employs 12,000 social workers, providing rehabilitative mental health services such as treatment for trauma, substance abuse, and societal adjustment.  Other agencies and support services also offer care for individuals recovering from traumatic experiences.  This field calls for in-depth knowledge of clinical social work, so the need for credentialed and licensed graduate-level social workers is increasing.

Diversity and Cultural Controversy

The rise of controversy surrounding interactions between diverse groups in the United States has resulted in a need for social workers who are socially and culturally competent to support individuals of any background or affiliation.  As concern regarding law enforcement practices in minority communities rises, and as immigrant and refugee populations increase, multicultural competency among social workers becomes even more crucial.  The first course for students in The Catholic University of America’s online MSW program, Diversity in a Multicultural Society, addresses the concept of diversity and provides a framework for interaction with marginalized and at-risk populations. 

Substance Abuse

With threats such as a nationwide opioid epidemic facing the country, social workers who specialize in substance abuse treatment are needed in psychiatric hospitals, rehabilitative facilities, and government agencies.  Social workers receive education and training that allows them to address underlying causes of substance abuse, often treating mental health issues alongside addictive behavior.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and other therapeutic methods allow social workers to support clients in their journeys toward sobriety and mental health. 

The Social Work Sector: A Growing Field

These issues, as well as many others, have led to rapid growth in the social work career field.  If you are eager to learn about how you can positively impact at-risk individuals and communities, call 855-295-5711 or request more information regarding the online MSW program at The Catholic University of America.