Social Work Statistics: Canada and the United States

Social work, at its core, involves compassionate professionals working directly with people to improve their well-being and address societal issues. Whether it’s helping families navigate difficult circumstances, advocating for the rights of vulnerable populations, or contributing to community development, all these types of social workers play a crucial role.

Historical Milestones of Social Work in the US

1800s – The Seeds of Social Action:

  • 1877: Establishment of the first Charity Organization Society in Buffalo, laying the foundations for organized efforts to address social issues.

Early 1900s – Birth of Professionalism and Social Theories:

  • 1917: Mary Ellen Richmond publishes “Social Diagnosis,” contributing to the development of social work theories.
  • 1919: Seventeen schools of social work are affiliated with the Association of Training Schools of Professional Social Work.
  • 1955: The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) was founded, becoming a leading professional organization.

Post-World War II Era – Accreditation and Mental Health Focus:

  • 1949: The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is founded, expanding social workers’ roles in mental health.
    • 1946: The National Mental Health Act was passed by Congress, establishing the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) within the Public Health Service.
    • 1949: NIMH is officially established under the leadership of Robert H. Felix, MD.
    • 1950s: NIMH began to fund research on a wide range of mental health disorders, including schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety.
    • 1960s: NIMH expands its focus to include community mental health services and prevention programs.
    • 1970s: NIMH develops new treatments for mental health disorders, such as psychotropic drugs and psychotherapy.
    • 1980s: NIMH begins to focus on the neuroscience of mental health disorders.
    • 1990s: NIMH launched the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) in response to the Oklahoma City bombing.
    • 2000s: NIMH begins to focus on the mental health of veterans and the impact of trauma.
    • 2010s: NIMH launches the BRAIN Initiative, a large-scale research effort to understand the brain and its disorders.
  • 1952: The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is established, accrediting social work education programs.
  • 1955: The National Association of Social Workers was created, consolidating various social work groups.

Civil Rights Movement and 1960s – Healthcare Roles and Ethics:

  • 1960s: President Johnson’s “War on Poverty” led to various government programs, but the 1970s saw a shift in federal policies.
  • 1960: The NASW Code of Ethics was first published, providing guidelines for professional conduct.
  • 1965: Medicare and Medicaid are established, increasing roles for social workers in healthcare.

1980s and 1990s – Advocacy and Welfare Reform:

  • 1980s: Federal programs were reduced during the Reagan administration, leading to social workers relying on private-sector solutions.
  • 1990s: The Clinton administration increases pressure on nonprofits to fill gaps in service provision.
  • 1990: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed, influencing social work by advocating for individuals with disabilities.
  • 1996: The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) is enacted, impacting social work involvement in poverty alleviation.

21st Century – Paradigm Shifts and Global Challenges:

  • Early 2000s: Social workers become prominent in mental health and family services.
  • 2008: The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act enhances mental health services accessibility.
  • 2010: The Affordable Care Act (ACA) transforms healthcare delivery, expanding opportunities for social workers.
  • 2020: The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the essential role of social workers in addressing public health crises, emphasizing adaptability and resilience.

Historical Milestones of Social Work in the US


  • The Niagara Female Hospital, the first institution in Canada to provide training in nursing and social work, is established in St. Catharines, Ontario.


  • The Associated Charities of Montreal, the first charitable organization to employ trained social workers in Canada, is founded in Montreal, Quebec.


  • The National Conference of Charities and Corrections, the forerunner of the Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW), holds its first meeting in Toronto, Ontario.


  • The first Canadian school of social work, the Montreal School of Social Work, is established at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec.


  • The Canadian Welfare Council, the first national organization dedicated to social work in Canada, is formed.


  • The Unemployment Insurance Act, which provides financial assistance to unemployed workers, is passed by the Canadian government. Social workers play a key role in administering this program.


  • The Canadian National Institute for the Blind, which provides services to people with visual impairments, is established. Social workers are employed by the CNIB to provide counseling, rehabilitation, and other services to clients.


  • The Canadian Council on Social Work Education is established to establish standards for social work education in Canada.


  • The Canada Pension Plan and the Quebec Pension Plan, which provide retirement income to Canadian workers, are established. Social workers play a role in helping people apply for and receive benefits under these programs.


  • The Medical Care Act, which provides universal healthcare coverage to Canadian citizens, is passed by the Canadian government. Social workers play a role in providing case management and other services to patients.


  • The Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) is established as the national professional organization for social workers in Canada.


  • The Canadian Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on a number of grounds, including race, religion, and sex, is passed by the Canadian government. Social workers play a role in promoting human rights and advocating for people who have been discriminated against.


  • The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), which funds health research in Canada, is established. Social workers participate in CIHR-funded research on a variety of topics, including mental health, child welfare, and aging.


  • The Canadian Social Work Code of Ethics is adopted by CASW. The Code of Ethics provides guidelines for professional conduct for social workers in Canada.


  • The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was established to examine the history of residential schools in Canada and its legacy of harm to Indigenous people. Social workers play a role in supporting Indigenous people who are affected by residential schools.

Social Work Facts in US

Quick Facts: Social Workers1
2022 Median Pay$55,350 per year
$26.61 per hour
Typical Entry-Level EducationSee How to Become One
Work Experience in a Related OccupationNone
On-the-job TrainingSee How to Become One
Number of Jobs, 2022728,600
Job Outlook, 2022-327% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2022-3253,800

The median annual wage for social workers was $55,350 in May 20222.

Social work employment is expected to experience a 7% growth from 2022 to 2032, surpassing the average for all occupations.

Annually, approximately 63,800 openings3 for social workers are projected over the decade. This demand is driven by a combination of industry growth and the need to replace workers transitioning to other occupations or retiring from the labor force.


Baccalaureate Highlights:

  • Full-time enrollment in baccalaureate programs decreased by -17.89% compared to the prior year.
  • Over the last 10 years, total baccalaureate enrollment declined by -13.53%, while part-time enrollment increased by 20.76%.
  • Female students comprised 86.35%, and those younger than 25 constituted 66.4% of baccalaureate social work students.
  • In 2021–2022, 444 programs conferred 16,780 baccalaureate degrees, averaging 37 per program.

Master’s Highlights:

  • Over the last 10 years, master’s enrollment increased by 16.82%, with full-time enrollment rising by 19.82%.
  • Female students constituted 81.7%, and those aged 25 or older made up 58.9% of master’s social work students.
  • In 2021–2022, 261 master’s programs conferred 26,514 degrees, averaging 101 per program.

Practice Doctorate Highlights:

  • Full-time enrollment in practice doctorate programs was 25.3%, with an average enrollment of 112 students per program.
  • Female students accounted for 78.6%, and those aged 45 or older comprised 36.9% of practice doctorate social work students.
  • In the last year, 14 programs conferred 178 practice doctorate degrees, averaging 12 graduates per program.

Research Doctorate Highlights:

  • Over 66% of research doctorate students were enrolled full-time.
  • Female students represented 73.2%, with the largest age group being 35–44 (32%).
  • In the last year, 46 programs conferred 196 research doctorate degrees, averaging four graduates per program.

Additional Highlights:

  • About 57% of practice doctorate programs had partially or fully online course options.
  • Educational debt increased over the past decade, with master’s graduates having over 50% more debt.
  • In fall 2021, there were more than 5,240 full-time faculty members, with 75.2% being female.
  • Average annual salary for assistant professors was $66,307, associate professors earned $76,240, and full professors received $102,653.
  • Part-time faculty with master’s degrees earned an average of $3,826.72 per course for baccalaureate classes.
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