Nebraska is a state known for farming, rivers and tornadoes. The weather in Nebraska changes drastically throughout the year, and the state’s economy relies on its agriculture. Nebraska is a large producer of beef, pork, corn, and soybeans, which has encouraged the state to adopt progressive agricultural technologies.
A Rapidly Changing Population
Although most of the state is sparsely populated (89 percent of the town populations are fewer than 3,000 people), the cities of Nebraska are growing. For example, Omaha, the largest city in Nebraska, is home to more than 400,000 people.
The movement of a significant portion of the population from rural areas to big cities is referred to as “rural flight.” Unlike some states, however, the majority of Nebraska farmers have thrived. The unemployment rate of the state has remained low, even despite national problems with unemployment, and the farms have continued to flourish (1).
However, not all rural citizens have fared well through this change. According to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, the Latino population has increased in rural Nebraska. Just under half of the Latino population in rural Nebraska does not have health insurance, and the rural communities as a whole are considered “underserved populations” by state health care standards (2).
The urban areas of the state have also experienced problems. While Nebraska as a whole has a lower than average violent crime rate, that risk jumps significantly in the urban areas. Take Omaha, for example, where the risk of becoming a victim of violent crime is 5.95 out of 1,000. This is higher than the national average risk of becoming a victim of violent crime of 3.9 out of 1,000 (3).
Substance abuse has also grown across the state. The number of people admitted to substance abuse treatment facilities has doubled in recent years (from 8,979 in 2001 to 17,994 in 2011) (4).
All of this change has resulted in an increased need for social workers in the state, both in the rural and urban areas.
Progressive Education to Keep Up With a Changing Demographic
The University of Nebraska-Omaha’s School of Social Work ranks 104th in the nation for a graduate social work degree program (as reported in the 2014 US News & World Report school rankings) (5).
Researchers at the University of Nebraska published a study (6) examining the impacts of the recent demographic changes in the state. They have determined that these changes are resulting in the following:
- An aging population in the rural areas, requiring additional support of the elderly
- An influx of minorities, particularly Latinos, at a rate that is double that of the national average, resulting in a need for more social workers fluent in Spanish
- Strain on the existing urban systems due to the increase in population in the cities
The University of Nebraska in Omaha’s School of Social Work offers several dual-degree programs tailored to address the changing needs of the state’s population (7).
If you are willing to work in an area of need, you might qualify for the National Health Service Corps loan forgiveness program (NHSC). Graduates who qualify can be forgiven of up to $40,000 of their student loan debt if they work in “Health Professional Shortage Areas” (HPSA) at a job that fits the criteria for the program.
You might also want to check out the Nebraska Loan Repayment Program (NLRP).
Finding Work as a Social Worker
The lion’s share of social workers employed in the state are child, family and school social workers. As of 2010, 2,340 were employed, and experts are predicting that jobs will continue to be created at a rate of 13 percent, resulting in about 90 new jobs per year. The median salary is $35,200 (8).
Approximately 1,100 healthcare social workers work in Nebraska, making up the second most commonly employed social worker in the state. Healthcare social work job opportunities should also increase at a rate of 17 percent each year, resulting in 50 new jobs per year. As of 2013, the median salary in the state was $41,200 per year (9).
Last but not least, substance abuse and mental health social workers in the state reportedly made an average of $38,200 (in 2013). As of 2010, 770 social workers were employed, and job growth is expected at a rate of 18 percent, creating approximately 30 new jobs per year (10).
Licensure and Professional Development Resources
- Social Work License Requirements in Nebraska
- National Association of Social Workers, Nebraska Chapter
- Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services
- School Social Work Association of Nebraska
Universities Offering MSW Programs in Nebraska
- “Nebraska’s Residents Turn to Urban Living,” 2011. USA Today. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/census/2011-03-01-nebraska-census_N.htm
- Nebraska Rural 2010 Health Goals and Objectives Progress Report. Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. http://dhhs.ne.gov/Documents/Rural_Prog_Rpt.pdf
- Crime Rates in Omaha, Nebraska, 2014. Neighborhood SCout.http://www.neighborhoodscout.com/ne/omaha/crime/
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012
- Graduate School Social Work Programs: Nebraska, 2014. US News & World Report. http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/search?spp=10&program=top-social-work-schools&name=&zip=nebraska&program_rank=Any&sort=&sortdir=
- “Study Unveils Urban-Rural Split in Nebraska,” 2013. WOWT.com. http://www.wowt.com/home/headlines/Study-Unveils-Urban-Rural-Split-in-Nebraska-219471951.html
- Master of Social Work Program, University of Nebraska, Omaha. http://www.unomaha.edu/socialwork/graduate.php
- Occupation Profile: Child, Family, and School Social Workers: Nebraska, 2013. Career One Stop. http://www.careerinfonet.org/occ_rep.asp?optstatus=011000000&soccode=211021&id=1&nodeid=2&stfips=31&search=Go
- Occupation Profile: Healthcare Social Workers: Nebraska, 2013. Career One Stop. http://www.careerinfonet.org/occ_rep.asp?optstatus=011000000&soccode=211022&id=1&nodeid=2&stfips=31&search=Go
- Occupation Profile: Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers: Nebraska, 2013. Career One Stop. http://www.careerinfonet.org/occ_rep.asp?optstatus=011000000&soccode=211023&id=1&nodeid=2&stfips=31&search=Go