New Mexico is known for its arid deserts and tall mountains. At 7,000 feet above sea level, their state capital, Santa Fe, boasts the highest altitude of any capital city in the United States. Additionally, New Mexico is home to the Rio Grande, a river which runs across the entire state.
New Mexico has the highest percentage of Latinos in any state in the United States and the second-highest percentage of Native Americans (after Alaska). Most of the tribes in the state are Navajo, Pueblo, and Apache. The Navajo have a 14-million-acre reservation in New Mexico.
Complex Social Issues
New Mexico is truly a unique state, seeing as its ethnic demographics are so very different than most of the other states in the union. Over 47 percent of the population is Latino, and those numbers are growing (1). The Latino population is economically disadvantaged. The median salary for Latinos in the state is $21,000 a year, whereas the median salary for Non-Latino whites in the state is $30,000 (2). A quarter of all Latinos in the state do not have insurance, whereas only eleven percent of Non-Latino whites are without insurance (3).
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SMHSA) reports that New Mexico has one of the highest rates of adolescent substance abuse in the country, and above-average substance abuse rates for all age categories (4). Teen pregnancy is also a problem. New Mexico consistently ranks in the top five states for highest number of births to females under age 20 (5).
New Mexico also has its challenges meeting the needs of the mentally ill. According to SMHSA, the state has a higher-than-average percentage of citizens diagnosed with mental illness (19.59 percent diagnosed with mental illness, 4.72 percent with severe mental illness) (6).
New Mexico as a state has a great need for committed, compassionate social workers that care about social justice and health.
Social Work Educational Opportunities
If you’re considering studying in state, you’ll want to check out your local options. According to the 2014 US News & World Report school rankings, New Mexico State University’s School of Social Work (located in Las Vegas, NM) is ranked number 187 out of all the graduate social work schools in the nation. New Mexico State University’s School of Social Work (in Las Cruces) is ranked 130th in the state. Both schools offer programs tailored to the needs of the local population (7).
New Mexico State University’s graduate program boasts a heavy emphasis on cross-cultural understanding and community development. They are known for their dual-degree program of a Master’s of Public Health and Master’s of Social Work, which is perfect for anyone wanting to work with the Peace Corps or who wants to get involved with community outreach or policy development (8).
Paying for your master’s degree can be taxing, but states like New Mexico partner with programs like the National Health Service Corps loan forgiveness program (NHSC.) If you find work in a “Health Professional Shortage Area” (HPSA), you could be forgiven up to $40,000 in the student loan debt.
You might also want to apply for the New Mexico Health Professional Loan Repayment Program (HPLRP) to see if you are eligible for additional loan forgiveness.
Employment Opportunities for Social Workers
For those interested pursuing child, family, or school social work, the growth rate in that field in New Mexico is expected to be 17 percent per year with a median salary of $36,600 (9).
The median salary for mental health and substance abuse social workers in New Mexico was $39,000 in 2013, which was lower than the national average of $41,000. On the positive side, the industry seems to be growing at a steady rate, with a predicted 16 percent growth rate per year (10).
Healthcare social workers are paid well in New Mexico, earning a median salary of $48,500 per year. This sector is also predicted to grow at a rate of 16 percent per year (11).
Licensure and Professional Development Resources
- New Mexico Social Work License Requirements
- National Association of Social Workers, New Mexico Chapter
- New Mexico State Board of Social Work Examiners
Schools of Social Work in New Mexico: The MSW Program Options
- State and County Quick Facts: New Mexico, 2013. United States Census Bureau. http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/35000.html
- Demographic Profile of Hispanics in New Mexico, 2011. Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project. http://www.pewhispanic.org/states/state/nm/
- Demographic Profile of Hispanics in New Mexico, 2011. Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project.http://www.pewhispanic.org/states/state/nm/
- States in Brief: New Mexico, 2008. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association. http://www.samhsa.gov/data/StatesInBrief/2k9/NEW_MEXICO_508.pdf
- New Mexico Adolescent Reproductive Health Facts, 2011. Office of Adolescent Health. http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-health-topics/reproductive-health/states/nm.html#.U6Ob6ZSwL0w
- State Estimates of Adult Mental Illness from the 2011 and 2012 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health, 2014. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association. http://www.samhsa.gov/data/2k14/NSDUH170/sr170-mental-illness-state-estimates-2014.htm
- Graduate School Social Work Programs: New Mexico, 2014. US News & World Report. http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/search?spp=10&program=top-social-work-schools&name=&zip=new+mexico&program_rank=Any&sort=&sortdir=
- MSW/MPH Dual Degree Program, New Mexico State University. http://socialwork.nmsu.edu/generalist/msw-mph/
- Occupation Profile: Child, Family, and School Social Workers: New Mexico, 2013. Career One Stop. http://www.careerinfonet.org/occ_rep.asp?optstatus=011000000&soccode=211021&id=1&nodeid=2&stfips=35&search=Go
- Occupation Profile: Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers: New Mexico, 2013. Career One Stop. http://www.careerinfonet.org/occ_rep.asp?optstatus=011000000&soccode=211023&id=1&nodeid=2&stfips=35&search=Go
- Occupation Profile: Healthcare Social Workers: New Mexico, 2013. Career One Stop. http://www.careerinfonet.org/occ_rep.asp?optstatus=011000000&soccode=211022&id=1&nodeid=2&stfips=35&search=Go