What is the role of a social worker

Have you developed an interest in becoming a social worker in the past year? If so, you are not alone. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2021 there were just over 700,000 social workers operating in the United States of America. This number will only continue to grow as more individuals are now becoming interested in making the world a better place.

As a social worker, you are in a unique position to do just that. This is because it allows you to solve specific issues, help people and even be the person who can change someone’s life. But there is more to social work than that. Keep scrolling and find out what becoming a social worker entails, their roles in the lives of people and how you can become one.

What is the role of social workers?

Social workers help individuals and communities address the problems they encounter in their daily lives. 

Although there is a wide range of settings in which social workers practice, together they share a commitment to promote social welfare and support social and economic justice. For example, they can provide assistance and support to people and communities during disasters such as vehicle and other freak accidents.

Other basic duties of the social worker include but are not only limited to the following.

  • Evaluating the needs, circumstances and support systems of clients
  • Working with the right people to identify actionable and achievable goals
  • Intervening in crisis situations that involve mental health emergencies, trauma and abuse
  • Keeping case files, paperwork and client records updated
  • Connecting clients to community resources such as food assistance and healthcare
  • Providing psychotherapy services
  • Creating and strengthening programs and services that benefit clients

Social workers perform the following duties and more in several unique contexts depending on the institution they are working with. 

Who do social workers help?

Social workers work directly with and on behalf of a wide range of people within the population. These include the following:

  • Children and adolescents
  • Veterans
  • Medical patients
  • People suffering from an addiction
  • Individuals who are enduring homelessness and poverty
  • LGBTQ individuals
  • Individuals with mental health issues
  • Couples and families
  • Aging people
  • Victims of trauma and violence
  • Victims of racial, homophobic and sexist abuse
  • Refugees and immigrants
  • Victims of sexual abuse

What is the scope of social work practice?

These are the different levels of social work practice:

  • Micro

Micro-level social workers are the individuals who are working with people one-on-one to assist them in creating changes in their individual lives. These social workers include school social workers, child and family case workers, legal advocates, clinical social workers and medical social workers. 

  • Mezzo

Mezzo-level social workers are individuals that work with mid-level to large institutions. They have a more administrative role in managing a program or service delivery. Some examples of mezzo social work roles are health educators, community organizers, faculty members and leaders of non-profit or community agencies.

  • Macro

Macro-level social workers are working to make high-level changes. Although they do not directly interact with people, the work they are doing is making significant changes in research, policies and programs. These people can include grant writers, policy makers, data analysts, social work researchers, evaluation specialists and federal representatives. 

Where do social workers work?

There are numerous agencies that hire social workers. Oftentimes, the job descriptions for social workers differ on where they decide to work. Some places that employ social workers, include:

  • Schools
  • Outreach and community development organizations
  • Counseling agencies
  • Clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Government agencies

There are also self-employed social workers that have private practices. They usually have licenses as clinical social workers. 

What are the requirements to become a social worker?

At a minimum level, some entry-level social work positions will only require applicants to obtain a bachelor’s degree. However, you may wish to consider an online social work master’s program to gain access to better job opportunities and increase their salary potential as well as professional growth.

Unlike undergraduates, individuals with an advanced degree have more comprehensive training which can result in higher-level social work jobs. It is, however, worth noting that when searching for a social work program, you must ensure that it is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. 

You may also need a social work license to work. The licensing board of each state will determine the different kinds of social work licenses available, what education is required and the extent of practice.