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21 Different Types of Jobs for Social Workers

Social worker talking to teenage student on the lawn in the park.

Social work focuses on human capacity, inherent personal strength, social mobility, and dignity to all human beings. Social work is designed on the conviction that people can recover and regain their lives with the right help, guidance, support, and advocacy.

Social work is a part of a steadily developing economic sector. Many positions are available if one pursues social work as a career; social work is divided into direct services and clinical social work (caregiving and counseling). A social worker must hold a state-recognized certificate to practice.

Aspiration is seeded into the practice of Social Workers. Their duties are designed to mitigate the vulnerability of patients or clients who cannot emotionally, psychologically, or physically cope with daily life or survive independently. A career in social work often requires several years of education, qualification, and a license.

Types of Social Workers

Social Work is an academic discipline and practice-centered profession that advocates quality of life, societal mobility, strong community, cultural acknowledgment and respect, individual empowerment, and liberated mindsets.

The main role of social workers is to aid, assist, and help people. Social work focuses on different areas defined by people’s different needs. There are various career path options that a social worker can specialize in.

A social worker can engage in the profession in numerous ways; this includes mental health clinics, schools, hospitals, and private practice. There are two distinct principal social worker categories: direct service and clinical social workers.

Direct service social workers are a hands-on profession that provides immediate assistance to the basics of everyday life. Direct service providers also branch into other fields, but the principal features of caregiving are consistent.

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Clinical social workers are certified to discern, identify and treat mental illness (behavioral, mental, and social). Clinical social workers’ roles require a master’s degree; they design treatment plans or strategies, diagnose symptoms, perform psychometric tests, and coordinate with others trained in the health care profession.

Direct Services Social Workers

Direct Care providers are also referred to as caregivers. They offer actual physical assistance or support to those who are unable to function on a basic level. Direct service providers are tasked with running essential errands, bathing, other ablution duties, and performing housekeeping.

Direct services work with fragile individuals, families, and communities; these practices entail assessing the client’s level of need and providing guidance, resources, and assistance. Despite the rudimentary aspects of their tasks, direct care is a highly valued service that requires a state-approved license.  

People challenged with disability: social, mental, physical; can turn to direct-service social workers. Direct practices specialize in the following areas: advocate, case manager, counselor, educator, supporter, facilitator, program coordinator, and outreach worker.

Community Health Providers: Direct Care Work/Caregivers

Caregiver assisting senior on walking.

Direct care work (caregivers) offers hands-on, personal aid to the incapacitated; these suffer from either chronic illness, disability, or the elderly. Direct care workers facilitate daily duties that involve personal care, hygienic concerns, and basic health care.

The level of assistance to those in need and their surrounding families must not be underestimated; direct care workers are a lifeline, and their responsibilities extend beyond service to salvation.

Direct care workers are a part of the largest, fastest developing economic sector (especially in low-income neighborhoods); they participate in job creation and economic growth.  

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Behavior Health Technician

Behavior health technician counseling the teenage girl.

A behavior health technician addresses mental health issues; they focus their expertise on behavioral intervention services. The other facets of behavioral health technician include dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, developmental disorders, neurodegenerative ailments, substance abuse and addiction, and emotional and physical abuse.

Behavior health technicians are teamed with doctors, nurses, and analysts to apply prescribed treatments according to the patient’s diagnoses. Collectively they compile reports on the patient’s progress. Their role also entails encouraging the patient’s progress.

Behavior health technicians deliver an extensive array of services, including direct patient care, administration (admitting and discharging patients), examining and recording the patient’s vital statistics, subtly scrutinizing and filing the patient’s behavior, and assisting in patient’s therapy and treatment.

Child and Family Social Work

Children have the right to seek help if they are confronted with overwhelming challenges. Social workers mediate assistance provided by the state, institutions, the court, and schools and assist children in gaining access to these government-sponsored facilities.

They are designated to all specified social, psychological, educational, legal, and medical areas. Child and family social workers comprise one of the largest sectors in the field. Social workers direct families to the necessary resources and provide the required services to resolve issues confronting children.

School Guidance Counselor

School guidance counselor advising the teenage boy.

A school counselor offers guidance to students regarding personal health, hygiene, social interaction, behavior, and conduct. School counselors assist with college options and career paths; they give informed advice.

If the student displays disruptive behavior, the guidance counselor will find the root cause, whether bullying (in the home or school), family issues, or perceived inadequacy when coping with the academic curriculum. They must then address the issue and steadily ensure that the issue gets resolved.

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If the school counselor has the right qualifications, they also provide aptitude tests to assess their skills and academic strengths and weaknesses. They direct students in the correct extracurricular activities to enhance their capacities and boost their academic record.

School Social Worker

School social worker talking to the little girl.
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School social workers strive to understand and solve students’ challenges; they link family, faculty, and student. They are usually trained with a degree in social work and specialize in developmental psychology and education. School social workers focus on life adjustments for academic achievement and success.

A school social worker mediates family life and school life to identify reasons for disrupting behavior and underachievement. School social workers communicate with the faculty, family, and child/student through interviews, group sessions, play sessions, and individual counseling.

School social workers are tasked with ensuring the student’s safety both in the home and school environment; they direct the student to various institutions that will facilitate learning and indicate access to academic resources.   

Family Advocate

Family advocate talking to family with a baby.

A family advocate observes the home situation of a child or children and their family and reports to the court. They summarize findings and relay their recommendations to the court; this entails guardianship and care.

Professionals of this social service participate in family affairs; their primary role is to mediate, promote, and advocate for minors. Family advocates must ensure that the best interest of minors is served in both domestic and legal cases.  

The family advocate’s role is to ensure minors are fully versed in their rights and directed in how to proceed to ensure their safety and prosperity. An aspect of family advocacy involves creating programs that guide families in addiction, abuse, and mental illness.

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A family advocate is an immensely beneficial role or occupation that requires a qualification, years of training and education, and a state-recognized certificate and license. Family advocates are endowed with ensuring security in proceedings and communicate in both verbal and nonverbal cues a trusting, safe environment for the children.

Child Wellbeing Specialist

Child well-being specialist comforting the teenage girl.

These specialists assist children whose lives have been negatively impacted by social, family, environmental, and cultural issues. These issues also involve teenage pregnancy, runaways/homelessness, poverty, discrimination, truancy, and academic underachievement.  

Child wellbeing social workers conduct investigations and inquire into the nature of the social situation that negatively impacts these children. As specialists, they are qualified, with the right skills, knowledge, and experience to advocate for children.

The child wellbeing specialist works to advance the cause of children in their home, school, and family environment. Child safety is the main concern of the child welfare expert; they better facilitate access to the necessary medical treatments and institutions.

The child wellbeing experts conduct interviews and schedule visits with possible foster families and adoptive guardians. They serve as legal representatives within court hearings. Their role is to protect children and ensure their safety.

Medical and Public Health Social Work

Patients who cannot cope with infirmity or suffering from chronic or terminal illness require the assistance of a medical or public health social worker. The medical social worker offers coping tactics, counseling, medical recommendations, transfers, and appointments.

Medical social workers are employed by hospitals, government bureaus, and health care contractors. Public resources like Medicare and Medicaid organize many of the various health care services; public health social workers are assigned to assist patients in navigating these resources.

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A medical/public health social worker attempts to reduce the spread of disease; they educate, inform and aid communities in tackling pervasive diseases and recovering from adversities.  

Palliative Care Social Work

palliative care social worker comforting the elder woman on the bed.

Palliative care is the supervision of symptoms of the terminally ill and patients with chronic diseases; they demonstrate to the patients and family of patients how to psychologically and emotionally cope with the trauma of living with an ongoing disease. Palliative care also endeavors to manage pain.

Palliative care’s objective isn’t to hasten the symptoms of the disease or postpone death; instead, its objective is to contribute to the quality of the patient’s life. Palliative care is prescribed early and often works alongside doctors, nurses, and other therapists and therapies.

The palliative care social worker must endeavor to ease suffering and consistently allot prescribed medication. Palliative care delivers its service at palliative care service branches, hospice centers, and in-house treatment; it treats patients at any stage during their illness.

Palliative care social workers attend to the patient’s wellbeing (including spiritual wellbeing) and serve as a companion from diagnoses through all stages, including death and recovery. Palliative care workers attend home visits, set up treatment areas in-home, and counsel family members on the care.

Hospice Social Work

Hospice social worker caring for the elder woman with tumor.

Hospice social work encompasses all the features of palliative care but is more focused on the last stage of the illness: end-of-life care. Patients who receive a diagnosis of six months to live are offered hospice.

Both hospice and palliative care are exceptionally challenging; hospice especially requires social workers to prepare both the family and patient for the prognosis. They are specialists in this field that have gone through the necessary training.

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There are positives to this occupation that include a deeper understanding of the human experience, connection, and learning about life stories, enhancing an appreciation for people.

Social Work, Social Justice, and Community Organization

A primary focus of social work is to facilitate social justice better; give legal assistance to those who are in at-risk situations. Social justice and advocacy are the cornerstones of social work practice.

Advocacy prioritizes human rights, and community rights, advancing social injustice causes. Community social work mobilizes large numbers of community members and challenges power imbalances.   

Case Worker   

Case worker visiting couple at home.

A caseworker or welfare worker facilitates access to resources like government services, healthcare amenities, financial aid, and counseling. Their responsibilities involve identifying the patients/client’s needs, allocating the resources provided by the government, and networking.  

Caseworkers provide aid to at-risk individuals; they work for the government, non-profit organizations, or associations advocating for vulnerable people. Caseworkers must embody empathy, discipline (boundary setting), active listening, and sufficient communication skills. 

The caseworker’s duties include frequent, recurring home visits, assessment reports on the condition of homes and family life, monitoring the situation, and overseeing appointments with legal aid and psychologists.

As with all facets of social work, casework must navigate dysfunctional situations and endeavor to solve and readjust toward more sustainable human interactions. Psychosocial evaluations are an instrument available to caseworkers to determine the client’s aptitude and adaptability better.

A caseworker must possess at least a bachelor’s degree, majoring in social work and other similar subjects/units in the field, like sociology and psychology. Electing a minor in a second language like Spanish is beneficial to underrepresented communities.

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Advocate

Advocate social worker comforting the elder man.

An advocate social worker works to uphold the rights and legitimacy of members of society who can’t defend themselves; they fight for people’s basic rights, the right to representation, the right to be heard, and the right to safety.

Advocacy occurs on the local, state, or national level. Advocate social work improves access to essential resources and rights like basic housing, nutrition, and health care.

The range of social advocacy spans from small-scale projects that focus on individuals and families to large-scale ventures; advocate social workers can also influence policy design.

Public Policy Advocate / Planner

Public advocate speaks during rally.

Public policy advocates and planners shape and design policy through activism and influence; they inspire decision-makers on numerous issues and causes. These causes include prison reform, at-risk youth, community security, welfare, education, domestic violence, and disability.

The public policy advocates enact roles that include lobbying, litigation (taking legal action), creating awareness, and forming alliances; these actions are generally taken on behalf of agencies and associations that need representation.

Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Social worker counseling unhappy couple.

Social workers frequently find the course of their occupation directing them to courtroom disputes. Court proceedings are expensive and time-consuming. There is also an emotional toll which is often too high for the simple chance of a favorable outcome.

For these reasons, social workers question if there isn’t a preferable option to conflict resolution; therefore, courtroom resolution is being replaced with Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR).

ADR is a more discreet, less antagonistic way of mediating conflict proceedings. Federal agencies, the state, and local courts are steadily choosing ADR over litigation.   

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Social Work Administration and Management

Social work administrative and managerial duties require awareness of social policy and the provision of social services. These responsibilities necessitate envisioning strategies for successful coordination and planning.

It includes advancing human relations within various roles and a continued demonstration of work ethics and values. Many features of this occupation are like administration and management in other establishments.

Case Manager

Case manager assessing her senior clients.

Case managers initiate programs based on the assessment of the client’s needs. Their role is distinct from social work in that their responsibility is to manage the aspects of service delivery. Their duty is particularly relevant in handling complex situations that involve coordinating between institutions, families, and individuals.

Case managers develop strategies to effectively facilitate communication, roles, and positions of different social work. Case managers then provide the various types of social workers with these plans.

Case managers identify, assess, and coordinate; they then evaluate the success of the plans. The case manager’s task may include interviewing the client to assess their treatment required; they then direct the client to the prescribed treatment and the social worker.

Social Work Intern

Social work intern working on her laptop in the office.

A social work internship requires the ability to watch, listen and learn; they then must prove themselves an asset to licensed social workers by aiding, where needed. Social work internship is a time spent in training to develop skills to apply them to real-life situations.

Social work interns are tasked with collecting medical records, gathering data on clients, aiding clients with resources, maintaining clients’ records, and offering a level of assisted counseling.

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Program Coordinator

Program coordinator working with her client in the office.

Program coordinators work amongst many social organizations; this includes medicinal and wellbeing care, scholastic, and assisted-living provisions. A prime responsibility of program coordinators is dealing with administrative errands, like budgeting, appointments, scheduling, and creating programs for the designated treatment centers.

The role of program coordinators is assessing and reassessing policies to confirm the fulfillment of contracts and obligations. Program coordinators install new and improved procedures when quality and efficiency of care necessitates revisioning.  

Clinical Social Worker

Clinical social work is a practice outlined by education and expertise in psychology: evaluation, diagnosis, therapy, and prevention of mental disease and anti-social behavior.

Patients are treated on an individual, group, and family level. Clinical social workers who offer these services must be certified and licensed (especially if there are tests and assessments) in the state where they have set up their practice.   

Therapist / Psychotherapists

Psychotherapist working with teenage woman in the office.

Therapists are also referred to as psychotherapists; they are licensed or certified counselors specializing in cognitive abilities, mental abnormalities, behavioral-emotional physiological feedback systems, and simple life-skill development.

Therapists are to remain impartial, empathetic, and encouraging; their responsibility is to their patient’s recovery, attainment of goals, and sustained mental health. Psychotherapists formulate strategies that patients can apply to real-life situations.

Crisis Counselor

Crisis counselor talking to a depressed man in the office.

A crisis counselor provides aid to patients that suffered recent trauma; that negatively impacts their daily lives. Crisis counselors provide first aid, access to relevant resources and information material, demonstrate to the patient how to recuperate and reclaim their strength, and offer support, stability, and empathy.

Crisis Counselors provide immediate relief in brief 15 minutes to 2-hour sessions for three to four sessions. The crisis counselor will then refer the patient to a psychotherapist.

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The psychotherapist will then assist the patient by changing the victim-focused narrative to a narrative focused on empowerment, personal strength, and the inherent ability to overcome. Therapists will affirm and reaffirm their safety, stability, and strength, usually using techniques like positive affirmations.

Behavioral Analyst

Behavioral analyst talking to a young boy.

Behavioral analysts are certified and licensed to assist patients by regulating their emotions and behaviors to facilitate social conduct and reduce negative, harmful behavioral patterns.

Behavioral adjustment deficits are affected by mental abnormality, developmental delay, neurological disorder, injury, disability, or diet. Behavior analysts must possess strong interpersonal, communications, and organization skills; they must develop strategies and coordinate.

Behavior analysts perform behavioral assessments and evaluations; they then formulate behavior support guidelines, strategies, and procedures. Negative behavior is intervened and overseen by Registered Behavioral Technicians.

Substance Abuse and Addiction Counselor

Substance abuse and addiction counselor talking to a teenage boy.

An addiction counselor provides service to individuals and families struggling with substance abuse and addiction. Addiction counselors are attentive to the root reasons for substance abuse through active listening and inquiry.

Addiction counselors offer coping strategies to individuals engaged in substance-dependent behavior. They usually work in tandem with 12 step programs, group support like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), rehabilitation centers or facilities, and halfway houses.

Addiction counselors also report to the court on the patient’s progress if this is warranted. Substance abuse counselors are responsible for facilitating patients to become productive members of society.

Military and Veteran Social Workers

Military social worker talking to a soldier in the camp.

Members of the military need the assistance of social workers to assist in the transition from combat to civilian lifestyle. Military social workers often extend beyond military men’s or women’s service to members of their families and loved ones.

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Being sensitive to the issues faced by veterans is a requirement, and social workers must be empathetic to the experiences of service members. Military members are evaluated, assessed, and psychologically tested; military social workers can identify post-traumatic stress symptoms and an array of other mental, emotional, and health issues.

Veteran social workers must formulate a treatment schedule and strategy. Again, if there is injury, treatment extends to helping the family and loved ones deal with the physical, emotional, and psychological scarring.

Military social workers assist the veterans in dealing with deployment dates; they engage and mentally prepare veterans and assess their emotional state. Military social workers mitigate any substance abuse issues that veterans may suffer.

Military social workers are employed by a division of United States armed forces and frequently servicemen themselves; they can also operate in the private sector in health services that often serve the military.

Qualification, Licensing, and Certification

Soldier worker holding a blue binder while taking notes.

Social workers are mandated to get certified with state recognition. Many states require social worker practitioners to hold a qualification or state license to practice or possess the title.

As a clinical social worker, it is especially important to retain a license or certificate recognized by the state to permit the practitioner to practice in that state. Once clinical social workers apply for their state licensure, they must remember to renew it.  

The licensing obligations of case managers vary between different states and according to the discipline; this means that case managers of a specific discipline (those who have a lot of contact with people) require licensure, others don’t.

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Although case managers aren’t always required to qualify, they should get one, as it encourages trust and demonstrates the rank of expertise in the social worker domain.

Conclusion

Social workers are valued members of society; they encourage people to recover and take back their lives. Social workers focus their energy on vulnerable members of society; these have chronic diseases, are in debilitating social circumstances, children, and other minorities who can’t defend themselves.

Social work varies across a broad spectrum of disciplines divided into direct services and clinical social work. Direct service social work is a hands-on approach to caregiving, and the duties extend beyond daily assistance to counseling, conflict mediation, and access to resources. Clinical social work maintains all the principles of direct service but specializes in the field of psychology.  

References:

National Association of Social Workers: Types of Social Work

National Association of Social Workers: Why Choose the Social Work Profession?

National Association of Social Workers: Law Note: Social Workers and Alternative Dispute Resolution

National Association of Social Workers: Clinical Social Work

Indeed: 15 Types of Social Work Jobs

Indeed: What Is a Social Worker? Types of Social Workers and Social Work Environments

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Indeed: Social Workers Vs. Case Managers

Prospects.ac.uk: Social work

Prospects.ac.uk: Social worker

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Wheelock College: 7 Types of Social Workers Who Change Lives Every Day

Oxford Research Encyclopedias: Baccalaureate Social Workers

BestColleges: The Best Social Work Jobs to Get Right Now

BestColleges: Clinical vs. Direct Practice Social Work: What’s the Difference?

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Online Degrees | University Nevada, Reno: Types of Social Workers and What They Do

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CareerExplorer: What does a clinical psychologist do?

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George Fox University: Types of Social Work

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Tulane University: Social Work Policy Advocacy: The Path to Societal Change