Career Tips

What are the key roles of social workers?

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A social worker is a skilled professional capable of working with different kinds of people and communities to help them live better lives. The social worker is trained to work with diverse individuals, especially those facing challenges due to ill health, discrimination, poverty, and various injustices. Social workers are classified into different groups based on their duties, and each group has similar and slightly different requirements to join them.

Who is a social worker?

According to Indeed – one of the most extensive online resources for job applications, a social worker helps an individual or family enjoy an improved quality of life by facilitating access to basic needs, including food, safety, and shelter.

Social workers can provide good quality assistance by analyzing their clients’ environment and relationship systems and evaluating existing government policies impacting their lives. There are several challenges social workers help their clients overcome; the most prominent are abuse, mental illness, poverty, trauma, and addiction.

Social workers work towards building positive relationships with their clients by creating trust and compassion. They evaluate their client’s problems and look for the best possible solutions to alleviate or end them. In most cases, social workers often recommend therapy and relocation to individuals or families to resolve social issues like trauma, abuse, addiction, or mental illnesses.

In summary, a social worker is part of the organized system to create a better, livable environment where family ties, educational systems, and community systems are strengthened. The US government invests heavily in numerous social community works and systems nationwide. Also, the government review rules and regulations guiding social workers to ensure they provide better results.

What are the roles social workers play?

Social workers get extensive training to assist people of different social statuses, education, family, and cultural backgrounds. They know how this background can affect an individual or family’s mental and emotional well-being. They also receive classroom and hands-on skills to identify and manage responses to different treatment options.

Social workers are trained to engage with people respectively, knowing that different people can exhibit certain character traits when receiving help. This means a social worker may be prepared to handle violent individuals with mental illness.

Social workers’ job duties can vary depending on several factors, including specialty, location, and employer, and they are typically charged with the following roles:

  • Meet patients and check their peculiar needs and situations.
  • Create plans to help patients achieve their goals and recovery.
  • Provide support to patients experiencing challenges.
  • Refer patients to specialists or other professionals for more assistance.
  • Monitor patients’ progress and keep their records.
  • Encourage social awareness within the community.
  • Work with influencers and policymakers like government agencies to create and develop social intervention programs for communities.

What are the types of social workers?

To become a social worker, you must focus on a specific area instead of the generalized structure. The most typical types of social workers you will find today are:

  • Child and Family
  • Medical and general public health
  • Substance abuse and mental health
  • Community
  • Military

Child and family social worker

As a child or family social worker, you will mainly deal with a child or family struggling with psychological challenges at home, school, or within a community.

As a social worker, you must evaluate a patient’s suitability for a home, school, or community. In this case, you must work with families within the community and the child’s school staff to resolve your patient’s challenges.

In most cases, child and family social workers often recommend and place a traumatized child in foster care when necessary. Social workers may also monitor and help adults with adopting and becoming foster parents for kids.

As a family or child social worker, you will likely be placed in a government agency, school, or foster care agency.

Medical and public health social workers

As a medical and public health social worker, you will mainly deal with patients suffering from chronic conditions and other health problems. You will likely work with medical experts to assist patients in coping with specific medical issues.

Aside from providing coping mechanisms to your patients, you must also offer counseling services and medical referrals to the patient or their families, if necessary.

You may also assist some patients in checking out some medical resources. Part of your role as a medical social worker is to help control certain diseases’ spread within a community. You will also be involved in disaster management duties. You will likely be attached to a medical establishment like a hospital, government agency, or public healthcare provider organization.

Substance abuse and mental health social worker

The primary role of a mental health social worker is to assist in providing therapy, rehabilitation, and counseling to a patient struggling with addiction or any other mental health issue.

You may have to help your patient discover and enroll in an affordable rehabilitation center. In some cases, you will be involved in providing outreach and preventive awareness programs to identify and evacuate individuals in need of mental care.

As a substance abuse or mental health social worker, you will likely work in residential treatment centers, hospitals, government health agencies, or community cognitive rehabilitation centers.

If you thrive in a high-stress environment or prefer a less stressful position, check out Florida State University’s online MSW degree program to find the right course that matches your personality. Do your research and choose the right path to avoid social work stress.

Community social worker

The critical role of a community social worker is to support social justice within a community. The social worker must also provide a community facing social injustice with information on ways to seek help and escape from such injustices.

Rather than working with individual patients, community social workers work with groups of community members and organizations. This group of social workers often works with relevant groups to organize and develop social intervention programs to attract an improved quality of life to their communities. They are usually active in local council government establishments.

Many people will argue that community social work is one of the least stressful roles, and this is valid to a large extent.

Military social worker

A military social worker is trained to assist service members in recovering from challenges they face during and after military service. For instance, these social workers may be attached to war veterans to help them recover from post-war psychological trauma, injuries, and mental disorders caused by military operations.

These social workers can design and identify the most appropriate treatment plans for military personnel suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. They can also assist military members’ families in coping with their relatives’ deployment to war zones and other military operations.

Most military social workers work in government establishments, dispatched to military personnel families. A few social workers may work in private health centers catering to military personnel.

What are the requirements to become a social worker?

There are three major requirements you must fulfill to become a certified social worker, and these are:

  • Educational
  • Training
  • Licensure

Educational needs to become a social worker

A prerequisite education is the most crucial step to becoming a social worker. Most organizations will require a minimum bachelor’s degree. The degree may take up to 4 years to complete, and you must complete courses in various fields during the program.

The undergraduate social worker program includes human behavior, research methodology, social welfare policy, case management, and social ethics courses. During the bachelor’s degree, you may be required to complete fieldwork or an internship to practice the skills you acquired in the classroom.

You can secure an entry-level position with your social worker bachelor’s degree. Many graduates often complete a master’s degree while acquiring work experience or after a few years of full-time employment. The Master of Social Work- MSW, has been accredited by the US Social Work Education Council.

In some US states, earning a master’s degree in social work is a prerequisite to becoming a licensed social worker. To this end, you may have to check the complete requirements in your state to see if you can become a licensed social worker after your bachelor’s.

An advanced degree in social work can also expand your job prospects and career growth, attracting higher wages. The master’s program may take up to two years and will include classroom and field hands-on training under supervision.

Training requirements for social workers

While education is a prerequisite for entry-level social workers, many employers will prefer to hire those with some professional hands-on experience. Social work training can be completed at several places, including internships and clinical work at private or public establishments. Clinical outcomes and training must be done under the supervision of a senior social worker or designated personnel of a similar rank.

It is better to get the education first and then work under the supervision of a senior, experienced social worker. You will apply classroom education during supervised training, and you will be able to develop the essential skills that will boost your career in the field.

Getting a minimum diploma or bachelor’s in social work will get you an entry-level position as a social worker. Demonstrating your expertise through work experience can help you get promoted to higher levels.

Social work licensure

Getting licensed as a social worker comes with some requirements, which may vary from state to state. Licensure requirements include education, training, and written examination requirements.

YYou must pass a written credential exam to become a licensed social worker. The credential exam will test your knowledge and skills in social work ethics, regulations, concepts, and theories. Aside from the initial licensure exam, most states in the US will require you to complete some continuing education and training to maintain your license.

Standard social worker job terms

As a social worker, your job may be defined with specific standard terms, and these include:

  • Program Coordinator
  • Caseworker
  • Case manager
  • Direct support professional
  • Educational social worker

As a social work program coordinator, you will be responsible for policy reviews and compliance with such policies. You will also be directly involved with implementing new procedures to improve patients’ quality of care.

You may also be involved in administrative tasks, including budgeting and scheduling social work programs. You can also help facility owners organize social intervention programs. Program coordinators work with assisted living establishments and healthcare centers.

As a case worker, you will provide counseling and assistance to patients in at-risk communities. You will also assist in setting achievable patient goals and check on them regularly to ensure they progress through enhanced quality of living.

A social worker who works as a case manager will help organize patients’ care options, including treatment arrangements. They also involve themselves directly in the patient’s physical, mental, and emotional health treatment plan.

Case managers are trained to advocate patients’ needs throughout their treatment period. They inform patients, family members, and healthcare service providers of their recommendations.’ A case manager can work on a patient’s intake by investigating the patient’s needs and then working out an optimal care plan.

As a direct support professional, you must help individuals suffering from intellectual disabilities by assisting them in handling daily chores, including cooking, cleaning, and attending appointments. Direct support professionals also help healthcare service providers meet state regulations on social work.


In addition to the highlighted job descriptions, the appropriate authorities may determine several other social worker roles. An entry-level social worker will have to study and understand state and federal laws guiding the discharge of their duties. A licensed social worker must demonstrate the ability to maintain high standards when discharging their duties.

This preparatory requirement will prepare social workers to pass written examinations regularly to avoid losing their licenses. Social workers are also expected to acquire higher education to boost their knowledge of the profession. They are often registered under the appropriate state associations for meetings and seminars.

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