work is a profession for those with a strong desire to help improve
people's lives. Social workers assist people by helping them cope with
issues in their everyday lives, deal with their relationships, and solve
personal and family problems. Some social workers help clients who face
a disability or a life-threatening disease or a social problem, such as
inadequate housing, unemployment, or substance abuse.
also assist families that have serious domestic conflicts, sometimes
involving child or spousal abuse. Some social workers conduct research,
advocate for improved services, engage in systems design or are involved
in planning or policy development. Many social workers specialize in
serving a particular population or working in a specific setting.
family, and school social workers provide social services and assistance
to improve the social and psychological functioning of children and
their families and to maximize the well-being of families and the
academic functioning of children. They may assist single parents,
arrange adoptions, or help find foster homes for neglected, abandoned,
or abused children. Some specialize in services for senior citizens.
These social workers may run support groups for the children of aging
parents; advise elderly people or family members about housing,
transportation, long-term care, and other services; and coordinate and
monitor these services. Through employee assistance programs, social
workers may help people cope with job-related pressures or with personal
problems that affect the quality of their work.
In schools, social
workers often serve as the link between students' families and the
school, working with parents, guardians, teachers, and other school
officials to ensure students reach their academic and personal
potential. In addition, they address problems such as misbehavior,
truancy, and teenage pregnancy and advise teachers on how to cope with
difficult students. Increasingly, school social workers teach workshops
to entire classes.
Child, family, and
school social workers may also be known as child welfare social workers,
family services social workers, child protective services social
workers, occupational social workers, or gerontology social workers.
They often work for individual and family services agencies, schools, or
State or local governments.
and public health social workers provide psychosocial support to people,
families, or vulnerable populations so they can cope with chronic,
acute, or terminal illnesses, such as Alzheimer's disease, cancer, or
AIDS. They also advise family caregivers, counsel patients, and help
plan for patients' needs after discharge from hospitals. They may
arrange for at-home services, such as meals-on-wheels or home care. Some
work on interdisciplinary teams that evaluate certain kinds of patients
-- geriatric or organ transplant patients, for example. Medical and
public health social workers may work for hospitals, nursing and
personal care facilities, individual and family services agencies, or
Mental health and
substance abuse social workers assess and treat individuals with mental
illness or substance abuse problems, including abuse of alcohol,
tobacco, or other drugs. Such services include individual and group
therapy, outreach, crisis intervention, social rehabilitation, and
teaching skills needed for everyday living. They also may help plan for
supportive services to ease clients' return to the community. Mental
health and substance abuse social workers are likely to work in
hospitals, substance abuse treatment centers, individual and family
services agencies, or local governments. These social workers may be
known as clinical social workers.
Other types of social
workers include social work administrators, planners and policymakers,
who develop and implement programs to address issues such as child
abuse, homelessness, substance abuse, poverty, and violence. These
workers research and analyze policies, programs, and regulations. They
identify social problems and suggest legislative and other solutions.
They may help raise funds or write grants to support these programs.
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US Department
of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.