If you are drawn to the field of social work and desire to make meaningful, life-changing connections with others, consider a career in micro-level social work. A micro-level social worker can provide skillful guidance and personalized care that can alter the course of someone's life for the better.
What is micro-level social work?
As we discussed in a previous blog post, What Is Macro Social Work?, the field of social work encompasses three types of practice: micro, mezzo and macro social work. Whereas social workers involved in mezzo- and macro-level work generally serve groups and communities, those who practice micro-level social work with individuals and families in an intimate setting. According to the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE), micro-level social workers "work directly with individuals and help them cope with their situations."1
In the social work field, micro-level social work careers are among the most common for those who earn a Master of Social Work (MSW), as MSW graduates perform the fieldwork and meet the academic requirements necessary to sit for licensure exams and subsequently practice in a clinical setting with clients.
Read on to learn about the different types of micro-level social work careers you can pursue with an MSW, and see if any resonate with your preferences and professional goals.
Types of Micro-Level Social Work Careers
Child Welfare Social Worker
A child welfare social worker ensures the safety of children and protects them from abuse and neglect. They strive to help families build nurturing environments that support the mental, emotional and physical well-being of all members of the household, especially vulnerable children.
A child welfare social worker intervenes when allegations of abuse or neglect occur. They must assess the family situation and determine the most fitting course of action, which may include temporarily or permanently removing a child from their living situation. In this case, a child welfare social worker will help place the child in an adoptive or foster care living situation. On the flip side, child welfare social workers also help separated families reunite when a living situation demonstrably improves.2
This position may also be referred to as a child and family social worker, though job responsibilities may differ depending on the specific role.
Clinical Social Worker
To become a clinical social worker, you must meet your state's licensure requirements. Clinical social work is one of the most typical paths for an individual with an MSW. Clinical social workers work in a variety of settings---such as private practices, hospitals, community centers and agencies---to assess, diagnose, prevent, and treat a variety of mental health, emotional and behavioral issues. A clinical social worker typically works with individuals and families, though they may also serve in a group setting.3
Gerontological Social Worker
Gerontological social workers help older adults maximize their independence and quality of life as they age. The job responsibilities of a gerontological social worker can vary greatly depending on the role. These social workers may, for instance, provide transition services to an older adult who is moving from hospital care back to their home. They may also aid a grandparent who finds themself responsible for providing childcare for grandchildren or others.4
Healthcare Social Worker
Healthcare social workers help patients and their families understand and cope with their medical diagnoses. Job responsibilities may include helping patients transition from a hospital setting to an outpatient facility or home, or educating medical staff on how an illness may affect the mental health of a patient. The industries with the highest levels of employment for healthcare social workers are:5
- General Medical and Surgical Hospitals
- Individual and Family Services
- Home Health Care Services
- Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities)
- Outpatient Care Centers
Military and Veterans Social Worker
Some social workers choose to work exclusively with veterans, active duty military personnel and military families. These social workers may help veterans acclimate back into society and cope with mental health issues that arose as a result of duty. Military social workers also work with military couples and families to address emotional and mental turbulence associated with the military-to-veteran transition, or they might help someone cope with the grief of losing a loved one.
Substance Abuse Social Worker
Substance abuse social workers help individuals who are suffering from drug, alcohol and other addictions recover and repair their relationships and lives. They provide holistic care to individuals in the context of socio-economic and cultural factors, and suggest the appropriate treatment services, including support groups and 12-step programs, to aid in recovery.6 Clinical social work often overlaps with substance abuse social work.
Every Interaction Matters in Micro-Level Social Work
If you're ready to focus your talents as a micro-level social worker, consider the flexible online MSW from Yeshiva University. We're preparing the next generation of culturally responsive social workers with a curriculum designed to accommodate unique specializations you may want to explore.
Interested in other social work career paths? View career outcomes for online MSW graduates.
1 Retrieved on August 13, 2019, from cswe.org/Students/Discover-Social-Work/What-is-social-work
2 Retrieved on August 27, 2019, from work.chron.com/job-description-child-welfare-social-worker-18013.html
3 Retrieved on August 27, 2019, from socialworkers.org/Practice/Clinical-Social-Work
4 Retrieved on August 27, 2019, from socialworklicensure.org/types-of-social-workers/gerontological-social-workers/
5 Retrieved on August 27, 2019, from bls.gov/oes/current/oes211022.htm6 Retrieved on August 27, 2019, from bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm#tab-2