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The Roles and Responsibilities of Social Workers

March 12, 2018

Understanding the Roles and Responsibilities of Social Workers

Research indicates that people who feel a higher calling in their job tend to be the most content with their career.1 By and large, people want to make the world a better place through their daily work. It's no surprise then, that social work is projected to be one of the fastest growing career segments in the coming years.2

You might know that social workers make a difference in their communities, but how exactly? What is the purpose of a social worker, and what can their day to day look like? Here are five facts to consider before you decide to pursue a career in social work.

Social Worker Roles Aren't Always Clinical

About half of all social workers find work in the healthcare or social assistance sectors, and another 30 percent work in government at the state or local levels.3 Some work as patient advocates in hospitals, others work in high schools or colleges. Others may serve disadvantaged populations, or might work exclusively with young people.

No matter a social worker’s role or place of employment, it is certain they'll spend their days working with clients in need as advocates, counselors or educators. There is no typical client for a social worker, so days might be spent helping clients seek to solve problems, from psychological issues to problems obtaining public assistance. Some social workers focus on substance abuse issues, while some engage exclusively with families and children. Though some are clinicians, that is far from the only path for a social worker.

Social Workers Delight in Building Relationships

People pursue social work for all kinds of reasons, but one thing that seems to bind them together is a passion for developing meaningful relationships. Many social workers will tell you that the best part of their job is making a difference in the life of even one person who is socially marginalized.

Social Workers Are Consummate Communicators

Social workers rate active listening as one of the most important skills you can develop if you wish to join their ranks. Second to that are skills like oral expression, problem sensitivity and strong reading and writing comprehension. As a social worker, your primary responsibility will be to help your clients solve problems. To do that well requires a great deal of sensitivity, but also the ability to synthesize information, and to really understand what is underlying your client's needs. That requires solid communication skills.

Social Work Can Be Emotionally Risky

Social work isn't a job for somebody who has trouble coping with stress. A 1998 report suggested that nearly half of all social workers take their work home with them, meaning they're still thinking about their clients even when they're off the clock.4 Because of the intimate and sometimes traumatic nature of their client's issues, social workers can suffer from what is known as "compassion fatigue."5 While caring for others is a prerequisite for the field, an inability to manage personal stress could be a major liability for a social worker. With that in mind, one of the critical responsibilities for social workers is the ability to manage personal mental and emotional health.


Are you ready for a career in social work?

Most people feel sympathy for their fellow humans, but social workers are a unique in that they are willing to make helping others their life's work. It's not always easy, but it's rewarding work for those who are suited to it.

With a master's degree in social work, you'll be able to provide the kind of service and care that defines the field of social work.5


1. Retrieved on February 21, 2018, from apa.org/monitor/2013/12/job-satisfaction.aspx
2. Retrieved on February 21, 2018, from bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm
3. Retrieved on February 21, 2018, from collegeconfidential.com/dean/0003
4. Retrieved on February 21, 2018, from beyondtheorphanage.org/2016/11/what-does-a-social-worker-do/
5. Retrieved on February 21, 2018, from socialworker.com/feature-articles/ethics-articles/Compassion_Fatigue%3A_Being_an_Ethical_Social_Worker/