Open Search
Open Navigation

Social work can be a rewarding and fulfilling career for anyone passionate about helping communities prosper, and individuals live fuller, more meaningful lives. 

What does a social worker do? From the dedicated family social worker offering guidance to struggling families, and to the clinical social worker providing therapeutic interventions for individuals grappling with mental illness, each role is vital. However, amidst the array of community social work jobs, some practitioners opt for the autonomy of private practice to tailor their interventions and counseling services. If you’ve been thinking of joining the field of people who perform this necessary work, you may be curious to know what other avenues are available to explore. 

In this guide, we’ll go over 10 common types of social work, from the organizational professionals who work behind the scenes to those who work directly with the public.

#1 Administration and Management 

Administration and management social workers may be able to leverage their expertise to help an array of organizations provide important services.1 These organizations may include: 

  • Clinics and healthcare providers
  • Colleges and universities
  • Government agencies
  • Nonprofit organizations

Within their organization, administration and management social workers oversee various responsibilities specific to their field. These responsibilities may include managing the technical and financial aspects of delivering social services and facilitating the availability of social services within their communities. 

#2 Advocacy and Community Organizing 

Social workers who tirelessly advocate for and organize social services are an indispensable part of the social work practice. They perform important roles in working to restore social balance, combat inequality, and ensure social justice.2

Often, this type of social work is done on behalf of nonprofit and grassroots organizations. A community social worker may be called upon to: 

  • Advocate for community needs
  • Administer or organize neighborhood programs
  • Raise funds and apply for grants

#3 Services for the Aging and Elderly

Among the many essential services social workers provide are those which focus on elderly and aging populations. They help elderly individuals and their families in a variety of ways, such as connecting them with public assistance programs or intervening in cases of elderly neglect. 3

Additionally, this type of social work often includes:

  • Coordinating medical care
  • Providing therapy and counseling
  • Performing psychological assessments 

#4 Child Welfare

A Child welfare social worker is focused on helping to build happy, healthy environments for children, adolescents, and their families as a whole.4

Child welfare social workers provide crucial services to help protect these vulnerable populations, such as: 

  • Connecting families with resources
  • Evaluating a child’s home environment
  • Providing parental education, counseling, and support
  • Coordinating care for children and adolescents

These social welfare workers may also be responsible for removing children from situations where they may be experiencing abuse, neglect, or other kinds of endangerment. They collaborate with a family social worker when necessary, and similar to a school social worker's duty, they educate families about issues on child safety, healthy relationships, and coping skills.

#5 Disability Services

Disability social workers provide vital resources for disabled individuals and families with children who have mental, physical, and/or developmental disabilities. They connect these people with important social services that help them care for themselves or their children and enable them to live healthy and independent lives.5

Some of these social services may include:

  • Completing needs assessments
  • Assisting with finding community resources and support systems
  • Creating an individualized education plan (IEP)

This type of social work may also include helping families navigate their legal rights and helping them become their own advocates. 

#6 Healthcare or Medical Social Work

Healthcare and medical social work often involve two different types of social workers. What is a medical social worker? The first type is those who work behind the scenes, developing services, performing research, and planning policy.6

The other type is those who work directly with people in need of care, helping vulnerable individuals and families to navigate their health needs in medical settings.7

A healthcare social worker may be called upon to:

  • Assess and diagnose behavioral and mental health
  • Manage patient cases
  • Help patients to access care resources
  • Facilitate advance care planning, hospice, and end-of-life care

Because they often work in clinical settings, when it comes to how to become a social worker, social workers in this field of the social work practice may need to become licensed clinical social workers (LCSW) to work in healthcare settings.

Apply for a Degree

#7 International Social Work 

The need for all different types of social workers traverses national borders. In nearly all parts of the world, international social workers work tirelessly to improve the lives of people no matter where they are.8

Frequently, international social workers work to resolve issues that affect global communities. They may provide services aimed at:

  • Enforcing human rights
  • Aiding refugees and immigrants
  • Providing orphan care and placements
  • Helping disaster victims

#8 Justice and Corrections

This type of social work often involves working with individuals within the criminal justice system. The criminal justice social worker advocates for rehabilitation. The services a justice and corrections social worker provides may include:9

  • Serving as an inmate’s parole or probation officer
  • Providing rehabilitation services
  • Assisting with housing and employment after incarceration

On the other hand, justice and corrections social workers may also provide assistance to victims of crime or to law enforcement officers who have experienced trauma.

#9 Mental Health Social Work 

Some social workers work to provide mental health care services to individuals, couples, and families. In fact, social workers represent one of the largest groups that provide mental health services in the U.S.10 This is especially true in rural areas, where mental health care can be difficult to access. 

In these roles, a mental health social worker may provide assistance to people who struggle with: 

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Other mental health disorders
  • Relationship issues 

Because they often work in clinical settings, this type of social work may also require social workers to obtain an LCSW before they can practice in this social work profession.

#10 Substance Abuse Social Work

Substance abuse social workers may be able to provide invaluable services to individuals who struggle with drug and alcohol addictions, as well as other addictive behaviors.11 They may provide counseling to families or individuals, help communities develop resources, or work as employment or housing advocates.

Often, this type of social work happens in places like: 

  • Hospitals
  • Rehabilitation and treatment centers
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Prisons 

Because the field of substance abuse often involves mental health care, the responsibilities of a community social worker in this field may overlap with those of a mental health social worker.

Begin Your Future in Social Work with Alliant International University

Perhaps you feel called to specialize within a specific type of social work, or maybe you’re still exploring your options. Wherever you end up putting your social work skills and knowledge to work, you can begin by pursuing a social work degree. 

Alliant offers an exciting Master of Social Work degree with courses you can complete online. Combining practice-based training and cultural competence with the skills and social work education  you need to enter the field, the MSW program can help you move toward the social work career you’ve always dreamed of.

Find out how you can apply today and learn how to get a master’s in social work. 


  1.  “Types of Social Workers: Administration and Management.” National Association of Social Workers. 2022.…. Accessed May 27, 2022.
  2.   “Types of Social Workers: Social Work Advocacy and Community Organization.” National Association of Social Workers. 2022.…. Accessed May 27, 2022.
  3.  “Geriatric Social Work: A Guide to Social Work with Older Adults.” Online MSW Programs. 2022.…. Accessed May 27, 2022.
  4.  “Types of Social Work.” National Association of Social Workers. 2022. Accessed May 27, 2022.
  5.  “Types of Social Work.” National Association of Social Workers. 2022. Accessed May 27, 2022.
  6. “Types of Social Work.” National Association of Social Workers. 2022. Accessed May 27, 2022.
  7. “Healthcare Social Worker: Career and Salary Overview.” Social Work Guide. 2020. Accessed May 31, 2022. 
  8.  “Types of Social Work.” National Association of Social Workers. 2022. Accessed May 27, 2022.
  9.  “Types of Social Work: Justice and Corrections Social Workers.” National Association of Social Workers. 2022.…. Accessed May 27, 2022.
  10.  “Types of Social Work: Mental Health and Clinical Social Work.”  National Association of Social Workers. 2022.…. Accessed May 27, 2022.
  11.  Maura Deering. “Substance Abuse Social Worker: Career and Salary Overview.” Social Work Guide. Accessed May 27, 2022.

You might also like

Back to Blog
Learn More
woman talking to group

CSWE Accreditation & Standards at Alliant International University

In 2022, Alliant International University launched the online master of social work (MSW) program for the California School of...
Learn More
Sohee Jun

Lifting Up the Next Generation of Female Leaders

“I'm of most value and in service when I use my superpowers of understanding the challenges that women face in the workplace.” Dr...

Learn More
couple in therapy

What to Do When a Client Shuts Down in Therapy

If dialogue is the bedrock of quality therapy, what can a therapist do when their client turns reticent or even silent in a...

Request Information

  • 1
    Current Select Interests
  • 2
    Provide Information