Social workers are deeply empathetic and caring individuals whose job centers around reaching out and helping those most in need. But the term “social worker” is actually an umbrella category, meaning there are different types of social workers out there. Different social workers have specialized training and skills that make them uniquely suited to help certain people across a variety of challenges.
From community-based to child and family—follow along as we introduce the six most common types of social workers.
What Types of Social Workers are There?
To help you navigate this field—whether you’re seeking help from one, or you’re interested in becoming one—let’s discuss the six main types of social workers.
#1 Medical Social Worker
Navigating the healthcare systems in the United States can be a complicated and confusing process. Luckily, there are medical social workers who are trained with the skills necessary to make the process simpler.
Many healthcare systems provide services from medical social workers for patients looking to determine the proper treatment for their medical conditions. If a patient is overwhelmed with a chronic or terminal illness, or they’re undergoing drug recovery treatments, medical social workers can provide them with the information they need to make an informed decision about their care.
Medical social workers also provide stability and reassurance during a time otherwise filled with uncertainty, fear, and stress.
#2 Military and Veteran Social Worker
Many soldiers struggle to readjust to civilian life, so the US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) utilizes military and veteran social workers to help ease the transition.
At the VA, social workers provide a number of services, including:
- Supportive services
- Case management
They also serve as advocates for veterans who are in the midst of personal, physical, or mental turmoil. And they can serve as employment counselors, who help veterans navigate the complexities of finding and securing a job.
Life after leaving the service can be a challenge for many veterans. Whether they are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), guilt over actions in combat, terrible nightmares, or even physical disabilities from their service, veterans’ needs are complicated, so having an advocate who is familiar with the system is vital.
Social workers can also provide service members, veterans, and their families with other resources too, such as:
- Housing assistance
- Employment assistance
- End of life directives (also called a “living will”)
- Overcoming marriage or familial issues
- Hospital discharge arrangements
If you are a military service member, military spouse, or veteran, military social workers are a great resource for navigating complex situations.
#3 Child and Family Social Worker
Often, when most people hear the term ‘social workers,’ they think of child and family social workers. This makes sense considering child and family social workers make up nearly half of all social workers in the United States.
These social workers serve some of the most vulnerable children, youths, and families, and their job responsibilities vary greatly. A child and family social worker may be:
- Delinquency counselors
- Case managers
- Prevention educators
- Adoption facilitators
They specialize in building upon the strength of families and providing a nurturing environment for children. However, when a child experiences trauma or is the victim of abuse, child and family social workers intervene to protect them from harm.
#4 Mental Health and Developmental Disability Social Worker
Living with mental illness can be difficult enough, but if you or a loved one also struggles with a developmental disorder, finding ways to treat the mental illness can seem impossible.
Within the social work community, this is known as a “dual diagnosis.”
Mental health and developmental disability social workers are trained to help individuals with dual diagnosis accomplish routine daily tasks and cope with challenges they face. These social workers often work in hospitals and rehabilitation centers, providing short-term and long-term solutions for those facing mental illnesses and developmental disabilities.
Through their support, patients can find ways to live as healthy of a life as possible.
#5 Eldercare Social Worker
There are more family caregivers providing care to older Americans today than ever before. Eldercare social workers connect older adults with the services they need to help them live independently and with dignity. They work to maximize the patient’s quality of life and participation in society by collaborating with the patient, their family, and the patient’s healthcare team to create personalized care for every individual.
These social workers can assist elderly patients and their families with the trauma associated with hospice and palliative care, and they can also help them navigate the last stages of life.
#6 Community Social Worker
If you are looking to plan, organize, or coordinate an event in your neighborhood, then connecting with a community social worker might be the person to call. A community social worker can typically provide you with the resources necessary to make meaningful changes in your community.
Additionally, community social workers also work with local nonprofits and governments to facilitate services for those in need. This means that they are at the forefront of local social issues and work to address many of the disparities in our society.
The scope of their work is broad and ranges from counseling communities after tragedies to advocating for certain policy changes. Community social workers often work for local governments and organizations such as advocacy groups or other “macro” level change institutions.
VOASW and Social Work
For whatever you’re facing, Volunteers of America Southwest can help you find the path to success. We provide services to improve the quality of life for vulnerable individuals and families and create a safe, healthy, and productive community where families are strengthened, people live with dignity, and human potential is realized.
We want to meet you where you are and walk side-by-side with you on your journey towards a better life.
To learn more, reach out to a VOASW member today.
Social Work Today. Co-Occurring Mental Illness and Developmental Disabilities. https://www.socialworktoday.com/archive/092310p6.shtml
Noodle. How Do You Become a Community Social Worker? https://www.noodle.com/articles/how-do-you-become-a-community-social-worker
USC School of Social Work. What Do Medical Social Workers Do? https://dworakpeck.usc.edu/news/what-do-medical-social-workers-do
US Department of Veteran Affairs. About VA Social Work. https://www.socialwork.va.gov/about.asp
MSWGuide. Child and Family Social Work. https://www.mswguide.org/careers/child-and-family-social-work/
Aging Care. Social Workers Support Seniors and Their Caregivers. https://www.agingcare.com/articles/social-workers-support-seniors-and-their-caregivers-199571.htm
Child and Family Social Work