The Different Types of Social Work

The Different Types of Social Work

Are you thinking of starting a new career or considering a change of career? Perhaps social work is for you. Offering a wide range of possibilities within its wide umbrella, social work can be an immensely interesting and rewarding career. In a time when public-facing jobs seem to be more important than ever, working in the social sphere can mean direct engagement with the community and a chance to give back to the people. 

What is Social Work

Social work is a broad topic referring to any job that involves working with individuals, families and society in order to improve the quality of life for everyone. It covers a variety of wide practices that include economics, public health, community work, sociology, psychiatry and law. 

According to the International Federation of Social Workers:

“Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people.”

Occupying a wide variety of different roles, it is a broad spectrum of disciplines rooted in academic theory. Usually people who wish to become involved in this matter of work obtain degrees in undergraduate, post-graduate and doctoral fields. In the United States, these programs are licensed by the Council of Social Work Education while in Canada they fall under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Association of Social Workers

While there are perhaps too many jobs within this field to list in a single article, we will outline a few different roles under this role that may be a perfect fit for you. Read on below to see which jobs could be right for you. 

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

A licensed clinical social worker, LCSW for short, is someone who works with clients to deal with aspects of their emotional and mental health. Often a wide-spanning job that interacts with many other disciplines, the paths of this job can include everything from marriage counselling to public health to research and policymaking. The impact a clinical social worker can have on their community is vast, helping: 

  • Students to realise their potential 
  • To decrease recidivism 
  • To reduce the level of domestic violence
  • To improve the overall emotional wellbeing of a community 
  • To help families to navigate stressful moments in their life 
  • To create public policies that affect real change 

These are just a few of the things that they can do. People wanting to work in this type of job can expect an average salary between C$40,000 to C$70,000. Below we will go into more of the specialisations that social work can cover. 


With a background in law, and often containing some form of legal qualification, the role of an advocate is to fight for the legal rights of the community. This often involves helping to defend those in a criminal or civil setting who otherwise wouldn’t be able to provide defence for themselves. This can include anything from setting them up with the necessary resources to providing legal representation to connecting them with people able to provide legal help. 

The goal of advocacy is to empower both individuals and society as a whole: this can also entail connecting them with welfare resources, social housing, and preventing unlawful deportations. This means that advocates can operate on a local, state or even federal level. 


To make sure that crime levels are down, it is essential to look into the source of criminality. By better understanding crime, a criminologist can play a vital role in improving the health of the community. A criminologist’s job is to understand the circumstances of a crime, look at what safeguards were in place to protect those members of the community involved in the crime, and to understand their motivations and concerns. 

Often a criminologist will be called upon in a courtroom setting to bring expert testimony upon a case, making their role a truly vital one.  If you are interested in pursuing an online degree in forensic criminology, you can learn more about the day-to-day practices by clicking here. 

Mental Health Therapist 

A mental therapist in the social work sphere is tasked with looking after and identifying mental health problems in the members of their community. Therapists can include: 

  • Psychiatrists: Medical doctors who are legally allowed to prescribe medication and practice psychotherapy. 
  • Psychologists: They usually have doctorates in psychology and work on best practices to overcome mental health problems. 
  • Professional Counsellors: They have, at minimum, a master’s in counseling and help patients work through their emotions. 

The types of issues these therapists can work on include; violent and sexual trauma, marital issues,  eating disorders, anxiety, and depression, as well as more serious psychoses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It’s worth understanding the different types of therapy available before you pursue a specialization. 

Financial Advisor 

With a lot of mental health and social issues rooted in financial instability, a financial advisor can often provide the necessary help to make their patients better understand and have better control over their finances. 

This can include figuring out a repayment plan in case of debt, guidance overspending for large and small issues, connecting access to emergency loans and welfare payments, connecting the client with the job market, and providing general information with regards to better financial health. While financial advisors may need only a bachelor’s in a similar background, their job is often tied up with the wellbeing of their clients, making their job at least superficially similar to a therapist.  

School Social Worker 

A school social worker works with children and teens in schools, focusing both on the mental well-being of their subjects as well as a holistic approach that includes caring for the entire school community. This can include improving interpersonal relationships between children, intervening in the case of targeted bullying, preventing mental health crises and even suicide, identifying child abuse and neglect, and changing school policy. 

Social workers can often be called upon to be a liaison between the students and parents, as well as parents and teachers — including in diverse racial and economic communities — making their role a challenging yet rewarding experience. 

Medical Social Worker

Medical social workers work within a clinical, hospital, hospice, or practice setting, assessing the mental fitness of patients and their families. They often act as a crucial liaison between the patient and the doctor, making sure that this relationship can run as smoothly as possible. Often with qualifications in the medical sphere or at least a Bachelor of Social Work, they can also work in a variety of different roles, including nursing, mental and physical therapy, grief counseling, and preventative care, as well as providing the correct information to patients and families to understand the scope of their clinical care. The average Medical Social Worker can expect a yearly salary of around C$75,000

Substance Abuse Social Worker

A substance abuse social worker is concerned with the topics of alcohol, legal, and illegal drug abuse. They are tasked with getting to the root of the problem behind addiction and helping the patient to find a way to overcome their difficulties. While recovery from addiction can be a difficult and perilous task, this can be greatly helped by the support of a social worker.

Usually, if a social worker correctly identifies the problem, they will work with the patient on the best route for recovery, which can include referring them to other psychologists, transporting them to treatment centers, and prescribing alternative medication. 

Military & Veterans Social Worker

With a job that can be similar to a therapist, this role entails working with current and former members of the army to improve their emotional and financial well-being. This can be anything from navigating trauma suffered on the battlefield to connecting them with resources that help them to make that transition post-service. In the case of a death on the battlefield, or suicide relating to PTSD, this social worker may also liaise with the families of the deceased, giving them counseling during the difficult time and connecting them with emotional support groups. 

Community Organizer 

Community organizers are the men and the women who make up the backbone of any nation. They often work on a local level to build a true community spirit. By advocating and campaigning for the welfare of a town, city, or county’s citizens, they help to translate community issues into real goals. Any community organizer knows that any issue is made stronger when it is amplified by a variety of different people. 

This is why they work on grassroots issues by canvassing and getting individuals to lend their voices to a problem. A community organizer often gets involved with the political minutiae of a town or city and will ultimately try and shape public policy. Examples of famous community organizers include famous political figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama, Mother Jones, Ella Baker, Paul Wellstone, and Huey P. Newton.