Advocacy in Action

Through the stories we share, the Admissions Team at Baylor University hopes to inspire and educate future leaders in social work.

4 Types of Social Workers and Their Effect on Society

Written by Baylor School of Social Work Team on 02.5.24

When you think of a career as a social worker, does your mind automatically go to an image of someone working with child protective services? 

Sure, this is one area where social workers can make a difference. But, social work is actually anything but a one-size-fits-all profession. Many people don’t realize there are a variety of job roles where you can build a career that counts.

Read on to learn more about the history of social work and the career options that might be a fit for you. 

The History of Social Work

The roots of social work go back to the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, when urbanization and industrialization led to the development of charitable organizations and religious groups wanting to help people in need. 

One of the key figures in the early history of social work is Jane Addams who, in the late 1800s, co-founded Hull House in Chicago. Hull House provided essential services to immigrants such as education, health care, and recreational activities.  

During the early 20th century, the profession began to take shape. First, social workers started advocating for social reforms, women's rights, and fighting against child labor. And they then played a role in developing social welfare policies — such as the Social Security Act of 1935 — to address the challenges of the Great Depression.

In the years that followed, social work has evolved and expanded its scope to encompass a wide range of practice areas and populations.

Overview of Different Types of Social Work

Today, social workers impact society in a number of ways, playing a vital role in promoting social justice, advocating for vulnerable populations, and providing support to individuals, families, and communities.

As a social worker, you might work in a profession like health care, community development, or policy development. Here are four types of social workers and how they each play a positive role in helping their communities and beyond.  

Child, Family, and School Social Workers

For these social workers, day-to-day duties might include providing support and counseling on topics ranging from child abuse to mental health, and connecting children and families with support networks and resources like parenting classes. 

Child, family, and school social workers also advocate on behalf of children and families, helping them navigate systems and access services such as health care, housing, education, and financial assistance. They also assist in arranging adoptions or finding foster homes for children in need. Finally, they conduct assessments of children's safety and well-being, identifying any signs of abuse or neglect. 

For example, in addition to her work as a professor and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Melody York Zuniga has focused her social work practice on supporting individuals, families, and communities who have been hurt by crime.  

Social workers like York Zuniga positively impact society by improving child and family well-being and promoting social justice through developing policies and engaging in activism. 

Social Workers in Health Care and Medicine

Social workers in health care support individuals coping with medical trauma, chronic illnesses, and other health-related challenges. They might conduct comprehensive assessments of patients' psychosocial and emotional needs, and they provide counseling and emotional support. 

These social workers might also assist in coordinating the care of patients and serving as patient advocates. For example, Zeke Morgan, a Baylor Master of Social Work graduate, has put his degree to work as the Population Health Manager at Waco Family Medicine in Texas. 

Social workers like Morgan positively impact society by providing emotional support and counseling, and contributing to the overall well-being and mental health of patients and their families. They also ensure that patients have access to the resources they need, improving health outcomes and enhancing the quality of care received. Finally, through their advocacy efforts, these social workers contribute to a more equitable and patient-centered health care system.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers

For these social workers, day-to-day tasks include assessing mental health and substance abuse needs, which help them develop and coordinate appropriate treatment plans. They also provide individual and group counseling sessions to clients, and advocate for their rights and needs within the health care system and community. 

Mental health and substance abuse social workers might also act as case managers, coordinating care and services for clients, and collaborating with doctors, psychologists, and treatment providers to ensure that clients receive comprehensive care. 

For example, Baylor Master of Social Work graduate Trinity Martinez has put her degree to work as a case manager for Baylor’s athletics department where she supports the mental health needs of student athletes. 

Social workers like Martinez help society by connecting clients to support resources, enhancing their chances of successful recovery and improving their quality of life. Plus, they’re also able to provide comprehensive care — including counseling, therapy, and case management — and advocate for their clients’ rights and needs, promoting social inclusion and equal access to services. 

Military and Veterans Social Workers

These are professionals who provide specialized support and assistance to military service members, veterans, and their families. Some of their responsibilities include offering counseling and therapeutic interventions to help address mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. 

They also provide case management and resource coordination, and advocacy and support. Plus, these social workers work closely with other professionals, including health care providers, psychologists, and community organizations to provide comprehensive care, develop treatment plans, and ensure a holistic approach to meeting the needs of clients. 

For example, Jaja Chen, a Baylor Master of Social Work graduate, has put her degree to work as a solo private practice therapist. She specializes in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, which can sometimes be used by social workers in this area to treat veterans. 

Military and veteran social workers positively impact society by contributing to the successful reintegration of veterans into their communities and supporting the well-being of this community. They also help navigate complex systems such as the Department of Veterans Affairs and other organizations, ensuring that veterans get the support they need. 

The Role of Education and Training in Social Work

Earning a Master of Social Work (MSW) is the key to opening the door to many of the career opportunities mentioned above.

An MSW paves the way to direct practice and becoming a Licensed Master of Social Work (LMSW) and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Think of an MSW as being the MBA of social work.

Regardless of your undergraduate degree, it prepares you for more advanced work. Plus, you’ll enjoy higher pay, a greater competitive edge in the job market, and more opportunities for advancement. 

Begin Your Pathway to Social Work 

Ready to take your first step toward a career that will make a difference in the lives of people in your community and beyond?   

Follow in the footsteps of Morgan, Martinez, and Chen, and earn your MSW from Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work. Armed with this advanced degree, you’ll be well-equipped to promote social change and development, empower individuals, address life challenges, and enhance well-being. 

Start your journey to a career that counts by downloading our resource on earning an MSW today. 



Posted by Baylor School of Social Work Team

We are the admissions team at the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, at Baylor University. We believe social work is about service and justice; it is about the dignity of individuals and the power of relationships; it is about integrity and competence, and our mission here is preparing social workers to do these things well. We hope you find our resources helpful and informative as you explore and pursue a degree in social work!