Advocacy in Action

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

Taking An In-Depth Look At 5 Specialty Areas of Social Work

Written by Najeeah Smith on 02.1.19

So, you want to be a social worker?

If you find yourself drawn to the social work profession, and know it is the best career option for you, you may be asking yourself now what? Social work is a broad career and it is easy to feel unsure of where exactly you will fit in.

There are many specialties and areas that cater to an array of passions and interests. Social work is very versatile and allows for flexibility when an individual is choosing the area and environment in which they will work. Below are just a few of the many specialty areas that social work offers and some of the career opportunities associated with them.

1. Gerontology Social Work

Gerontology is a population made up of individuals aged 65 years or older and gerontology social workers in this area are in increased demand as more individuals reach the end of the age spectrum. Geriatric Social Workers are concerned with a variety of issues and problems, including elder abuse, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia. They also assist grandparents who are raising grandchildren, flight against age discrimination, and arrange end-of-life care. (Ritter, J. A., & Vakalahi, H. F. (2015)

Occupations in the gerontology specialty include:

  • Adult Protective Services Social Worker

  • Residential Care Social Worker

  • Hospice Case Manager

  • Home Health Social Worker

  • Geriatric Case Manager

  • Nursing Home Surveyor

2. Children and Family Social Work

Family social work professionals account for approximately half of all social workers in America. With projected growth that is faster than the average occupation, child, family, and school social work is rapidly on the rise. Many individuals who choose this path work with families to ensure their basic needs are met and that they have access to crucial medical and mental health services. Family social workers assist their clients in a variety of ways including food security, domestic violence resolution, life-skills coaching, finding employment, and securing safe childcare options for working parents.

Occupations in this specialty include:

  • Foster Care Specialist

  • Adoption and Permanency Specialist

  • Outreach Coordinator

  • Family Violence Counselor

  • Family Preservation Caseworker

  • Counselor

  • Children’s Advocacy (e.g. Foster Care System)

3.    Mental and Behavioral Health Social Work

The largest group of mental health providers in the United States are clinical social workers, not psychologist or psychiatrists. All behavioral health social workers are trained to provide counseling and psychosocial support to clients. (Ritter, J. A., & Vakalahi, H. F. (2015) Along with counseling, they can offer case-management, diagnosis, and treatment of the mental, behavioral, and emotional state of individuals, families, and groups.

Occupations in the mental social work specialty include:

  • Clinical Social Worker

  • Substance Misuse Program Coordinator

  • Rehabilitation Counseling

  • Community Mental Health Advocates

  • Veterans Affairs Clinics

4. Public Health Social Work

Public social workers work with communities of all sizes to improve the quality of life and resolve any problematic issues that are plaguing the group. These professionals are found in government agencies, public and community health centers, and emergency response centers. They work to educate the community regarding overall health and wellness, disease prevention, and emergency preparedness in times of disasters. Public health social workers provide services including risk reduction, health education, and free or reduced healthcare and they work to combat homelessness, poverty, teen pregnancy, and addiction.

Occupations in this specialty include:

  • Awareness Programs

  • Family Violence Prevention

  • Healthy Eating and Weight Loss

  • Smoking Cessation

  • Substance Abuse

  • Rehabilitation Social Worker

  • Health Care Policy Specialist

  • Patient Navigator/Advocate

5. Entrepreneurial Social Work

There are now dual and joint degree programs that combine a Master of Social Work (MSW) with a master’s in business administration. This helps social workers understand the technical business knowledge needed to run a successful operation. Social workers in this specialty are able to find new and creative ways to solve some of our most pressing problems. This innovative intersection of doing good and being business savvy includes career opportunities such as developing a business to promote social and economic benefits for a community or assisting a business in retrofitting their mission to be more socially conscious. (Ritter, J. A., & Vakalahi, H. F. (2015)

Occupations in this specialty include:

  • Director of Corporate Responsibility

  • Social Entrepreneurship

  • Family Law

  • Public Defender

  • Legal Aid Society

  • Social Impact Analyst

  • Community Organizer

  • NGO or Nonprofit Work

Find Your Social Work Niche At Baylor University

A part of our Master of Social Work degree, the Diana Garland School of Social Work, offers three specializations and six concentrations. Within guidelines, you can either choose to mix those concentrations or initiate a new concentration path that suits your specific area of interest.

Baylor’s MSW students can choose to specialize in either Clinical Practice, with a focus on Physical and Mental Health, Clinical Practice, with a focus on Children and Families, or Community Practice. Each of these prepares students for advanced social work practice in their desired agency setting and work environment.

The master's in social work concentration is an option designed collaboratively with a supervising faculty member to develop a student's knowledge base more comprehensively in one area of social work knowledge and practice. Areas of concentration include, but are not limited to international social work, church social work, gerontology, and trauma.

If you have a passion for a particular specialty within social work, you can grow in knowledge and practice by customizing your specialty and concentration within your master's degree program. The best social work professionals are those who are trained and educated in the specific areas of practice that they love. So explore your passion and make a difference in the lives of others!

If you want to learn more about the different specialties that are offered through the Master of Social Work degree at Baylor University, explore our digital resource, Master of Social Work — The MBA of the Helping Professions.


Posted by Najeeah Smith

Najeeah is a current MSW student in her generalist year at the Waco campus of the Garland School of Social Work at Baylor University. She plans on choosing the Clinical specialization with a Physical and Mental Health emphasis. After graduation and working a few years as an LMSW, she plans to obtain her LCSW and become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. With this license, her goal is to become a therapist and advocate as well as engage in intervention plans for the following populations: veterans, individuals in foster care/ adoption, and mental health.




If you're interested in learning more about the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work and the programs we have to offer, we invite you to reach out to our team! 

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