There are several ways to divide the social work profession. The good news is these skilled practitioners are in high demand across all areas of practice. For instance, medical social workers have a projected growth rate of 20 percent by 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is about three times the average rate of all occupations and the highest for any social work specialty.
Another way to look at the profession is to consider it from the three divisions or types of social work: micro, macro, and mezzo social work. These terms help categorize virtually any type of social work that these human services workers perform.
Types of Social Work
The following sections explore micro, macro, and mezzo social work. Information on the work these types of social work cover and what education is needed to enter these areas is considered.
Micro Social Work
Micro social work is one-on-one counseling with clients. These social workers help individuals with social, emotional, or health-related struggles. This work could include helping a person who is homeless find a place to live or helping a veteran transition to civilian life.
Jobs that are considered micro social work include:
- City social services caseworker
- Crime victim advocate
- Family therapist
- School counselor
- Substance abuse counselor
Most jobs that involve micro social work require education at the master’s level because those jobs are considered clinical work.
Macro Social Work
Macro social work involves working with whole communities. These communities can be defined by geopolitical boundaries, but often, they are not. They can be neighborhoods, religious communities, or political- or cause-driven groups. The macro social worker may make or shape policy, lobby for social change, or train others to do so.
Jobs that are considered macro social work include:
- Community organizer
- Professor of social policy
- Program developer
There are jobs in macro social work that can be acquired with a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree, but others, like a professor or most lobbyist positions, require education beyond the bachelor’s level.
Mezzo Social Work
Mezzo social work involves working with a group of people. Sometimes this group is as small and intimate as employees who need conflict resolution and mediation services. Sometimes it is a group of strangers in a support group who share a life experience, like a recent death, or problem, like addiction.
Jobs that are considered mezzo social work include:
- Business social worker
- Community service manager
- Group therapist
- Parenthood educator
- Support group counselor
As with macro social work, whether you can obtain a job with a BSW depends on the employer and the population with which you work. Some therapist positions, for example, are clinical positions and require a license, which necessitates a master’s degree and experience in the field. Other positions, such as a community service manager, typically require a BSW.
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Interconnectedness in the Types of Social Work
It’s important to understand how social workers can provide assistance across all three types of social work. Here’s a simple example to demonstrate this idea.
A medical social worker who works specifically with babies receiving neonatal care begins meeting with a new mother. After her baby experiences some complications, the mother is stressed and begins receiving therapeutic sessions with the social worker. Because this takes place in a one-on-one environment, that type of assistance would refer to micro social work. The social worker is providing individualized help, as well as therapy.
The scope of practice would extend to mezzo social work if the professional begins assisting the family. For instance, perhaps the father could be struggling with parenthood and supporting his wife. Another scenario may be that another child in the family is having difficulties adjusting to a lot of time in the hospital. In either of these cases, the social worker may meet with the entire family and provide help, such as short therapy sessions or information on services that will help the family adjust. The family is often the smallest unit for mezzo social work.
Although it may not be as common in a situation like this, macro social work could be relevant. An example would be if the social worker helps advocate in the community or the state in some way. Perhaps the baby’s medical issues are quite rare, and support is lacking for families. Or, perhaps the family is struggling to help the other child at school, and the social worker can work with the district on supporting children in these types of situations. There are several ways in which the social worker may reach out to the community or beyond for helping clients. If change needs to happen on a greater scale, then the professional will engage in macro social work.
The example shows the interconnectedness of the different forms of social work. In this process, the medical social worker performs micro (the mother), mezzo (the family), and macro (the community/state) social work.
The Future of the Social Work Profession
There is an expected job growth of 16 percent by 2026 for the social work field, according to the BLS. An aging U.S. population and the booming health care industry are two of the factors that are likely to contribute to the growth. Like most job fields, this percentage varies by specialty. Employment of child, family, and school social workers, for example, is projected to increase 14 percent by 2026, and employment of mental health and substance abuse social workers is projected to grow 19 percent. Both are growing faster than the average for all occupations, which is only 7 percent.
People with a BSW are especially qualified for positions in mezzo or macro social work. With courses like Social Work with Groups and Social Work with Communities and Organizations, the online BSW program from Aurora University Online can provide you with concrete skills that will help you support the community with which you want to work. Graduates with the BSW degree are eligible to take the examination for the State Social Work license.
Clinical social workers must have an MSW and two years of post-master’s experience in the field. AU Online offers Chicagoland’s first CSWE-accredited online MSW graduate program, which includes eight optional specializations: Addictions, Child Welfare, Forensics, Gerontology, Health Care, Leadership Administration, Military & Veteran, and School Social Work. You may also pursue the dual MSW/MBA or MSW/MPA degree program.