Learn the Role of a Social Worker in Different Areas of Social Work


What Do Social Workers Do? What are their True Roles? Everything You Need to Know about Social Worker Roles & Responsibilities

Social work skills are highly sought after in many government, private, and non-profit organizations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the social care worker profession is expected to grow faster than average, at 12% between 2020 and 2030.

Those interested in becoming a social worker might be wondering, “What do social workers do?” or “What is the job of a social worker in government?” The fact is that what social workers do can vary widely, depending upon the area of social work the person is in and the social worker qualifications that person has earned.

For example, a certified social worker will generally have more clinical and supervisory roles, whereas someone that only has a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW), might be tasked with more entry-level job responsibilities of a social worker.

what do social workers do

Role of a Social Worker

If you’ve ever asked, “What’s a social worker?” or wondered, “What does it take to be a social worker?”, you’ll find those questions (and others) addressed below.


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Download a free roles of social workers PPT and PDF to use as a reference or for use in a presentation of your own.


Table of Contents

Keep on scrolling down this page to read each section, or click any link below to go directly to that section.

  1. Social Worker Qualifications | What Does It Take To Be a Social Worker?
  2. Overview: What Does a Really Social Worker Do? 
  3. Different Roles and Responsibilities of a Social Worker Based on Education & Certification
  4. What’s the Role of a Social Worker based on License / Certification?
  5. Social Worker’s Role and Responsibilities by Type of Social Work
  6. Free Roles of a Social Worker PDF & PPT Download
  7. Conclusion | What Does a Social Worker Do?
  8. What Does Social Worker Do – FAQs

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The section below covers what you need to know about the qualifications of a social worker. Contact us if you have any more questions about this social worker’s role and responsibilities guide.


Social Worker Qualifications | What Does It Take To Be a Social Worker?

Before you can begin taking on the roles and responsibilities of a social worker, you need certain social worker qualifications, which will include getting a degree in social work.

What does it take to be a social worker? At a minimum, you’ll need to earn a 4-year Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree. This will qualify you to be considered a social care worker.

With a BSW, social workers will find social worker’s role and responsibilities that are more entry-level. If they want to advance into other areas like clinical social work, the role of psychiatric social worker, or a supervisory role, they’ll need to earn a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree.

If you’ve earned a BSW, then you may qualify for an accelerated advanced standing MSW program that can be as short as 1-year. If you earned another type of 4-year degree, then you can expect it to take 2-years to earn your MSW.

What can you get with the MSW? You qualify for more advanced social care worker responsibilities and roles. There are many more opportunities for the role of a social worker with a master’s degree in social work.

If you want to continue to even more advanced social worker roles, you can earn a DSW/Ph.D. in Social Work.

Becoming a Certified Social Worker

Once you have your MSW degree, you can further expand your social work skills and opportunities by becoming a certified social worker.

Two popular social work certifications are:

  • LMSW (Licensed Master Social Worker)
  • LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker)

Earning the LCSW as a certified social worker requires more clinical experience than the LMSW.

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Do you have any questions about this article about “what does social worker do” or “what do social workers do for those in need?” If so, click here to contact us.


Overview: What Does a Really Social Worker Do?

The general role of a social worker includes the following types of activities:

  • Identify people or communities in need of assistance
  • Conduct assessments for clients (needs, strengths, situation, and other types of assessments)
  • Make recommendations for helping the client with the problem situation
  • Create a plan for assisting the client and carry that out to help them adjust to challenges in life or overcome a crisis
  • Refer clients to community resources that can fill identified needs
  • Respond to crises
  • Provide services or therapy directly to clients
  • Document client assessments, plans, and engagements
  • Follow up with clients to ensure the situation has improved
  • Act as an advocate for the welfare of the client

As we noted, the definition of “what’s a social worker,” what social workers do will differ according to the type of social work position they have. But there are some overarching roles of a social worker that all social care workers share.

For example, a social care worker helps people, and in order to know how to help them, will often do a social work assessment. The need to assess a situation is one of the social worker roles that touch each area of social work.

To identify the best list of social worker roles for a social care worker, we’ve referenced both the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).


Are there more answers to “what does social worker do” or “what do social workers do” that aren’t covered here? If so, click here to contact us.


Different Roles and Responsibilities of a Social Worker Based on Education & Certification

Now, we’ll look at answering, “What does a social worker do?” as it pertains to the level of education and certification that a social care worker has. The roles and responsibilities of a social worker will change as a person builds their social work skills. As social worker qualifications increase, for example through certification, that social worker’s role and responsibilities will expand accordingly.

What Do Social Workers Do If They Have a BSW Degree?

With a bachelor’s degree in social work, an individual qualifies for entry-level social worker roles. They’ll often be assisting more experienced social care workers, such as entering data on a client assessment into a social work template that a certified social worker gathered in a one-on-one.

Typical roles of a social worker with a BSW degree include working with community organizations, groups, and policymakers to improve social services and conditions.

What Is the Job of a Social Worker that Has an MSW Degree?

With the additional social work skills added when earning an MSW degree, a typical day in the life of a social worker changes quite a bit.

What social workers do that have a master’s degree in social work includes things like working in a clinical setting, working directly with clients and client families, acting as school counselors, supervising other social care workers, and more.


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Download a role of social worker PPT and roles of a social worker PDF from AGS for free.

Contact us if you have any questions or feedback about this end-to-end social worker guide about social work skills.


What’s the Role of a Social Worker based on License / Certification?

A key difference in the definition of “What’s a social worker?” when you become licensed in your state as an LCSW is that you can then diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders.

Being a certified social worker significantly expands the roles and responsibilities of a social worker and can allow them to take on the role of psychiatric social worker, the role of social worker in mental health, and other advanced areas of social work that require diagnosing individuals.

What Are the Job Responsibilities of a Social Worker With a DSW Degree?

What does it take to be a social worker that teaches others how to be a social care worker? You will generally need a DSW/Ph.D. in social work to teach social work courses in universities.

The job responsibilities of a social worker with this top degree may also include being the social work director of a public, non-profit, or government agency.


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Social Worker’s Role and Responsibilities by Type of Social Work

What does a day in the life of a social worker look like? It depends on their field of social work.

For example, a day in the life of a social worker that works in a high school assisting youth in need may look very different than the daily role of a social worker in a hospital that assists families dealing with a medical crisis.

We’ll take a look at the roles of a social worker for different types of social work positions. Because there is so much range in the answer to “what is the job of a social worker,” we will focus on some of the main types of social work and what those in that field would do as social worker roles.

If you’d like to download a role of social worker in social action PPT or roles of a social worker PDF that provides a brief overview of this information, you’ll find them after this section.

To provide the most accurate description of the role of a social worker in each type of social work listed below, we’ve sourced social worker’s role and responsibility details from current job listings for social workers.

Health Care / Hospital Roles of a Social Worker

A health care social worker assists families and patients going through a medical crisis. Part of the role of a social worker in a hospital setting will be acting as a liaison between the caregivers and the patient to improve the patient experience.

What do social workers do in a hospital setting? Here are some common roles of a health care social worker:

  • Participate in the development of the psychosocial support plan
  • Identify, access, and coordinate recommended treatment and service providers
  • Work collaboratively with providers, patients, and community agencies
  • Conduct needs assessments
  • Provide support to patients and their families and help them address medical concerns like transportation to an appointment, obtaining documentation, etc.
  • Document activities in the medical record

Child & Family Social Worker Roles

A child and family social worker serves vulnerable children and youth and their families in a variety of capacities. When looking at “what’s a social worker” that specializes in this area, they will often work for government social services agencies that take care of children in need of a safe and nurturing environment.

What does a social worker do that works in a child and family social service agency?

  • Assess needs of clients and the risk of abuse/neglect
  • Conduct investigations to determine whether clients are at risk
  • Provide social services to prevent abuse and neglect
  • Work to preserve families and community living
  • Evaluate the need for out of home placements for children or adults
  • Work with and counsel clients
  • Supervise family service/care providers and provide a support system
  • Maintain confidential case records

Criminal Justice Roles of a Social Worker

Social workers in the criminal justice system will work in places like courthouses, substance abuse centers, and correctional facilities. The role of a social worker in this profession is to assist those who have been incarcerated or are in the criminal justice system for another reason.

What does a social worker do that works with the Department of Justice?

  • Act as a case manager for at-risk, on probation, or incarcerated individuals
  • Do needs and strengths assessments
  • Provide comprehensive plans for supervision
  • Advocate on behalf of the client and their families to ensure timely and consistent services
  • Develop and broker community services where gaps exist
  • Conduct pre-release assessments
  • Prepare reports
  • Participate in job-related training and workshops for clients

Role of Social Worker in Mental Health

A mental health social worker will provide direct services to individuals, which includes helping people that suffer from anxiety, depression, emotional issues, and other mental health problems.

The role of psychiatric social worker professionals differs from the other mental health social workers in that they typically work with those people that are severely mentally ill.

The role of social worker in mental health and the role of psychiatric social workers include:

  • Perform care management remotely and/or through in-person visits to facilities or homes
  • Use appropriate screening criteria and clinical judgment to assess client needs
  • Develop care plans to address client needs and reach determined goals
  • Monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of a care plan and adjust the plan as needed
  • Support client access to appropriate quality and cost-effective care
  • Coordinate with internal and external resources to meet identified needs

types of social work family

What does a social worker do? Understanding the role of a social worker

Geriatric/Elder Care Social Worker Roles

A geriatric social worker is also known as a gerontological social worker. This field can encompass a social care worker that works in a nursing home or retirement community or one that coordinates in-home care for the elderly.

What do social workers do that work with elderly clients?

  • Assist with admissions
  • Complete client assessments
  • Help the client and their family transition to the new retirement facility environment
  • Participate in the development of the individual’s care plan
  • Encourage client and family to participate in care planning conferences
  • Complete mandatory documentation
  • Maintain regular and ongoing contact and relationship with client and client’s family
  • Facilitate resources that meet client needs
  • Coordinate discharges and transfers for client

Roles of a Social Worker in Schools

Most school systems will have social workers on staff to assist with guidance and counseling for students. Some of the social work skills required include helping at-risk youth and being able to identify potential family problems causing emotional issues with a student.

What does a social worker do that works in the educational system?

  • Provide mental health counseling services in both individual and group formats
  • Conduct educationally related mental health assessments
  • Complete progress monitoring documentation and progress reports
  • Provide behavior interventions as part of a school-based team
  • Consult with parents and team members
  • Serve as an IEP (individualized education program) team member
  • Advocate for students to get the assistance they need

Role of a Social Worker Working in Substance Abuse/Treatment

A substance abuse social worker specializes in helping people through addiction problems.

The roles and responsibilities of a social worker in substance abuse counseling include:

  • Provide guidance for crisis intervention
  • Provide continuous direction, assistance, and clinical oversight for clients
  • Lead, coach, and develop performance goals for clients
  • Provide a range of clinical services (diagnostic assessment, treatment planning, interventions, individual and family therapy, etc.)
  • Identify and coordinate with community resources to help fulfill client’s care plan needs
  • Do casework and client follow-up

Do you have any questions on this article about “what does social workers do” or “what does social worker do on a daily basis?” If so, click here to contact us.


Free Roles of a Social Worker PDF & PPT Download

Do you need a quick reference for roles of a social worker to review when considering social worker qualifications and potential positions in social work?

Then download the AGS Roles of a Social Worker PDF or get the role of social worker PPT version if you’d like to use it in a presentation.

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Role of Social Worker PPT Download

Roles of a Social Worker PDF Download

Contact us if you have any questions or feedback about this guide that covers what do social worker do today as part of their job?


Conclusion | What Does a Social Worker Do?

The overarching answer to, “What do social workers do?” is to help people. What social workers do daily will depend on the social work skills they have and their social worker qualifications.

While many roles and responsibilities of a social worker will be similar no matter the field of social work (e.g., doing needs assessments, advocating for the client), some social worker roles will be specific to a certain type of social work.

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The three standard line types that are used for social work ecomaps are:

            • Solid line: Positive relationship
            • Dashed line: Weak or tenuous relationship
            • Jagged line: Stressful relationship

Read: How to Really Use an Ecomap. Everything You Need to Know 

Download: Free Ecomap Template


If there are any other roles of a social worker that you’d like to see included in this guide to make it more complete, please reach out and let us know.


What Does Social Worker Do – FAQs

What does it take to be a social worker?

At a minimum, you’ll need to earn a 4-year Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree to become a social worker.

With a BSW, social workers will find social worker’s role and responsibilities that are more entry-level. If they want to advance into other areas like clinical social work, the role of psychiatric social worker, or a supervisory role, they’ll need to earn a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree.

What does a social worker do?

The general role of a social worker includes the following types of activities:

• Identify people or communities in need of assistance
• Conduct assessments for clients (needs, strengths, situation, and other types of assessments)
• Make recommendations for helping the client with the problem situation
• Create a plan for assisting the client and carry that out to help them adjust to challenges in life or overcome a crisis
• Refer clients to community resources that can fill identified needs
• Respond to crises
• Provide services or therapy directly to clients
• Document client assessments, plans, and engagements
• Follow up with clients to ensure the situation has improved
• Act as an advocate for the welfare of the client

What are the main roles of a social worker?

Social workers have several roles that they fill, which include both engagement and administrative tasks. Some of the key roles of a social worker are:

• Identify those in need
• Help people in crisis
• Do a needs assessment
• Match needs with resources
• Act as an advocate for their clients
• Coordinate care plan implementation and follow-up
• Document assessments, care plans, and all other activities

What are some of the interpersonal skills you need as a social worker?

Social work involves “book knowledge,” experience, and interpersonal skills that help the social worker connect and engage with clients.

Some of the interpersonal social work skills that many social workers have are:

• Empathy
• Active listening
• Communication
• Emotional intelligence
• Tolerance
• Boundary setting
• Social perceptiveness
• Persuasion


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