Fields of Social Work Practice

Fields of Social Work Practice and Career

An organization that utilizes social work principles, methods and techniques for interventions towards betterment of quality of life is known as a social work setting. There are primary and secondary settings.

Primary settings are those settings where social work objectives form the focal objectives of the agency and service delivery is directly aimed at ameliorating the distress of the client population. Social welfare deprtaments, Non-governmental organizations, and Community based organizations working in the field of social welfare would come in the category of primary settings of social work intervention. On the other hand, secondary settings are those wherein realization of social work objectives do not form part of the organization’s main goals. For example, in an industrial setting profit is the main motive with employee welfare as a tool towards achieving it.

Social work is a very vast field with numerous areas, issues and groups to work with. It offers diverse opportunities for intervention at various levels because of complexities and multiplicities of problems faced by individuals and groups in changing social situations, as we observe in the present context. There are socially marginalized sections of society like children, adolescents, girl child and women, youth with specific problems, elderly and the like. Each of these categories may face countless problems with in the family, at work place, in other systems of the social environment and may require help of social work professionals. Below are some of the common fields of social work practice, that would offer you job opportunities and may become your workplace for social work intervention.

Social Work in Education

Though traditional school of thought views that social work in education setting primarily involves social work practice in schools, the scope outside the school boundaries is vast. In India, school of social work (not to be confused with social work) in education setting, is a huge field for intervention. As trained social work professionals you may seek jobs in schools as school social worker with the prime objective of inculcation of values of social justice, democracy, empathy among school children as well as improving cordial relations
between school, family and community as a system.

Counseling students and teachers is an important part of this job. However, it is not the only function a social worker shall do. Conducting home visits, preventing school drop outs, examination stress, etc. are other tasks. Creating awareness on social evils such as
substance abuse, sexual abuse, child labour and similar issues is an important aspect in this field. Other functions include facilitating school-community relations and providing a variety services to students in special education programmes.

It is necessary to understand that the social worker in educational settings is neither a teacher nor an administrator but acts as a bridge between the two. He/she has to assert ones position as a human service professional so that the job in question is well understood by the school authorities, students and staff members. At the current context, it calls for innovation and creativity on the part of the social workers.

School social workers may be the first to spot difficulties a child is confronting at home or in the community and the first to intervene. They often provide services or find services in the areas that prevent more serious problems from developing.

Further, problems like high drop out rate, retention problems, education of girl child, inclusive education, infrastructure problems, availability of teachers, quality of education, etc., are some of the areas of concern where you as social work professional can intervene.

Medical and Psychiatric Social Work

Psychiatric social workers work with disturbed individuals with behavioural problems. They assess and diagnose their problems and help in facilitating a treatment process. Social workers, who venture into this area, help patients and their families in coping with stress and other personal and economic problems.

Any hindrances that restrain recovery are dealt with by medical social workers. Services for home care after discharge from the hospital, economic help for poor patients and long term care facilities are all provided by them. Also, they help health professionals in treating the patients by providing them with information concerning the social, emotional and economic status of the patient.

Criminology and Correctional Social Work

Social work in remand homes and prisons to prevent crimes and anti-social behaviour is also carried out by social workers. In correctional facilities, the focus is on rehabilitation. Social workers can be probation and parole officers, arranging for services after an  offender is released, finding a group home residence, remedial classes, job training, addiction treatment, counseling, child care, and transportation. These activities generally help raise a client’s independence and self-esteem.

Social workers may help with domestic disputes or provide trauma and critical incident services to enforcement officers. Social work activities in corrections are diverse, as are the clients, affording the chance to develop and use a broad range of skills.

Corrections and justice is a field where a social worker can focus on rehabilitation and the constructive use of authority.

Allied lines of work include corrections, probation, forensics, youth services, parole and domestic violence. Employers are mostly the Government Departments, NGOs, prisons, courts, police departments, victim services programs and similar others.

Urban and Rural Community Development

In the Indian context, organizing communities towards empowerment is one of the prime goals of social work profession. Urban slums and resettlement colonies are communities that the social workers may need to work within cities. Social workers work towards solutions to problems of specific communities. They deal with problems like lack of housing, unemployment, local services etc. They help in distribution of resources and implementing social policies.

Industrial Social Work

Social workers help ensuring employee well-being in industries and commercial units. They take care of human resource development (HRD), employee welfare, industrial relations etc. of the enterprise. Some also work as industrial social workers. The most recent addition to the list is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Employee Assistance (EA).


One of the most absorbing roles in professional social work involves expanding the profession’s knowledge.

Social work researchers achieve this by investigating the effectiveness of approaches, methods or programs in assisting clients. Social work researchers also help agencies provide services more effectively and contribute to efforts to support and promote social change.

Research points the way for improved social policies or legislation and can be the underpinning of successful social policy advocacy. Many researchers begin their careers in direct services and program development, then return to a university to get a doctoral degree to pursue a research career. Others work in agencies or organizations, including government departments.


This means working with older adults, providing counseling, disbursement of social security measures like pension, ensuring affordability, availability of health care system, helping them with medical treatment, improving inter-generational relationships, organizing recreational activities and support groups, and generally improving their quality of life. Further, it would also involve management of old age homes, ensuring proper enactment of legislations like Welfare and Maintenance of Senier Citizens and Parents Act, 2007, Cr.PC sec. 125 and the like.

Social Advocacy

This includes addressing various social issues including gender concerns, caste-based discrimination, employment, working conditions, environmental protection and the marginalization of various people.


The disabled, now called the ‘differently abled’ are a disadvantaged section of the society in India. Though  the Government has initiated many policies and programmes for the differently abled, there are lots of bottlenecks in its implementation. Apart from physical
disabilities, there are also developmental disabilities, which can include mental retardation, cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy, and other conditions. Working in this field calls for a thorough knowledge of various kinds of disabilities, needs and problems of the disabled and schemes/facilities that could be availed by them. The objectives of social work interventions are to bring the differently abled to mainstream and integration with the society.

Policy and Planning

“Social workers in this field address problems such as child abuse, homelessness, substance abuse, poverty, violence, unemployment, women issues, mental illness etc. They work to improve systems to better conditions for the people affected. On a daily basis, this often means analyzing census data and legislation, drafting position papers, testifying at public hearings, working with the media, talking with policy makers, and lobbying elected and appointed officials. Their tasks may also involve raising funds, writing grants, or conducting demonstration projects. Work on one issue may take many months or years and change is often incremental.

But work in the policy and planning field earns social workers the satisfaction of knowing they are pressing our society to improve the quality of life of all its members”.

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