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Social Work is both a profession and social science. It involves the application of social theory and research methods to study and improve the lives of people, groups, and societies. It incorporates and utilizes other social sciences as a means to improve the human condition and positively change society's response to chronic problems.

Social work is a profession committed to the pursuit of social justice, to the enhancement of the quality of life, and to the development of the full potential of each individual, group and community in the society. It seeks to simultaneously address and resolve social issues at every level of society and economic status, but especially among the poor and sick.

Social workers are concerned with social problems, their causes, their solutions and their human impacts. They work with individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities.

Social work and human history go together. Social work was always in human societies although it began to be a defined pursuit and profession in the 19th century. This definition was in response to societal problems that resulted from the Industrial Revolution and an increased interest in applying scientific theory to various aspects of study. Eventually an increasing number of educational institutions began to offer social work programmes.

The settlement movement's emphasis on advocacy and case work became part of social work practice. During the 20th century, the profession began to rely more on research and evidenced-based practice as it attempted to improve its professionalism. Today social workers are employed in a myriad of pursuits and settings.

Professional social workers are generally considered those who hold a professional degree in social work and often also have a license or are professionally registered. Social workers have organized themselves into local, national, and international professional bodies to further the aims of the profession.


Social work has its roots in the struggle of society to ameliorate poverty and the resultant problems. Therefore, social work is intricately linked with the idea of charity work; but must be understood in broader terms. The concept of charity goes back to ancient times, and the practice of providing for the poor can be found in all major world religions.

The practice and profession of modern social work has a relatively long scientific origin, originating in the 19th Century. The movement began primarily in Europe and North America.

Contemporary professional development

The International Federation of Social Workers states, of social work today, "social work bases its methodology on a systematic body of evidence-based knowledge derived from research and practice evaluation, including local and indigenous knowledge specific to its context. It recognizes the complexity of interactions between human beings and their environment, and the capacity of people both to be affected by and to alter the multiple influences upon them including bio-psychosocial factors. The social work profession draws on theories of human development and behaviour and social systems to analyse complex situations and to facilitate individual, organizational, social and cultural changes."

The current state of social work professional development is characterized by two realities. There is a great deal of traditional social and psychological research (both qualitative and quantitative) being carried out primarily by university-based researchers and by researchers based in institutes, foundations, or social service agencies.

Meanwhile, many social work practitioners continue to look to their own experience for knowledge. This is a continuation of the debate that has persisted since the outset of the profession in the first decade of the twentieth century.

One reason for the gap between information obtained through practice, as opposed to through research, is that practitioners deal with situations that are unique and idiosyncratic, while research concentrates on similarities. The combining of these two types of knowledge is often imperfect.

A hopeful development for bridging this gap is the compilation, in many practice fields, of collections of "best practices" which attempt to distill research findings and the experience of respected practitioners into effective practice techniques. Although social work has roots in the informatics revolution, an important contemporary development in the profession is overcoming suspicion of technology and taking advantage of the potential of information technology to empower clients.


Professional social workers are generally considered those who hold a professional degree in Social Work. Often these practitioners must also obtain a license or be professionally registered.

In some areas of the world, social workers start with a Bachelor of Social Work (BA, BSc or BSW) degree. Some countries offer post-graduate degrees like the master's degree (MA, MSc or MSW) or the doctoral degree (Ph.D or DSW).

In a number of countries and jurisdictions, registration or licensure of people working as social workers is required and there are mandated qualifications. In other places, a professional association sets academic and experiential requirements for admission to membership. The success of these professional bodies' efforts is demonstrated in the fact that these same requirements are recognized by employers as necessary for employment.

Professional associations

There are a number of professional associations for social workers. The purpose of these associations is to provide ethical guidance, and other forms of support for their members and social workers in general. The International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW), and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) are among the professional associations that exist to enhance the profession of social work. Network of Professional Social Workers is a fast growing professional network of Social Workers across the globe. Network of Professional Social Workers aims to connect social workers beyond their local and national associations across the globe. Network of Professional Social Workers effectively uses Social networking media such as Linkedin, Face Book etc to network with Social Workers across many countries and initiate discussions on various issues affecting Social Work Profession.Network of Professional Social Workers Group list serve, NPSW.

Role of the professional

The main tasks of professional social workers can include a variety of services such as case management (linking clients with agencies and programs that will meet their psychosocial needs), medical social work, counseling (psychotherapy), human services management, social welfare policy analysis, policy and practice development, community organizing, advocacy, teaching (in schools of social work), and social science research.

Professional social workers work in a variety of mainly public settings, including: grassroots advocacy organizations, hospitals, hospices, community health agencies, schools, international organizations, employee assistance, philanthropy, and even the military. Some social workers work as psychotherapists, counselors, psychiatric social workers, community organizers or mental health practitioners.

Types of professional intervention

There are three general categories or levels of intervention. The first is "Macro" social work which involves society or communities as a whole. This type of social work practice would include policy forming and advocacy on a national or international scale.

The second level of intervention is described as "Mezzo" social work practice. This level would involve work with agencies, small organizations, and other small groups. This practice would include policy making within a social work agency or developing programs for a particular neighborhood.

The final level is the "Micro" level that involves service to individuals and families.

There are a wide variety of activities that can be considered social work and professional social workers are employed in many different types of environments. The following list details some of the main fields of social work.

Types of International, Social and Community practice, education and research

See also


  1. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW, 2005). NASW Fact Sheet. Retrieved November 15, 2006 from

External links

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