Fields of Social Work Practice

Scope/Areas of Social Work Practice

Scope of Social Work Practice

Scope of social work implies to what extent we can intervene in social work. It may also mean the areas or fields where social work can be applied using its methods, tools and techniques. Social work as professional practice extends from a single individual to the most significant body like UNO. The scope of social work can be broadly classified into

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a) The agencies-non-governmental, semi-governmental or governmental which render social work services;

b) The ways (methods) through which they render services such as Case Work, Group Work, Community Organization, Social Action, Social Research, Social Welfare Administration etc. and

c) The various types of services (fields of social work) that they render to different individuals, groups and communities, keeping in mind the objectives, philosophy and values of social work.


The scope of social work has been changing with the changes in its objectives and with the changing social situation. The profession is increasingly recognized for its unique services to the people and to perform new and varied tasks. The principal aim of social work is to solve psycho-social problems that obstruct an individual's social advancement. As one of the youngest branches of knowledge, social work gradually embraces every aspect of human life. Consequently, its scope is expanding progressively. It has now started to become international and inter-racial in scope. 

Career Opportunities in Social Work

When a person has acquired efficient knowledge, skills and proficiency in the field of social work. He can get engaged in a number of employment opportunities that are relating to the areas of child and adult protective services, medical social work, school social work, rehabilitation services, occupational social work, voluntary agencies, criminal justice, parochial fields and specialized counselling and therapy. To enhance one's career opportunities in these fields, it is vital for one to possess the information that would be necessary for the performance of one’s job duties in an appropriate manner. 

Read: What is Social Work?

Read: NASW Code of Ethics for Social Workers

Read: Significance of studying Social Work

Read: Bachelor and Master's Degree in Social Work in Bangladesh

Read: Why you should study Social Work?


Professional Fields/Areas/Scope of Social Work Practice

Social work practice consists of the professional application of social work values, principles, and techniques to one or more of the following ends: helping people obtain tangible services; counselling and psychotherapy with individuals, families, and groups; helping communities or groups provide or improve social and health services; and participating in legislative processes. The practice of social work requires knowledge of human development and behaviour; social and economic, and cultural institutions; and the interaction of all these factors. Social Workers are usually employed in hospitals, community health centres, mental health clinics, schools, advocacy organizations, government departments, social service agencies, child welfare settings, family service agencies, correctional facilities, social housing organizations, family courts, employee assistance programs and private counselling, school boards, and consultation agencies.


The main purpose of social work is to assist other individuals to bring about healthy changes within themselves and their communities. Being a social worker necessitates working with people to develop their aptitude and potential for resourceful and satisfying human relationships. Social work offers a variety of professional opportunities for working with people and helping them meet their needs. These opportunities include: (A Brief History of the Social Work Program, n.d.). It deals with almost all the groups of the society in the following ways. Below are links that describe what social workers do when they work in various areas of practice.  

Medical Social Services/Health Care

Medical social workers practice in hospitals, health care centres, public health departments, home health care, hospice and long term care facilities. They work with people experiencing social, psychological and economic problems associated with their illness and are also involved in discharge planning. These social workers are required to possess professional knowledge and skills that are needed to look after the requirements of the individuals who are experiencing illnesses and health problems. 


Social workers are important members of the healthcare teams and provide medical and emotional treatment in hospitals, clinics, and other medical and healthcare settings.  They work together with doctors, nurses, administrators, and other professionals to help patients and their families cope with chronic or terminal illnesses.  Social workers who work in health care assess patients’ needs, set up an aftercare program, educate patients and their families, and help them deal with emotional problems associated with illness. Social workers help facilitate discharge and provision of supportive services for post-hospitalization by providing patients and their family caregivers with information and referrals.

Services are included

a) Hospital Social Work

b) Public health Work

c) Vocational Rehabilitation

d) Hospice Care

With the help of the following agencies

a) Health Care Organizations (such as the American Lung Association)

b) Nursing homes

c) Acute Care and Rehabilitation Hospitals

d) Rural Health and Specialty Clinics

e) Hospices and Home Health Agencies

f) Public Health Department

g) Group homes


Mental Health/Clinical Social Work

It is vital for individuals to look after their mental health. Social workers are members of the psychiatric team in mental health centres and hospitals for the mentally ill, emotionally disturbed and chemically dependent. The feelings of anger, stress and tension are normally common in individuals. They usually need assistance from the social workers to overcome the dire consequences that may occur as a result of anger and depression and how to adequately manage stress, anger and depression. Irrespective of the kinds of situations they experience, it is vital for all individuals to maintain their mental health. 

In the common instances when people need mental health services to cope with life’s stressors; clinical social workers are utilized. Clinical social workers are the largest group of professionally trained mental health providers in the nation. Social workers in this field supply more than half of counselling and therapy services.   All clinical social workers must have an MSW. They must be licensed or certified in the state in which they practice.


Services are included

a) Mental Health Clinics

b) Day treatment for drug and alcohol addiction

c) Community Integration

With the help of the following agencies

a) Psychiatric Hospitals

b) Family Service Agencies

c) Residential Treatment Centers

d) Sheltered Work Settings

e) Community Mental Health Centers

f) Employee Assistance Programs

g) Schools

h) Substance Abuse Treatment Program


Family Welfare Services

Family is both an institution and an association. It is the oldest and most enduring among all social institutions. It is the first and most important of all forms of associations in human development. Social work renders a significant role in the sphere of family organization. It provides some material assistance and counselling service to the family relating to marriage, health, economic problems and bringing up siblings. Having the knowledge of human relationships, the social worker is responsible for establishing a harmonious relationship between the individual and his family. Thus, social workers must play a crucial role in family organization. Here, social workers provide support services for families to enhance family functioning by the following services: 

a) Family Preservation

b) Family Counseling

c) Family therapy

d) Family life education

With the help of the employers of

a) Domestic violence prevention affiliated agencies

b) Family Counseling Agencies

c) Mental Health Clinics


Child Welfare Service/Child Protection

Social workers also provide many welfare services for children. These include residential institutions for their care and protection, education and rehabilitation of socially handicapped children, and orphans destitute fondling children of unmarried mothers. Child Welfare service also includes temporary homes for children, daycare centres, recreational and cultural facilities, and holiday homes for low-income families.

These involve working with children who have been abused, neglected, abandoned, have remained deprived of education and are not provided with any care. These children in most cases are deprived of all the areas that are necessary to enhance one's childhood stage and even other factors that are considered to be an integral part of childhood. Social service agencies across the nation have positions in adoptions, foster care, protective services, residential care, as well as services to parents who do not have the resources to fulfil the needs and requirements of their children. 


Child welfare workers practice family-based services that address children, youth and families. A social worker in this field may counsel children and youth who have problems or have difficulty adjusting socially. She/he may work to protect or intervene on their behalf when they are abused or neglected. Child welfare may advise foster care in cases where parents cannot or will not protect and/or provide for their children. Social Workers will then work with the courts to find adoptive homes for children. 

Services are like

a) Foster Care and Adaptation

b) Day Care

c) Prevention of Child abuse and Neglect

d) Prevention of domestic violence

With the help of the following agencies

a) Public/Private Child Welfare Agencies

b) Legal services agencies

c) Adoption agencies

d) Foster care agencies

e) Child care agencies

f) Family Preservation and Reunification Services


Community Welfare/Development

The service Community is another integral unit for social work practice. The community welfare service includes the establishment of urban community development centres dealing with the welfare aspects of slum improvement such as slum clearance, sanitation, health education and care, seeking employment for women, dormitories and night shelters for migrant homeless people, holiday homes for children and community welfare service in rural areas etc.

There are numerous opportunities for social workers in community development programs and projects that are designed to provide community, professional and volunteer services. This is an area of employment that is expanding as greater responsibility for human services programs that are assumed by cities, towns, communities, neighbourhoods, and local organizations. Social workers participate in establishing and operating such services as homeless shelters, youth activities, free lunch programs, and services for homebound elderly and persons with disabilities.


Services are included

a) Social Planning

b) Community Organizing

c) Neighborhood revitalization

With the help of the following agencies

a) Community Funded Projects

b) Religious Organizations

c) Americorps

d) Vista


Women Welfare Service

Women are the nation's driving forces. Long before the dawn of Indian freedom, social reform with the emancipation of women was the 'sine-qua-non' of political independence of the country. Pioneering in this regard was done by Raja Rammohan Roy, Keshav Chandra Sen, MG Ranade etc. Gandhiji also gave a new impetus to the cause of the emancipation of Indian womanhood. With the independence, it was also realized that women's welfare was essential to building a strong nation. The benefits of general interest reached the women, but it was inadequate to meet their requirements. Therefore women-specific programmes have been initiated for the welfare of the same. The programme of women's welfare in India includes safe motherhood, women protection, family counselling, marriage counselling, income generation programme for women etc. 

Read: Women Vulnerabilities: Levels and Forms


Labor Welfare Service

The term labour welfare is very comprehensive in the sense of its understanding. It involves different interpretations due to various social customs and degrees of industrialization. According to the report of the ILO worker's welfare should mean such services, facilities and amenities which may be established in the vicinity of the undertakings to enable the persons employed in them to perform their work in a healthy, congenial surrounding and provided with amenities conducive to good health and high morals. Social work has a wide field of application for labour welfare which includes the activities such as family management counselling, counselling on safety maintenance, advocacy for labour rights, health education, value education etc.


Welfare Service for the Handicapped

Handicapped people or the disabled are another underprivileged sections of the Bangladeshi population. Hence, social work or welfare has a formidable role in working for them. The welfare service for the disabled includes institutions for the care and rehabilitation of physically and mentally retired, hostels for the working handicapped, small production units for the differently able, special schools for mentally retired children and orthopedically challenged and counselling services for mentally depressed etc.


Welfare Services for the Aged and Infirm/Gerontology

People in the twilight of their age require numerous society's support. Social work in this regard has a more significant role in understanding their needs and working for their happy and comfortable life for a happy ending. Social work activities for the aged and infirm include running old age homes, recreational facilities, physical support, psychological support, etc.

There is a tremendous need for social work with older persons and their families. Social workers help older adults maintain independence. The social worker arranges income assistance and organizes recreational groups and support groups. A social worker in this field would improve the quality of life for elders.


Services are included

a) In-home supports

b) Respite help for family caregivers

c) Adult daycare canter

d) Long-term care

e) Nursing home services

With the help of the following agencies 

a) Senior Centers

b) Hospitals and Medical Centers

c) Hospice Program

d) Mental Health Centers

e) Employee Assistance Programs

f) Legal Services


School Social Work

There are problems due to impaired relationships between students and their social environment and teachers and their social environment. Many other problems in the school environment are responsible for educational malfunctioning in the schools. Social work as a profession steps into such an environment and attempts to modify the situation in favour of the learners and teachers. The activities of social work intervention in schools include counselling services to the children and their parents, counselling the teacher on the perspectives of the emerged problems, etc.

School social workers work closely with teachers, administrators, and other professionals to help children with physical or learning disabilities as well as emotional problems. They provide counselling and referral services for a range of concerns including family problems, domestic violence, child abuse, neglect, and poverty. They serve as a liaison between family and school and often between school and community. To work in schools as a school social worker, an MSW and Type 73 Certificate are required.


Services are included

a) School adjustment counselling

b) Education testing

c) Family counselling

d) Behavior management

With the help of the following agencies

a) Schools: Elementary / Secondary

b) Head Start Centers

c) Special Education Centers

d) Counseling Centers

e) Special Education Placement Offices

f) Counseling Centers

g) Early Intervention Programmes


Correctional Service/Corrections and Justice

Correctional Setting refers to the institutions like jail, probation home, parole home, juvenile shelters etc., where people (including children) with unusual behaviour and reaction are placed to correct their attitudes and behaviour. Social work has vast scope for intervention in this field of service. It includes recreational activities, counselling, vocational training for the unemployed criminals, aftercare services, rehabilitation etc.

Social workers are employed in penal and correctional facilities serving both juveniles and adults. Probation and parole services, juvenile courts, and delinquency prevention programs are examples of practice settings. There are individuals who get involved in misdemeanours or any kinds of misconduct, they need to be corrected and measures are required to get implemented in order to enable them to mend their ways. It is important for the social workers to communicate to the individuals about the corrective measures and they should be adequately put into practice. 


A social worker’s activities in corrections and justice are diverse, providing the chance to use a range of skills. Social workers in criminal justice make recommendations to courts, serve as expert witnesses, do pre-sentencing assessments, and provide services for prison inmates and their families.   They focus on rehabilitation by providing therapy, drug and alcohol addiction and basic life skills training. Many social workers become probation officers or parole officers. They help ex-offenders access supportive services upon release from prison. Social workers may arrange for a halfway house, job training, employment, remedial classes, counselling, child care and/or transportation.

Services are included

a) Probation and parole services

b) Police social work

c) Work in detention facilities

d) Work in training schools 

e) Prison work

f) Decrement programs

With the help of the following agencies

a) Victim Restitution Programs

b) Courts

c) Police Departments

d) Prisons

e) Juvenile Detention Facilities


Youth Welfare Service

Youth is the stage of life in which, through training and development, human beings can contribute the best for the betterment of society and their own. The youth's life should have the opportunity for self-expression, companionship, community life and national service. For the welfare of the youth in the country, there are various types of youth welfare organizations such as Scouts and Guides organization, NCC, NSS, Students' Union, Sports and Athletic Associations, Dramatic Clubs etc. which cater for the various needs of the youth. Nehru Yuva Kendra is trying to bolster the youth network in the country. Youth is designed as the most essential instrument of the National Integration programme. Attempts are made to unite youth through observation of youth festivals. Youth counselling service, Youth health service, National Fitness Corps, Services for poor students, National Physical efficacy Drive, National Employment Scheme etc., are the various programmes undertaken for the welfare of the youth in the country. Social work has recognized the youths as a crucial human resource of the nation. Through all these programmes, the welfare agencies where social work is the guiding spirit are moving to serve youths in our country.


Welfare for the Weaker sections

Social work as a profession is increasingly being recognized for its unique service to the people and being asked to perform new and varied tasks. The concern of social work for the prevention and treatment of individual and social problems gives the profession an ever-increasing number of essential responsibilities to assume in helping to social policy and improving services to the people. In meeting these multiple responsibilities to society, social work has achieved its best results not through its working alone but in cooperation with other professions and groups whose common concern is the welfare of the people.


Employment/Occupational Social Work

A growing practice field for occupational or corporate social workers is employee assistance programs (EAPs). The social worker may be the owner of the EAP or be employed by large corporations, businesses or unions, mostly in urban and industrial settings. They help employees deal with a large range of problems including work stress, substance abuse, domestic violence, single parenting, depression, eating disorders, vocational rehabilitation, takeovers, layouts, etc. In this way, social workers assist corporations to reengineer their organization and processes to improve effectiveness, creativity, productivity, and morale.


Services are included

a) Employee assistance programs

b) Treatment for work-related stress

c) Job relocation programs

d) Retirement planning

With the help of the following agencies

a) Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

b) Businesses

c) Private Consulting Firms

d) Corporations

e) Labor Unions


International Social Work

International Social Work involves direct services in child welfare, family planning, health and mental health, international adoptions, human rights advocacy, and refugee programs through relief and international organizations. Social workers also assist governments in developing delivery systems and training programs. They provide technical assistance and are involved in research projects. International organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the Red Cross, the United Nations, and numerous non-government organizations employ social workers.

Services include

a) Developing delivery system

b) Research projects

With the help of the following agencies

a) Community Funded Projects

b) Religious Organizations

c) Americorps

d) Vista


Information and Referral

Social workers as information and referral (I&R) specialists play a key role in offering service delivery information, making referrals to community resources, and initiating community outreach programs. Many agencies include an I& R component in their spectrum of services.

a) Provision of information on resources

b) Publication of community directories

c) First-call services

d) Emergency relief

e) Crisis management


Housing for Homeless

Social work has responded to the growing problem of homelessness by serving the population of individuals and families who have fallen victim to this phenomenon.  Primary prevention is an important function of service and aims at protecting individuals and families at risk of eviction and/or harassment and identifying affordable housing opportunities.

Services are included

a) Subsidized rents

b) Homeless shelters

c) Handicap accessibility Programs

With the help of the following agencies

a) Welfare hotels, or shelter

b) Housing Rights Organizations


Public Interest Groups

Social workers are hired by public interest groups to help develop policy. This work entails analyzing legislation, drafting position papers, testifying at hearings, working with the media, and lobbying elected and appointed officials. In this capacity, they usually write grants or conduct demonstration work.

Services are included

a) Analyzing legislation

b) Testifying at hearings

c) Lobbying with elected representatives

With the help of the following agencies

a) Civil Society Organizations

b) Public Interest Agency

c) Development agency


Administration and Management

Administration and management are areas in which social workers utilize their training. Social workers help formulate policy, evaluate and design programs, develop budgets, direct personnel, determine resource allocation, develop public relations plans and set goals.

Services are included

a) Policy analysis

b) Formulate policy

c) Resource allocation

d) Set goals

With the help of the following agencies

a) Public Relations Office/Agency

b) Budget allocation Organizations

c) Policy Analysis Agency


Drug and alcohol/Addictive behaviours

Concern for the effects of addiction on the client and family is the focus of this field.  This focus centres on the study of addictive behaviours and how to intervene to break the cycle of addiction.  Primary prevention in the form of education and community outreach is an important aspect of this field of practice.  Philosophies and models of addiction will often define the nature of a program's interventive choices.  

Services are included

a) Assessment and treatment planning of Drug addicted 

b) how to intervene to break the cycle of addiction

c) Primary prevention

With the help of the following agencies

a) In-patient and out-patient drug and alcohol treatment centres and programs

b) methadone maintenance programs 

c) Eating disorder units.

d) Drug Addiction Rehabilitation Center


Social Services/Public Welfare

There are many individuals who experience social and economic problems. Elderly individuals, children, and other individuals experience various kinds of social and economic problems. These problems may assume a major form and largely affect the mindset of the individuals. Finances are necessary for survival, to fulfil the needs and requirements of daily life, an individual needs monetary sources and lack of monetary sources affects them in a negative way and they need to consult and seek assistance from social workers.  

Social work in public welfare entails administration, implementation, monitoring, and program evaluation of the public welfare system. Social workers provide information on how to apply for public assistance and other benefits, review eligibility requirements, and arrange for services. They also train and supervise staff while setting and evaluating standards and criteria for service delivery.


Services include

a) Providing information

b) Training and supervising staff

c) Setting standards for performance evaluation 

With the help of the following agencies

a) Public Welfare Agencies

b) Private Social Service Agencies

Public Assistance

It is a kind of help provided following the economic and social needs of the applicants. It depends upon certain conditions and legalities. Therefore public assistance is granted based on the 'means test'. Through 'means test' ways and means of living like income source, livelihood and others of individual are identified and measured before providing public assistance by the state or government. In some countries, including India, such services include assistance given to the old, blind, disabled and destitute.


Social Insurance

Like public assistance, social insurance also covers certain life contingencies like old age, unemployment, industrial accidents, occupational diseases, etc. It doesn't insist upon any means of a test. Under this scheme of service, benefits are provided only to those persons who pay a certain amount of contribution. It is partly financed by the state. Social insurance covers some risks such as medical care in time of illness, medical care and cash allowances during employment injuries, pension during inability, pension during old age after retirement, and cash allowances to wife and other dependants in case of death. Here, the benefits of the applicants are pre-determined.

Source: Kapur, Dr Radhika (2018). Understanding the Significance of Social Work

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