The field of social work was pioneered by Jane Addams in the late 1880’s. The Nobel Prize winner founded one of the first social settlement houses in Chicago, Hull House, with co-founder Ellen Gates Starr. Settlement houses were established in poor urban areas and provided services such as, day care, meals, healthcare and education to those in need, many of whom were immigrants. The goal was not only to provide services to people in poverty but also to share knowledge and culture.
Addams was a macro social worker; she worked to create change on a community level.
Micro, Mezzo and Macro Social Work
Macro social work is a very broad field. It entails changing, negating or repairing large scale systemic issues that affect large groups of people or entire communities and cultures. This type of social work can take many forms, including program development and evaluation, community-based education initiatives, advocacy, and policy analysis. Though individuals ultimately benefit from the work of macro social workers, the client systems on which they focus are larger entities such as organizations and communities at the local, national, and international level.
Not too long after Addams’s death in 1935, social work increased its focus to include micro and mezzo social work. Micro practice is the most common kind of social work and is how most people envision social workers providing services. Micro social workers directly engage with individuals and families, in practice areas, including, but not limited to, mental health, children/youth/family services, gerontology, non-profits, and the law.
Mezzo social work involves small and medium-sized groups, such as neighborhoods, schools, or other local organizations. Instead of working with individuals, mezzo social workers develop and implement social services. Examples of mezzo social work include community organizing, management of a social work organization, or focus on institutional change. It also involves the facilitation of small groups such as support groups, educational groups, and classrooms. At times, mezzo social work is a secondary practice of a micro social worker. They may focus individual student as a school social worker, but practice mezzo social work when conducting a school assembly on bullying, for example.
Despite micro and mezzo social work being the more dominant classifications in recent years, macro social work has been regaining popularity. An article in Social Work Today suggested the increase in macro social work is likely due to modern policy surrounding social issues such as terrorism, the spread of diseases, and gender identity.
Education Requirements and Salary
Overall, employment of social workers regardless of classification is projected to grow 16 percent by 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median pay for a social worker in 2017 was $47,890.
A bachelor’s degree is a typical requirement for social workers as it teaches students about diverse populations, human behavior, social welfare policy, and ethics in social work. Those who want to work in the social work profession can do so with a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW), and those with a degree in human services can work in social work-related positions. The undergraduate degrees in both human services and social work can provide a relevant foundation for acceptance to and graduation from master’s degree programs in social work (MSW).
At Lesley University, ninety-eight percent of our online human services degree graduates are employed or are enrolled in graduate programs. Our program emphasizes real-world experience that prepares you for your work after graduation, including internships, relevant coursework and experiential learning.