Glossary of Medical Terms

Social Worker

Social workers are health professionals who use counseling to help people function in their environment, improve their relationships with others, and solve personal and family problems. They also help people locate and access appropriate resources for their particular needs.

A social worker may work in a hospital, community organization, or private counseling. Most social workers concentrate on a specific area of practice. For example, clinical social workers provide psychotherapy or counseling and a range of diagnostic services in public agencies, clinics, and private practice; child or adult protective services social workers investigate reports of abuse and neglect and intervene if necessary; and medical social workers provide counseling to people receiving therapy for physical problems or addictive behaviors in hospitals, nursing homes, and rehabilitation facilities.

While many social worker positions, such as a child protective services social worker, require only a bachelor's degree (BSW), most require a master's degree (MSW). All 50 states require licensing, certification, and registration of social workers. Requirements vary from state to state. 

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