Micro social work effects change on an individual basis and involves working closely with clients to support them through their challenges. Mezzo social work seeks to improve small communities through initiatives such as school-based education programs and local health services. Mezzo social workers also tend to interact directly with the populations they serve. Macro social work aims to understand how problems originate, develop, and persist in large systems–for example, at the state and national levels. Macro social workers may or may not interact with the populations they seek to help, and instead work to effect positive change through research of social issues and the development of state and national programs.
The fields of micro, mezzo, and macro social work are explained in further detail below.
Sponsored Online Social Work Programs
|Fordham University||Earn your Master of Social Work online from the top-ranked Fordham Graduate School of Social Service. Bachelor's required.|
|University of Denver||Earn your Master of Social Work online from the top-20 ranked Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Denver. No GRE Required.|
|Case Western Reserve University||The CSWE-accredited Master of Science in Social Administration from CWRU is an online program for social work leaders.|
|Baylor University||Complete Baylor's Master of Social Work program online in as few as 12 months and start serving vulnerable populations.|
|University of Southern California (USC)||Apply to USC's innovative MSW program to take the next step in your social work career. GRE not required!|
|Simmons University||Simmons University's online Master of Social Work program can be completed in as few as 16 months, and GRE scores are not required.|
Sponsored Social Work Programs
Micro Social Work
Micro social work involves meeting with individuals, families, and small groups to help them identify and manage mental, emotional, social, behavioral, and/or financial challenges that are negatively impacting their happiness and quality of life. The goal of micro social work is to help vulnerable populations through one-on-one guidance and emotional support. Tasks that micro social workers typically complete include individual and family counseling, resource connection and navigation services (ex. how to apply for Medicare or Medicaid and other federal or state aid programs, what resources are available in one’s community, etc.), helping clients develop skills to address emotional and social difficulties, and intervening in situations in which clients encounter a crisis or severe distress (ex. school violence, domestic abuse, severe substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc.).
While the terms micro social work and clinical social work are often used interchangeably, and overlap in many ways, clinical social work is in fact a subset of micro social work. Clinical social work is defined as the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of individuals’ mental illness and other psychological and emotional problems. Clinical social workers work closely with their clients using a number of psychotherapeutic methods to help them manage and overcome their mental, emotional, and behavioral challenges. Check out our Introductory Guide to Clinical Social Work for more information about clinical social workers.
Mezzo Social Work
Mezzo social work involves the development and implementation of social service initiatives at the local and small community levels (ex. schools, neighborhoods, and city districts). Like micro social workers, mezzo social work practitioners tend to interact directly with the people they wish to assist. However, instead of engaging in individual counseling and support, mezzo social workers administer help to groups of people at a time. Examples of projects that mezzo social workers could be involved in include the establishment of a free local clinic to help underserved members of the community, county health programs to help disadvantaged families learn about and obtain proper nutrition, and local workshops to guide unemployed individuals through the processes of applying for jobs and unemployment benefits.
While mezzo social work roles do exist, mezzo social work is often a secondary practice that micro social workers engage in to help their client populations on a slightly larger scale. For example, school social workers who work closely with students may practice mezzo social work when they develop and host presentations on student issues such as bullying or substance abuse prevention. Similarly, clinical social workers in private practice who work primarily on an individual basis with their clients might conduct emotional health workshops to help multiple clients or sections of their local community.
Macro Social Work
Macro social work is distinct from micro and mezzo social work in that it seeks to help vulnerable populations indirectly and on a much larger scale. Macro social workers typically have one or more of the following responsibilities:
- Investigation of the origins, persistence, and effects of citywide, state, and/or national social problems. Social workers who investigate these problems often work at universities and other social research institutions.
- Creation and implementation of human service programs to address large scale social problems. Social workers who engage primarily in this area of macro social work may work in government departments, non-profits, and other organizations that have the resources and infrastructure to create, deliver, and evaluate the effectiveness of human service programs.
- Advocacy to encourage state and federal governments to change policies to better serve vulnerable populations, and/or to create programs that address social ills. Macro social workers who engage in policy advocacy may work at human rights groups, pro-bono law firms, think-tanks, and non-profit organizations.
While macro social workers typically do not provide individual therapy or other assistance to clients, they may interact directly with the populations they wish to serve when conducting interviews during their research of certain social problems. Furthermore, some macro social workers begin their careers at the micro level in order to fully understand the trials their target populations experience before they progress to more macro-level projects.
Moving Between Micro, Mezzo, and Macro Social Work
Social workers and social work students who begin their career in one of the three areas of social work described above need not feel relegated to that area of social work for the entirety of their career. In fact, with adequate initiative and investment of time and effort, social workers can and do move between micro, mezzo, and macro social work, and can practice more than one type of social work simultaneously.
For instance, a micro social worker who wishes to effect broader social change may contact local organizations in order to create and implement programs at the mezzo level; that same social worker could also contact research institutions and engage in research on a particular social problem that he/she has encountered in his/her practice. On the other hand, macro social workers who wish to interact directly with people within the populations they serve can do so through research-oriented interviews, or by obtaining the necessary training to counsel individual clients.
More FAQs about Online MSW Programs
- FAQ: Are there any one year online MSW programs?
- FAQ: Are there any online MSW programs for BSW students?
- FAQ: Are there any online MSW programs for non-BSW students?
- FAQ: Are there any online MSW programs that do not require the GRE?
- FAQ: Are there any online MSW programs that have multiple start dates?
- FAQ: Are there any online MSW programs that start in the Spring?
- FAQ: Are there any online MSW programs with a children, youth, and family counseling concentration?
- FAQ: Are there any online MSW programs with a trauma concentration?
- FAQ: Are there any online MSW programs with asynchronous instruction
- FAQ: Are there any two year online MSW programs?
- FAQ: Can you get an MSW without a BSW?
- FAQ: Is Walden University’s online MSW program accredited?
- FAQ: MSW vs. LCSW
- FAQ: MSW vs. MSSW vs. MSSA
- FAQ: What are the GPA requirements for online MSW programs?
- FAQ: What does it mean if an online MSW program uses a cohort model?
- FAQ: What is an advanced generalist online MSW program?
- FAQ: What is the difference between online, campus, hybrid, and distance learning MSW programs?
- FAQ: Where do licensed clinical social workers work?