An Introduction to Macro Social Work

Graphic of interconnected human webs.

“The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.”
-Jane Addams

Social work is often regarded as offering services only on an individual level. In truth, it encompasses much more. Macro social work is an area of practice concerned with understanding and alleviating problems on a large, systemic scale. Those who choose to go into macro social work are rewarded both by a variety of job opportunities and the chance for a truly meaningful and impactful career.

Macro Level Social Work

Macro social work focuses on understanding and improving the broad systems in which people live. These areas might include schools, government, legal systems, health care, poverty, social justice, employment and more. Those in macro social work may engage in projects such as:

  • Researching social issues
  • Developing and managing programs for those in need
  • Advocating for the needs of certain populations
  • Educating the community

Because macro social work deals with large systems, a wide spectrum of job opportunities are available.

5 Careers in Macro Social Work

Common careers in macro social work may include the following:

Immigration Policy Advocate

Required education level: At least a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)
Median annual salary: $59,053

Immigration policy advocates work to change laws and regulations that specifically affect immigrant populations. They may work to educate individuals about laws influencing those communities, lobby legislators and advocate at all levels of government for undocumented people. Immigration policy advocates often work at organizations that specialize in this issue.

 Legislator/Public Official

Required education level: Master of Social Work (MSW)
Median annual salary: Varies by level of government and location

Many social workers find themselves actively engaging in politics in order to further the causes they care about. Legislators and public officials are public servants who advocate for the needs of their communities. They work to understand local and national implications of proposed acts of legislation, discuss and design policies, and work on government committees. Legislators and public officials work on national, state, local and tribal levels.

Community Organizer

Required education level: At least a BSW, although MSWs are preferred
Median annual salary: $37,704 

Community organizers work to help communities gain and sustain power. They help them define their interests, discover their political strength and build local systems that advocate for their own needs. Issues community organizers sometimes help to address include:

  • Police brutality
  • Immigrant rights
  • Affordable housing
  • Improving schools
  • Gentrification
  • Environmental concerns

Heath Care Social Worker

Required education level: MSW
Median annual salary: $52,380 

Social work in health care systems is a broad category unto itself. Social workers in this sub-field can work in a variety of settings, including public health organizations, inpatient hospitals, rehabilitation centers, residential care, home health agencies, health education, administrative teams and much more. Responsibilities might include:

  • Examining larger issues within health care organizations. (For example, how to work with patients who stay in hospitals too long because they are homeless or have no one to take care of them when discharged.)
  • Working with multidisciplinary review teams to ensure quality care for patients.
  • Researching public health issues.
  • Overseeing rehabilitation centers.
  • Examining health care policies implemented in government and advocating for particular needs related to health care. 


Required education level: Doctor of Social Work (DSW)
Median annual salary: $45,000

Social work researchers are responsible for furthering knowledge of a particular subject within the field. Through qualitative and quantitative research, they attempt to answer questions that will ultimately help make positive changes for individuals and communities. These professionals may work in universities, government, non-profit agencies or for-profit organizations. As researchers, they are unique because the objective of their work is primarily to improve the lives of others.

Sources: 101 Careers in Social Work, International Centre for Policy Advocacy, Western Organization of Resource Councils, ONet OnLine, PayScale

Starting Your Macro Social Work Career

For those with a love of service, choosing to enter a field like macro social work can be a life-changing decision. The online BSW and online MSW programs from Brescia University are designed to help students gain the training they need to thrive in careers helping others. Both programs are affordable and feature convenient online courses.