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What Are the Differences Between Micro, Mezzo, and Macro Social Work?

If you’ve just earned your social work degree — or if you’ve recently re-entered the workforce — you might wonder how to approach your job search so you can start working in your field as soon as possible. Before launching your search, learn the differences between micro, mezzo, and macro social work so you can concentrate on the best areas that complement and utilize your specialized skills.

The differences among these three areas of social work are vital in helping you plan the best course for your career now and into the future. Continue reading to learn more about these distinctions.


What Are the Differences Among Micro, Mezzo, and Macro Social Work?

You might have envisioned your role as a professional social worker as one where you would meet with individuals or families undergoing difficult times and provide them with counsel and advice. While that is often part of the life of a social worker, there is even more to working in this field, which is where micro, mezzo, and macro designations come into play.

counselor talking to a patient


What Is Micro-Level Social Work?

As the term “micro” might suggest, micro social work serves as the foundation of the field. It is the work you might have imagined while doing your social work internship. At the micro level, you work with clients directly, addressing individual concerns or problems and developing meaningful and effective solutions.

Some examples of the matters you’ll handle in your regular duties in micro social work are:

  • Helping people in various circumstances search for healthcare and employment
  • Working with homeless individuals or families who need a long-range plan for housing, healthcare, mental health services, employment, and anything else to help get them find long-term and safe housing
  • Counseling individuals with drug-related issues, helping them search for a path to recovery

Common job titles in micro social work include:

  • Caseworker
  • Family therapist
  • Substance abuse counselor

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What is Mezzo Social Work?

Mezzo social work involves working with a group or groups of people. In this area, you might work with a small, intimate group of people, such as employees who need help with conflict resolution. At other times, you might work with a group that has undergone a shared tragedy, such as death due to drug addiction or untreated mental illness.

Job titles in this area include:

  • Support group counselor
  • Group therapist
  • Business support counselor

If you plan to work in the mezzo social work realm, you might learn there is a great deal of potential crossover with micro-level social work. Perhaps you had previously worked with an individual who died of an overdose, and you are now working to help that person’s family come to terms with their grief and loss through your experience.

You might also use your experience and knowledge to help schools, communities, and neighborhoods solve local problems.


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What is Macro Social Work?

Working at the macro-level of social work means you want to tackle problems on a local, national, and global scale. Often referred to as “big picture” social work, aiming to work at this level means you want to understand how problems arise at the systems level rather than managing and working with individuals and small groups.

Job titles in macro social work have a distinctly unique ring to them, compared to micro and mezzo job titles:

  • Lobbyist
  • Strategist
  • Community organizer
  • Analyst
  • Researcher

Based on the job titles, you’ll likely need to add a minor to your studies or become adept at secondary skills and education, such as data analysis and political science.

Do you know which type of social work best suits your current skills, goals, and world view? iHireSocialServices can help you explore different career paths in social work.

By iHire | May 19, 2021
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