What is an Advanced Generalist Social Worker?

Social workers are found in areas other than agencies and have widely differing job description; that is where the advanced generalist social worker comes in. These professionals are found in advertising, in business, in government and in healthcare, among other areas. What exactly is a generalist social worker, how do they prepare for the job and where do they work?


A generalist social worker is one who has studied both clinical practice and macro social work. The designation “advanced status” tells people that the professional has at least a master’s degree in social work. The advanced worker builds upon the foundational education they received in the baccalaureate degree to attain competencies in leadership, planning, assessment, intervention and evaluation in systems that range from individual relationships to families and groups and finally to communities and governments.

Difference Between Advanced Generalist and Specialist

All social workers begin with the same core values. They adhere to standards identified by the National Association of Social Workers for practice. According to the website socialworkers.org these include service, social justice, personal dignity and worth, importance of human relationships, integrity and competence. In individual practice these play out as a focus on allowing clients to have self-determination, to adhering to strict codes of confidentiality and working for equality, among other goals. Generalists employ the same standards in their work with organizations and in developing programs as well as in working with individual clients. For instance, they use a “person-in-environment” approach, understanding that just as a person is influenced by his environment, communities and systems operate under certain environmental boundaries.


In building upon fundamental skills, it is understood that the advanced social worker will have an undergraduate degree in social work. The master’s -level programs teach professionals how to use the basic competencies to problem solve and as a starting-place for deriving theories about interventions on a micro or a macro level. There are three basic types of social work. Those professionals involved at the micro level are concerned with the individual client and his immediate environment. Mezzo social work looks at the family and the cultural boundaries around the client and macro social work goes a step further to examine and intervene in communities, organizations and even national arenas.

Programs in generalist social work include courses in human behavior and in ethics and legal aspects of social work but also contain courses in community planning and assessment, leadership and collaborative efforts. The National Association of Social Workers encourages professionals to go beyond licensing at the culmination of their studies and to become certified. The voluntary certification is like accreditation of a degree program and testifies to the competency and the ethical practice of the professional.

Where they Work

Recent listings on the Indeed work website include listings for HR (human resource) workers with social work backgrounds to manage resource issues in a business, a social worker with the Department of Veterans Affairs in Los Angeles and a social worker in family programs in Aurora, Colorado.

The opportunity with the Veterans Administration is interesting because the job is a virtual description of generalist social worker responsibilities. The person who fills the opening will be a case manager for individual clients, perform site visits at HUD housing where veterans reside to ensure they are safe and that the housing is in compliance with regulation, advocate for individuals and for general veterans’ rights and assist in planning and developing veterans programs. The position pays $84,785 to $110,224.

The worker who takes the job in Aurora will help the city plan programs for family outreach and coordinate services to families. Other advanced generalist social workers are found in health care advocating for patient rights and even in governmental positions working to help solve immigration and other issues.

Related Resource: Top 10 Affordable Master of Social Work Online (MSW) Degrees

The main difference in these and other social workers is that they are competent in all areas of social work and can work autonomously in positions of leadership or advocacy and program management. That is why an advanced generalist social worker can be found working in areas from direct client service to advocacy and even public health planning.