Social work skills - social worker helping elderly client

Ten Social Work Skills That Every Social Worker Needs To Have

Are you considering a career in social work? Check out this list of essential social work skills that will help you be successful in the field.

Summary: Are you considering a career in social work? Or are you already a social worker and looking to brush up on your skills? Either way, we’ve got you covered. Check out this list of essential social work skills that will help you be successful in the field.

Social work is a field that may appeal to many based on the opportunity to help others and make a difference in people’s lives. However, there is a lot to consider before investing time and money into years of study. 

Some people may be interested in this type of field, but not fully understand what a social worker is and how it differs from a counselor or a psychologist. 

Others may like the idea of the work, but are not sure if they are the right type of person for this work. 

In this article, we’ll try and help with both questions about the social work profession. 

What Do Social Workers Do? 

Social workers help others cope with life’s everyday problems. They can work with individuals, families, or groups. 

Social workers can help people with a variety of complex situations. This can include struggles with addiction, dealing with a terminal illness, or adopting or fostering children. 

Social workers may specialize in particular areas, including: 

  • Mental health
  • Addiction
  • Healthcare
  • Schooling
  • Family and Children

Part of their jobs is to advocate for their clients. They may work with policymakers to improve services, programs, or conditions to support their clients better. 

Some social workers are licensed to diagnose and treat mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders. They provide therapy and work with their clients to make positive changes to their situations or behaviors. 

10 Essential Social Work Skills Every Social Worker Needs 

1. Empathy

A social worker will need to be able to step into their client’s shoes and see things from their perspective. 

This will allow social workers to understand their client’s needs and build a stronger relationship with them. 

2. Boundary Setting

Setting and sticking to appropriate boundaries is crucial for a social worker. It’s normal to develop close relationships with clients as you will be discussing serious issues, often personal. 

However, it’s important to never cross the line beyond a strong professional relationship. 

They will also need to be realistic about what can be done at one time. 

It may be tempting to go over the time allowed with a client to solve an issue, but by setting boundaries, they can help to stop the job from consuming them. 

3. Active Listening

It’s not enough to just hear what a client is telling you. Active listening means paying careful attention not only to your client’s words but also to verbal and non-verbal cues. 

It involves checking in with your client and making sure you understand them correctly. This includes saying back what they have told you in your own words and summarizing their points. 

Asking the right questions is essential to moving the conversation forward, and active listening will help to build trust with the client. 

4. Social Perceptiveness

A social worker should be sensitive to social cues their client is giving, whether the client knows it or not. 

Many clients will struggle to open up to a stranger, so it’s the social worker’s job to pick up on any information they can. 

Reading body language, picking up subtleties in what their client is saying, and being aware of what is culturally appropriate for their client can all help to figure out the needs and thoughts of the client. 

5. Self-Awareness

Social workers should be aware of what their strengths (as well as weaknesses) are. This will ensure they will ask for help when needed and be able to work to improve any skills they may lack. 

6. Organization

Staying organized is a skill needed to manage the busy schedules and multiple responsibilities required of social workers. 

Their primary goal is to help clients, but with that comes documentation, writing reports, billing, and collaborating with the client’s other support professionals. 

Without organization, it’s entirely possible that the client will not be getting the care and service they need. This will result in adverse outcomes for the client. 

7. Coordination

Clients will often have a number of professionals they are working with. The social worker must be able to coordinate with any professionals, family, and support people in the client’s life to make sure everyone is on the same page. 

8. Persuasion

A social worker needs to be not only able to motivate their client into positive actions but also persuade others to help support the client. 

This could include getting insurance providers, healthcare workers, or family to take better actions in favor of your client’s needs. 

9. Patience

Some clients will take longer than others to progress, and may resist change.

A social worker will need to be patient with their clients and work with them over long periods, even if it feels like they are getting nowhere. 

They will also need to exhibit patience with other healthcare providers, insurance companies, and family members who may resist their recommendations. 

10. Relaxation And De-Compression

As with any helping career, social work can be a demanding and stressful job. Self-care is critical to prevent burnout and compassion fatigue. 

Social workers will need to consider ways to have a positive work-life balance. 

This includes having positive activities they enjoy outside of work, a positive support system at home, and time to themselves to fully decompress. 

Is Social Work A Good Career?

Social work is a field that will always be in demand, so it’s a job career to get into based on job prospects. 

The need for social workers is expected to grow over the next decade. However, it does take a special type of person to be a good social worker. 

What Are The Advantages Of Being A Social Worker?

There are several benefits to a career as a social worker, such as:

  • Job security
  • Helping others
  • Pride in the work
  • Decent income
  • Courses available online
  • Variety of settings
  • Variety of specializations
  • Room for growth in the career
  • Ability to work anywhere in the US
  • Possibility of international work
  • Student loans may be forgiven
  • Variety in the daily schedule
  • Not needing to work holidays as with jobs like nursing

What Are The Disadvantages Of Being A Social Worker?

However, like with any other job, there are setbacks:

  • Heavy workload
  • Requires a license
  • Requires a formal degree
  • Cost of education
  • Hours can be long
  • May need to be on call
  • Risk of compassion fatigue
  • Having to see genuinely sad cases
  • May feel powerless in some situations
  • May be difficult to ‘switch off’ at the end of the day
  • May need to work with difficult individuals

How Many Hours A Day Do Social Workers Work?

They typically work a standard 40-hour week, but part-time work is also possible. 

Can Anyone Be A Social Worker?

Being a social worker requires formal education

A bachelor’s degree in social work is the entry point to being a social worker. This will include 400 hours of supervised field experience. Clinical positions will require a master’s degree. 

All states will also have licensing, certification, and registration requirements, which will require sitting a licensing exam. 

In Conclusion 

There are plenty of opportunities for people to get into the field of social work. While the field is growing, it’s important to consider if you are the right type of person for this demanding job. 

Not only is it imperative for the client’s outcomes to have a social worker with the required skills and traits for the job, but also for the social worker themselves. Burnout and compassion fatigue are real concerns for anyone in this type of field. 

If you have the skills and desire for this type of work, it’s a job that should give you plenty of pride and fulfillment. 

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Daria Burnett

Daria Burnett


Daria Burnett is an author, counselor, and numerologist based in Florida. She has written several books on numerology and astrology, including the recent Amazon bestseller "Angel Numbers Explained."


Daria has also been studying astrology, the Tarot, and natural healing practices for over 30 years, and has written numerous books and articles on them.


She is a gifted intuitive who is able to help her clients make the best choices for their lives. She has a deep understanding of spirituality, and uses her knowledge to help others find their true purpose in life.


Her LinkTree profile is here.