What Skills Are Required to be a Social Worker?

Social work is diverse, satisfying, and meaningful career. Those who choose to get a degree in social work and then serve in the field are truly devoted to making a difference. Becoming a social worker and starting a career is more than just earning a degree, however. Because social workers can serve in many roles to many people – therapist, administrator, adviser – in any given day, it’s important to be prepared with the correct set of skills and the right personality from the very beginning.

Tolerant

The very nature of social work requires a great deal of interaction with many different types of people from all walks of life. It also requires working extensively with others, sometimes on the same, specific issues, over a very long period of time. There are long days working with people who are imprinted with the effects of stressful and emotional situations – despite training, this can be stressful for the social worker as well. Remembering to take a deep breath and practice patience in every situation goes a long way in maintaining good relationships and solving problems.

Rational

Besides understanding and establishing relationships, there can be a lot of administrative tasks and paperwork. While this requires its own kind of patience, it also needs a great deal of organization. Clients, schools, districts, private clinics – all of these will have their own set of things to keep track of and it’s important that individuals can maintain files, follow up with phone calls, and take billing and payment if necessary.

Cognizant

The role of awareness takes on multiple forms. It’s good to be aware, of course, of any particular circumstances surround the situations with your clients. These circumstances have a natural and lasting impact on the client’s well being and mental health. Being able to read between the lines or knowing when to probe further in a conversation or meeting is an important skill. Additionally, awareness of how to continually improve as a social worker and when to ask for or take advice from bosses or others in the field can be crucial to success in the field.

Critical Thinking

It’s one thing to practice what you’ve learned in your degree program, and another to continue thinking outside the box. Encountering a situation that is new, unfamiliar, and doesn’t have a standard textbook answer can be daunting, but knowing that you can think on your feet is a true test of any social worker. Using critical thinking about the situation as well as knowledge from experience and information from earning a degree are the essential foundation for working through things as a social worker.

Communication

Written and verbal communication are sometimes thought of as no-brainers when it comes to getting a job in social work, but their importance cannot be overstated. Not only are social workers responsible for writing up reports, notes, and correspondence, there are always additional writing tasks that come up. Verbal communication is the core of any social worker’s position – asking the right questions, repeating back answers to questions and seeking clarity, giving speeches or educational seminars. Additionally, any good social worker is able to communicate across gender, age, and cultural lines and adapt their communication style to be effective.

What are the educational requirements for a social worker?

To become a Licensed Social Worker (LSW), an applicant must have at least a bachelor’s degree in social work and pass the national examination administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB).

When looking for programs, it’s important to keep a few factors in mind:

  • Is the program accredited?
  • Will the program prepare you for licensure and other exams?
  • Does the program offer online or hybrid courses for working and non-traditional students?

Below we’ve listed popular accredited programs in social work that meet these factors:

SchoolPrograms
Our Lady of the Lake University
Our Lady of the Lake University

Accreditation
  • SACSCOC
University of Southern California
University of Southern California

Accreditation
  • WASC
Walden University
Walden University

Accreditation
  • HLC
  • NCA
Indiana Wesleyan University
Indiana Wesleyan University

Accreditation
  • WACS
  • CCTC
Widener University
Widener University

Accreditation
  • MSA
Sacred Heart University
Sacred Heart University

Accreditation
  • HLC
  • NCA

Click here to see more online Social Work degrees

Other Skills

While education, licensure, and passion are critical to any social worker’s career, there are other practical skills to think about that can further career standing, as well as simply make the job more enjoyable and successful for everyone involved. Developing your own understanding of what you’re trying to get out of a social work career is integral. Figure out what skills you think are most beneficial for the career of your dreams and actively work on refining them. Especially early on in career development, it can be important to help define what your really trying to accomplish in the position.

Search for online Social Work programs