Do You Have What It Takes to Become a Social Worker?

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There are many hats that a social worker wears to perform their roles and responsibilities correctly. Whether it’s being an organizer, case manager, counselor, or advocate, there are numerous skills that a social worker needs to be successful.

Social work is a varied and demanding profession, so for those who are passionate about providing support and guidance to others and making a positive impact in their day to day life, here is a guide on the skills and attributes needed to flourish as a social worker.


No matter who you come into contact with as a social worker, being able to relate to your client and putting yourself in their shoes can help you flourish in the role. Having empathy and an understanding of their situation will mean you can provide the best care and support possible to enhance their day to day life. There are all sorts of obstacles and challenges that you will face when working with clients, so it’s important that you know what strategies to take to solve their problems. Being empathetic enables you to:

  • Build social connections with your clients

  • Understand the client’s thoughts and feelings

  • Learn to regulate your own emotions

  • Promotes helping behaviors

Boundary Setting

In addition to having empathy for clients, a social worker needs to maintain the capacity to set boundaries, as well as accept the limitations of what can be achieved during a specified amount of time. Establishing boundaries and milestones from the get-go can help when it comes to setting expectations. There is only so much you can do in a day, so while it’s great to go above and beyond your call of duty, it’s important that you take care of your physical and mental health, otherwise you will be of no use to your clients.

Social Perceptiveness

There are all sorts of body language, implications, and social cues that you must look out for when working as a social worker. Each client you help will present a different demeanor, so being able to spot the signs and focusing on how they behave will give you the tools needed to improve their quality of life. There will be some clients who can openly express their thoughts and opinions, while others will find it more difficult to state their needs, so knowing how to read between the lines is a key trait that social workers must possess.


As a social worker, you will be given feedback routinely, based on how you have performed with clients and supervisors. If you are passionate about your role, it’s only natural that you will want to strive for perfection and do the best job you can. When evaluating your own performance, it’s important that you are self-aware of your capabilities and know your strengths and weaknesses. You may receive constructive criticism, however, rather than seeing it as a negative, try and use it to better enhance your way of working. We all have room for improvement, so to get the most out of being a social worker, you need to take and receive criticism and praise.

Active Listening

When having conversations with clients, it’s important that you show that you’re interested in what they have to say. Being engaged and genuinely caring about your client can go a long way and help you perform better at your job. For many social workers, active listening is critical for gaining trust and respect from clients. There are several reasons why active listening is so important, as it helps you to:

  • Understand issues and formulate better solutions

  • Diffuse conflict

  • Discover new details about your clients

  • Make clients more receptive to solutions

Information Gathering

You will find that some clients are not willing to share as much information as others. To ensure they get the help and guidance they need, social workers need to know how to make informed decisions, regardless of how much information you have to go on. Learning how to gather and make sense of information from clients is a crucial part of social work.

Inner Strength

The work of a social worker can be emotionally challenging. If you are dedicated to providing an excellent level of care and support to your clients, the whole process can be overwhelming and take its toll. It’s essential that you take care of yourself, both emotionally and psychologically when working as a social worker.

The role of a social worker can be incredibly meaningful and give you the purpose and drive you the need to flourish, however, if you’re not in the right frame of mind, you won’t be able to provide the right care for your clients. There are several health and wellbeing tips that you can take on board to ensure you’re prepared for the role of a social worker, such as:

  • Exercising regularly

  • Following a balanced diet

  • Getting enough sleep

  • Practicing deep breathing


As a social worker, it’s likely that you will manage multiple clients simultaneously. To provide excellent support and case management to clients, you will need to have a great level of organization. Some of the key benefits of being organized include:

  • Being focused

  • Reducing stress levels

  • Better work-life balance

  • Increased productivity

  • Positive image

  • Setting and achieving objectives and goals

When dealing with casework, there will be all sorts of documentation that needs to be addressed, filed, and stored, so being organized will help keep you in control. Your clients’ needs should be your number one priority, so to reduce the risk of documents falling through the cracks, knowing where everything is stored is key.

Time Management

Similar to organizational skills, social workers need to possess excellent time management practices. With a whole host of administrative responsibilities and multiple cases to work on, knowing how to manage your time effectively is key as a social worker. All clients need to receive the same level of care, service, and attention, so you need to understand the importance of time management. Time management skills can benefit you in several ways, helping to make sure:

  • Work is delivered on time

  • You provide a better quality of work

  • You are more productive and efficient

  • You can give clients the best possible care


Social workers help clients of all ages, genders, races, and religions, so no matter who you are dealing with, it’s crucial that you understand the importance of effective communication. Clients want to feel that they can trust you, so being confident and knowing how to communicate your thoughts and opinions clearly is vital. There are many scenarios where you may have to work as a team with other social workers to help clients, so being an excellent team player is just as important. Effective organizational communication can provide numerous benefits, such as:

  • Increasing productivity

  • Boosting confidence and self-esteem

  • Improving relationships with clients and colleagues

  • Greater job satisfaction


The clients you work with will come from all walks of life. You need to remember that some clients will have a different thought process to you, so while your main purpose is to help and support their needs, they may see you as a burden and a threat, rather than a positive influence. To ensure clients are getting relevant support, you need to master the art of persuasion, which can help them take action. Having the ability to inspire and encourage your clients to listen to what you have to say will take time and patience; however, the end result will usually be positive.


As the voice of your clients, social workers need to learn how to routinely advocate on behalf of the people, families, and groups they see and help. If you believe your clients aren’t getting the support they deserve, you need to have the confidence and self-esteem to speak out and act in their best interests. Social workers may also:

  • Revise outdated policies

  • Expand existing programs

  • Create new programs

  • Ensure clients get the services and treatments they deserve

Advocacy is a powerful skill that helps to bring positive changes. If you’re passionate about making a difference, understanding the importance of advocacy is essential as a social worker.

Becoming a Social Worker

If you believe you have all the skills and traits listed above, it’s vital that you have the right qualifications behind you before embarking on a career as a social worker. Completing a master’s in social work from a school like Wilfrid Laurier University can help prepare you for a career in social work.

Once you have obtained relevant qualifications, alongside becoming a social worker, there are several other job roles that you can look into, such as:

  • Mental health therapist

  • Mental health clinician

  • Family counselor

No two days are the same for a social worker. There are many different kinds of environments you will be put in on a day to day basis, so while some days may go smoothly, there are others that will present numerous problems and challenges. For your clients to receive the best care and support, it’s important that you have all the key skills listed above.