The essential skills for succeeding in social work

If you are considering becoming a social worker, then you may be wondering what it takes to be successful in the role and have a long-term, satisfying career. Working in the social work field is incredibly challenging and difficult in ways that are different from any other career path.

While social work is certainly not for everyone, if you have the right skillset, then it could be a great career for you to pursue.

Becoming a social worker 

There are a number of different ways to become a social worker. The path to becoming a social worker will vary depending on the country and state or province that you live in, as every area will have its own licensing regulations. Most social workers will pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree in social work on either a full-time or part-time basis in order to get into the field.

One of the most popular ways right now to break into the field is through undertaking one of the online social work programs available. Programs such as Florida State University’s College of Social Work Online MSW Degree Program are designed to train you in the newest science and best practices of effective social work and advocacy.

One of the major benefits of online learning is that it is much more accessible than other forms of learning that require time in class. When taking online courses, students are also able to work, care for their family, and live their lives with much greater flexibility.

Although online education was once considered to be a fairly niche form of learning, it has gained mainstream acceptance following the mass transition to digital learning caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. After everyone started to learn online, digital and remote learning was accepted as being just as effective and valid as any other form of tuition.

Essential skills for becoming a social worker 

These are a few of the most important skills for succeeding as a social worker. If you feel drawn to the career, then you may want to learn more about what the job entails, the training process, and degree programs you can take to become a social worker.


Social workers help people who the rest of society has forgotten, and many of them, after years of getting let down by the system and by others, are not the easiest to deal with. Being able to work with disadvantaged people every day requires compassion and understanding.

Through compassion, you will be able to have empathy for an individual and understand that they have behaved in a certain way because of circumstances that were outside of their control. Compassion is both an innate skill and one that needs to be fostered through time and experience.


People skills in general are important in social work because you are doing social work – working with people each day to try to improve their lives and circumstances. Good written and oral communication skills are key because you will need to both communicate with individuals in a wide range of different socioeconomic classes and be an advocate for your clients when speaking with governmental bodies and agencies.

Communicating persuasively, clearly and effectively with different groups of people will be key to your success as a social worker.

Critical thinking 

Being able to gather unbiased information, synthesize it, and then communicate it is very important for developing a case file for your clients and advocating for them effectively. Thinking critically without prejudice is essential to making informed decisions and being able to assist your clients through observation, research and interviews.

Cultural understanding 

When you are a social worker, you are working with individuals from all over the community who are bringing with them an incredibly diverse range of experiences and cultures. Cultural understanding is not something that we are all born with – instead, it is something that you must actively learn over time.


Again, patience is a key skill for social workers. Many people who you work with will not receive the help they need for long stretches of time due to governmental delays, over-demand or limited resources. Also, many people may continually make the same mistakes and require assistance every time.

Patience is required to not become overly frustrated to the point that you can no longer do your job properly and efficiently. While patience is something that some people innately have, everyone’s patience will be tested at some point in the social work field.


Finally, but perhaps most importantly, if you want to develop a long-term, successful career as a social worker, you need to be able to do self-care. Compassion fatigue is very real and impacts social workers who spend every day working in emotionally, psychologically and sometimes physically challenging environments.

You will need to learn how to take care of yourself so that you are strong enough to take care of others. What self-care means to you will be different from everyone else because everyone has their own way of taking care of themselves. However, it is important to look after your health, make time for your hobbies and interests, and pause now and then to reassess how you are feeling physically and mentally.

Learning new skills 

If you are interested in social work but you do not find the above skills match your own skillsets, then do not panic. These are all skills that can be learned and developed over time either through your own experience or through education. While experience is one of the best teachers, it is also helpful to learn from other social workers and keep up with the latest best practices in the field.