Top 5 Qualities of an Effective Social Worker

Social worker talking to mother and two young children on leather sofa
Social worker talking to mother and two young children on leather sofa

An effective social worker is many things to many clients. At times, the social worker might serve as a supportive sounding board to help clients work through issues or situations; at other times, the job might entail being able to connect an individual or family with much-needed housing or service provision.

The key to being able to put on all these different hats and remain effective is acquiring the right skill sets. This is where the right college comes in; the coursework and the curriculum are designed to give a broad view and general understanding of the many roles, responsibilities and obligations that fall to the social worker.

Once you have successfully completed these courses, you will have further opportunity to build on these qualities and skills through an internship, senior seminar and social work placement before jumping in, post-graduation. The top five qualities of an effective social worker are:

1. Optimism

If you want to make a difference, you need to maintain a degree of optimism. This translates to a kind of enthusiasm when working with children, and it is easily perceived and adopted by the clients with whom you work. If you believe that change is possible, your client will too. When taking courses such as “Practice with Individuals and Families,” you will see how this mindset can help motivate and inspire action in the clients whom you serve.

2. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in others’ shoes, while also being able to take an objective look at yourself, the practitioner, with some level of self-awareness. Courses such as “Human Behavior in the Social Environment” are a solid first step in fostering empathy and honing the ability to relate to diverse groups of people in an effective, collaborative and respectful way.

3. Effective Communication

Effective communication doesn’t necessarily come naturally, which is why there are college-level courses aimed at public speaking, interviewing techniques and active listening tactics. It may also help to remain personable with a sense of humor, to make a personal connection with the client. A college course in “Interviewing” will help develop effective communication and active listening skills in social work students.

4. Familiarity

A social worker must know about available resources, services and programs that can enrich or enhance their client’s situation, so familiarity with community networks and organizations is key. With this familiarity comes a sense of realism related to what you feasibly can and cannot provide for a client.

“Practice with Communities and Organizations” looks at some of the social issues, unmet demands and general resources available to social workers. This college course can help identify the pressing social issues facing your community and the best way to work together to find a solution.

5. Discretion

“Intro to Social Work” conveys to students the values of being discreet when working in the field. It is important to both keep your client’s confidences and know when it is time to reach out for support or supervision, such as in mandated reporting situations. This introductory social work class will also reiterate the importance of maintaining firm boundaries and setting limits with clients, coworkers and colleagues.

Start building your social work skill sets today with an online BSW degree from Spring Arbor University, an established, regionally accredited institution. Online learning makes it possible for burgeoning social workers to acquire the education and skills necessary to advance their careers, while still juggling commitments and responsibilities at home. Begin developing these five qualities and become an effective social worker with your online BSW degree!


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