Advocacy in Action

Through the stories we share, the Admissions Team at Baylor University hopes to inspire and educate future leaders in the field of social work.

5 Skills You Need to Be an Effective Social Worker

Written by Gabie Pointer on 09.26.19

Social work is a dynamic profession that requires a variety of technical, emotional, psychological, and career skills. The skills that make up a good social worker are both learned and inherent. If you want to begin a career in this rewarding profession you must have certain social worker qualifications to be effective in the field. 

Here are five skills you need to be an effective social worker. 

Explore Baylor University’s digital resource: What Do Social Workers Actually  Do?

1. Communication

Communication is the exchange of information from one person(s) to another. This is one of the most important tools a social worker possesses. Effective communication, both verbal and written, is the skill used more than any other skill in the profession. 

Social workers have to be clear and concise when they are assisting their clients and communicating with colleagues. Written reports are another form of communication often required by supervisors and third-party organizations, so the ability to effectively summarize and synthesize information in a written format is essential. 

2. Active Listening 

While communication is an essential social work skill, an equally important part of their job is to listen attentively. This skill requires the social work professional to reflect on what the client is saying while still being actively engaged in the conversation and assessing its progress as the conversation goes along. 

Clients are likely to be most confident and trustworthy in your abilities as a social worker if the expectation of active listening on your part is established early in the helping process. This skill also allows clients who are otherwise unheard, marginalized, or vulnerable to feel important, seen, and valued. Active listening is the driving force for communication between social workers and clients. 

3. Empathy 

Empathy is a crucial skill that can dramatically affect the outcomes of the helping process. Empathy not only involves possessing the capacity and ability to understand how the client feels, but also expressing to the client that, you understand and can relate to them in their challenges and struggles. As a social worker, this skill demonstrates that you are supportive and on the side of your client. While being empathetic comes naturally to some, it is a skill that can also be nurtured and developed with time, practice, and intentionality. 

4. Critical Thinking

As a social worker, you will work with many different clients, each with their own unique and complex experiences. To find the most effective intervention for a client, you must first learn about the client, their pain points, their needs, and what will work best for them personally. To do this effectively will require critical thinking. 

Critical thinking relies on a social worker’s ability to combine their training and their assessment of their client’s unique situation to create the best plan of action. Sometimes split-second decisions must be made during the helping process and using critical and creative thinking leads to an effective outcome for the client.

5. Self-Awareness

A routine practice for social workers is seeking out client feedback. While this feedback, as well as feedback from colleagues and supervisors, is important — it is equally as important to self evaluate. Self-awareness includes identifying your sensations, thoughts, feelings, emotions, and intentions and evaluating your reasoning and motive behind each. 

When you have great self-awareness, you are able to serve your clients better by practicing and making second nature the habit of placing your client’s true needs at the center of your care. By tuning into yourself, you can also ensure that your own needs are met, practicing mindful self-care throughout your time as a social worker. 


These are just a few of the many social worker qualifications that are needed for effective practice in the field. If you are interested in learning more about what it takes to be a successful social worker, and answering the question — what do social workers do? — we invite you to reach out to us and request more information. You can also subscribe to our blog, Advocacy in Action, for weekly tips, stories, and insights from social work professionals. Best of luck with your social work journey! 

To learn more about what social workers do on a daily basis, explore our resource — What Do Social Workers Actually Do?EXPLORE THE RESOURCE

Posted by Gabie Pointer

Gabie is a student in the MSW program at Baylor University and is set to graduate in 2021. She first visited the school of social work as a senior in high school, where she met Dr. Singletary and other staff members who made her feel at home. Baylor’s unique focus on the integration of faith and practice was one of the things that drew her to Baylor. She is passionate about working in child welfare in low socio-economic status communities. In the future, she hopes to work in micro and macro levels of social work.

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