Social work is a challenging, rewarding, and dynamic field. But it’s also a demanding profession, requiring emotional and personal maturity. Employers look for candidates who possess workplace readiness skills that include much more than a desire to help others.

Below you’ll find a list of the top eight characteristics that comprise a model social worker in today’s complex health and human services system.

  1. Training and Knowledge
  2. First and foremost! Obtaining the right education is an essential part of your career development. Degree programs in social work are available at all education levels from an associate degree to a Ph.D. These programs provide the necessary training and skills required to work in social systems, large and small.

  3. Courage
  4. Being a social worker takes courage, no doubt about it. Social work often takes place in high-stress, complex environments so guts and will-power are must-have characteristics.

  5. Empathy
  6. Empathy is what social work is all about. Compassion for others is without a doubt, an essential attribute of a successful social worker.

  7. Organization
  8. Social workers handle some serious paperwork. From case files to medical records, you’ll need to keep your ducks in a row by staying on top of your work in a neat and organized fashion.

  9. Respect for Diversity
  10. Given the breadth of their profession, social workers often work with clients from all walks of life so it’s imperative to keep an open mind and an open heart.

  11. Flexibility
  12. In addition to odd hours, even on-call duty, social workers MUST be flexible, in all situations. Being able to adapt to new demands is essential, if not mandatory. Keep this in mind if other commitments will prevent you from working a not-so traditional schedule.

  13. Ethical and Responsible
  14. Social workers often handle ethical and sometimes legal issues that require careful thought and research. You’ll need to practice due diligence when it comes to handling client-service provider relationships.

  15. Continuing Education
  16. Employers look for candidates who are active in their field through professional associations, volunteering, or internship work. Do whatever you can to get as much experience and exposure in your field as possible.

    If you are considering getting an MSW, take a look at what you need to know about MSW programs and possible future careers.