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What It Takes to Be Successful as a Social Worker

The top five essential traits of thriving social workers

For some people, their career is not only their work but also their calling, and a social work career is often seen this way. At the most fundamental level, social workers are dedicated to helping people, from counseling individual clients to addressing larger issues of social justice. If you’re inspired by the idea of contributing to the greater good, and possess certain vital traits, social work practice could be a good match for you. It’s certainly a growth market. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of social workers is projected to grow 11% by 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. The median annual wage for social workers varies but generally ranges from a median $49,470 to a high of $81,400. Growth will be driven by increased demand for healthcare and social services, with variations by specialization.1

What Do Social Workers Do?

Social workers with a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree can perform a wide variety of tasks, depending on the setting and on their educational focus.

What It Takes to Be Successful as a Social Worker

  • Clinical social workers engage clients in defining issues, setting and prioritizing goals, and committing to the change process.
  • Social workers who focus on military life specialize in helping armed forces personnel, veterans, and their families.
  • Child or family social workers promote child, youth, and family success in the face of challenging environments and social conditions.
  • Policy analysts focus on developing, evaluating, and advocating for community resources.

Personal Traits

Regardless of the specific focus that appeals to you, you’ll be more likely to succeed as a social worker if you possess certain traits. Here are five of the most essential:

  • Empathy: Being able to relate to others’ experiences across wide and varied populations, including individuals, families, or other groups of people; expressing concern and understanding
  • Compassion: Connecting with clients wherever they are in the process of therapy or treatment; validating how they feel, and building rapport
  • Perceptiveness: Being in tune with clients and responding appropriately; understanding how to re-engage and when to take a step back
  • Flexibility: Coping with the unexpected—from canceled appointments to immediate crises—with grace and aplomb
  • Objectivity: Remaining calm in the face of extremes of emotion and staying focused on solutions


Ready to answer your calling? Walden’s online MSW degree allows you to focus your Master of Social Work studies in one of four concentrations: Advanced Clinical Practice, Military Social Work, Social Work in Healthcare, and Social Work With Children and Families, and an array of interesting elective courses.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a CSWE-accredited online MSW program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


Walden University’s Master of Social Work (MSW) program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), a specialized accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). CSWE’s Commission on Accreditation is responsible for developing standards that define competent preparation for professional social workers and ensuring that social work programs meet these standards.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,