Social workers help people cope with and solve problems in their lives, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most social workers need either a bachelor's or master's degree in social work or a related field, but there are skills beyond formal education that social workers need in order to work in this occupation.
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Interpersonal skills are the skills that a social worker uses to interact with others. It is essential for social workers to give full attention to what people are saying and how they are saying it, according to O-NET. Social workers must be skilled at looking for ways to help people, gauging others' reactions, understanding how decisions are made, choosing the appropriate course of action and dealing with crisis situations. Social workers also need to be compassionate, caring and honest with patients, family members and colleagues.
A social worker needs to have good academic skills. Social workers must be able to read and understand work-related documents, according to O-NET. Social workers need to be skilled at implementing psychology, law, medicine, dentistry, education, training and philosophy.
A social worker needs to be able to evaluate, monitor and record patient progress. Social workers also need to collaborate with other health care professionals, advocate for patients and counsel patients individually or in group sessions. Organizational skills are also helpful to the social worker when planning or leading support groups, and when planning and writing up plans of care. It is also essential for the social worker to know about community resources and programs to assist patients and families in finding help with issues such as housing, legal aid, job searches or financial help.
Social workers need the ability to communicate effectively by writing, be able to compute and solve math problems, apply critical thinking skills and solve complex problems. Being able to establish and maintain interpersonal relationships is important in social work. Being able to work well on teams, communicate with peers and colleagues and work with the public are general skills that all social workers need.
Being proficient with computers is essential for the social worker. Social workers need to be competent in using spreadsheet programs such as Microsoft Excel as well as word processing programs. They also may be called upon to use Microsoft PowerPoint, Publisher and medical software, according to O-NET.
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