The Beginners Guide to Professionalism in Social Work Practice

Why is Professionalism Important in Social Work

I explore why professionalism is key to becoming a great social worker. In addition, I look at how professionalism helps build confidence and trust in social work.

The Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) sets capability statements of what is to be expected for all stages of a social worker’s career from entry into training to the most advanced level of a social work practitioner.


Professionalism refers to the competence, behaviours and abilities you are expected to bring at the work place –

Professionalism is a key capability under the PCF and it requires upcoming, newly qualified and existing social workers to identify and behave as professional social workers, committed to professional development.

How Do Social Workers Maintain Professionalism?

Professionalism in social work is one of the key components to maintaining a healthy and positive work environment.

I explore how you can maintain professionalism below;

1. Politeness

Being polite to co-workers and clients, dressing professionally and upholding company values is part of being respectful towards the people you work for/with.

When it comes to social work, professionalism is vital as you are often dealing with members of the public daily.

2. Represent yourself professionally

Representing yourself professionally helps to safeguard vulnerable people that you may care for, and protecting yourself, should you be accused of acting inappropriately while at work?

Although I always feel social work is a rewarding career, it requires a person who can draw an obvious line between their home life and their work.

3. Learn new skills

To maintain professionalism, don’t be afraid to learn new skills.

This will help you grow and become competent in your field of practice. 

4. Don’t be selfish

Don’t be selfish and share your knowledge with your peers and colleagues who ask for your help.

Sometimes, you may find a useful resource, it is good practice to share this even without being asked. 

5. Maintain a positive attitude

Maintain a positive attitude and inspire those around you.

Encourage and avoid negativity as much as possible.

It only brings others down. 

6. Reliability

Remain dependable.

Show up!

Be there when you’ve said you’ll turn up.

Don’t allow excuses to be the order of the day in your life. 

You don’t want people saying comments like “it is not unusual for X to turn up late”or “she/he is always late”. 

7. Take charge of your personal development 

Don’t wait for a manager to give you the go ahead to develop yourself. 

Take charge! 

Identify areas you would like to improve.

Set some time aside and take on some online training or pay for course at a university to enhance your social work skills further! 

I recommend you read this article on Ultimate Personal Development Tips to Uplevel Your Life.

You may also want to listen to a podcast on your drive to work. I have here the Ultimate Personal Development Podcasts. 

What Does it Mean to Have Professionalism?

A social worker cares for and supports adults, children, families and groups of people in the community.

Promoting their human rights, protecting vulnerable minorities, and ensuring their mental health and safety is a priority.

However, when things go wrong in social work, people are quick to point the finger!

Social work in the UK is currently regulated by Social Work England. 

By following the regulations and maintaining professionalism while in work, a social worker can protect themselves from being accused should social situations get out of hand, or not go quite to plan.

Although social workers are professionally accountable for their practice, they are also responsible for their actions and must self-regulate to adhere to regulations and government guidelines.

We can enhance this accountability through continued training of staff and creating scenarios and what if situations to ensure social workers understand how to act and what to say should difficult situations arise.

Professionalism in Social Work Practice

Part of being a social work professional is having the ability to build trust.

If you’re dealing with emotional situations or with young and vulnerable members of the society, you need to appear as professional as possible.

If you don’t look professional, it can be difficult for people to trust you.

Dressing well and being polite, and speaking confidently, positions you as a professional social worker and maintains respect.

Personally, this helps me to take charge of a situation and prevent it from getting out of hand.

Social workers can be sued for malpractice in the UK and this is why it is vital to maintain professionalism even when under pressure and in stressful situations.

Professional Leadership in Social Work

Irrespective of which health and social care sector you work for, you represent the company or industry you work for.

Promoting the core values of your role as a social worker, such as confidentiality, dignity and acceptance is just part of your job.

In doing this, you are striving to be the best social worker you can as an individual.

Only when people trust social workers to act in their best interest, and on their behalf, is when social work can truly help society and protect those vulnerable members of the community.

Professional Values in Social Work

Professionalism will remain one of the key values in social work.

As a public facing career, it is crucial to ensure we are positively representing the industry, establishing relationships and trust and acting in a responsible and ethical way.

Social work is truly a career that demands passion and commitment to professionalism.

Tips on How to Meet the PCF Domain (Professionalism)

  • Pay attention to your appearance – this includes the clothes you wear, shoes, hair and even the way you walk. I personally find that wearing neutral colours gives an impression that I am focused on my job.
  • Pay attention to the way you speak. Speak or communicate more clearly and confidently. Learning how to articulate your thoughts in a clear and engaging way is key. If you struggle with speaking confidently, it can hinder your career growth.
  • Do not consume yourself with negative thoughts such as “I hope I am saying the right thing,” or “am I saying the right thing?” they cause you to sound shaky and you need to shift yourself away from self-doubt to knowing your value.
  • Ask smart questions – do not be limited in what you know. Broaden your knowledge so you can ask smart questions. The trick here is to ask why? When you ask smart questions, you can drive efficiencies and process improvements as you are asking why things are done in a certain way.
  • Know when you are not the expert. Don’t speak ‘gibberish’! Saying a lot of wrong things leads to issues where people lose trust in you and will no longer come to you for answers. It is OK not to know much about a particular topic. Take it as a learning opportunity “you can say, I am not an expert in this but we can approach X who is very good” To know when you don’t know something shows maturity and self-awareness.
  • When engaging with people in the community, professionals or colleagues, always do what you say you will do and provide feedback.
  • Engage in constant reflective practice and
  • Refer to useful resources regularly.

What does professionalism mean?

professionalism in social work

A statement by highlights that “Employers want new workers to be responsible, ethical, and team-oriented, and to possess strong communication, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills.

Wrap these skills up together and you’ve got professionalism”. This means that to have professionalism means you should work on your communication skills, problem- solving and interpersonal skills.

These skills can be worked on regularly. There are online resources you can access via community care or skills for care.

Why is professionalism important in social work?

professionalism in social work practice

The skills required in order to have ‘professionalism’ can be worked on.

Everyone has the opportunity to work on this.

Professionalism is important because it impacts on the people you work with and also the organisation you work for.

Take a moment to think and reflect on the culture of the organisation you work for.

Do you think professionalism has an impact on the way people work? Does it affect the experiences of the people you support in the community?

Does it make you/others more or less effective at work?  Does it make the organisation a place people enjoy working for?

Think about what professionalism means to you and reflect on what you do that makes you a professional.

Also reflect on whether you are able to improve any aspect of your skills, abilities and outlook to help improve your professionalism.


To conclude, this post has highlighted the fact that professionalism is an important element in social work.

Although as social workers, there is the need for us to make a conscious effort at all times to remain professional, sometimes we may find ourselves in situations where we cannot maintain our professional stance.

When this happens, it is important that we engage in reflection to think of ways to manage a similar situation in future better.

As social workers, there is the need for us to make a conscious effort at all times to remain professional.

Kindly comment below if you have any views or feedback which can help improve future articles.

This will be much appreciated. 🙂

The Beginner’s Guide to Professionalism in Social Work Practice: Final Thoughts  

Whether you are a social worker or not, there are some skills or competencies expected of you in your role.

I would love to know how you maintain professionalism in your role.

Kindly leave your comments below!

Essential tips to be more professional

  • Pay attention to your appearance
  • Pay attention to the way you speak.
  • Do not consume yourself with negative thoughts
  • Ask smart questions
  • Know when you are not the expert.
  • always do what you say you will do
  • Engage in constant reflective practice
  • Refer to useful resources regularly.


You can also connect with social work haven by

Like it? Pin it for later. Useful Resources

  • Social Work To-Do List

Social Work To – Do List: What To Include: We sometimes struggle with managing our daily tasks as social workers. This is not because we do not have the skills. The work load, crisis and challenges we face can be overwhelming. That is why a social work to-do list may help us manage better.

  • Recommended Books

Best Social Work Books Every Student Must Read is a great article full of highly recommended and engaging books. Helping student social workers to equip themselves with knowledge and skills. It is a great way to empower yourself and encourage you to read more.

  • Social Work Registration

Social Work Registration: Get it done – is a useful article that walks you through the social work registration process.

  • Social Work Burnout

51 Effective Ways to Fight Social Work Burnout helps practitioners explore 51 effective ways to fight Social Work Burnout. Social work burnout can affect the way we execute our role. It can cause social work stress, and a stressed social worker cannot perform their role effectively.

  • Active Listening in Social Work

Why You Should Actively Listen as a Social Worker raises awareness of active listening in social work. Social work active listening involves the listener paying close attention to the speaker, making sure not to interrupt, and reflecting on what they have heard. This helps the speaker feel heard and validated, and it can also help them clarify their thoughts and feelings.

  • Social Work Humour

Social Work Humour for the End of a Long Day This article explains when social work humour is important. Essential social work skills include empathy, authenticity, resilience and respect. These skills help us cope with situations and meet the needs of service users or clients. However, the best coping mechanism in social work is definitely humour.

  • Social Work CV Writing

Social Work CV Writing This article is a must read – whether you are a student, newly qualified, or an experienced social worker, and looking for a new company to work for, you will find these 13 fundamental tips useful if you want to create the perfect Social Work CV/resume that will make you outshine others and get noticed.

  • Social Work Values & Respect in Social Work

Social Work Values & Respect in Social Work Social work values include respect, dignity and worth of individuals, pursuit of social justice, integrity and competence. This article explores what ‘respect’ means in social work. Social work values are the beliefs and principles of social workers, which guide their practice and help them to determine the right course of action when making decisions.

Social Work Got You Losing Your Mind?

Download Your Free Mental Capacity Assessment Sample Now

12 thoughts on “The Beginners Guide to Professionalism in Social Work Practice”

  1. Helooo over there, a big thanks to you for sharing this insightful and educatinonal piece on the importance of professionalism in social work practice. This is really filled with so much knowledge. Anyways professionalism is really important in socal work practices, it involves bringing together and demonstrating a wide range of knowledge, values and skills with diverse groups of people. 

    • Hello Oscar, thank you for taking the time to read this article. Glad to read that you found it useful 🙂

  2. People who work in social services employees are a group who are working directly with people, often in times of crisis with a great deal of responsibility, and little control of the circumstances or outcome.  You can help your clients through the problems they find themselves in, but you can’t choose whether or not the help is accepted, or the suggestions followed.  Professionally dressed, groomed and composed is surely a better way to approach your challenges.  

    Being able to separate yourself from work would be a challenge as well.  Knowing the tendencies of human nature, and how hard it is to change whatever brought this person to your attention in the real world, keeping a positive outlook and being able to help people help themselves.  

    These are all so important to maintain your own perspective for your own life. Your statement about knowing that when things get out of your control, reflecting on the process and figuring out how to do things differently next time is better than blaming your self for a less than successful outcome is important to do your job well. 

     I am not a social worker, but with my own family, I have tried to help and the outcome was less than desired.  Had I let that overwhelm me as a Mom, I would have had 3 kids abandoned.  We just have to learn from the experience and moved on.  (I needed to know the professional appearances for Moms, that might have helped!)

    • Hello Sami, thanks for your constructive feedback:)  

      Most certainly we work directly with people and the responsibility can be a bit overwhelming but as you rightly say, it is important that we keep a positive outlook at all times. Social work is an everyday activity and I think as a mum you have done a lot of social work related tasks and activities without being aware! As a mother of 3 myself, I would like to think that our appearance and grooming is equally as important as a professional social worker. For starters, grooming and self-care prevents us from getting overwhelmed! Interestingly, my post (s) in the month of July will include a research on self-care and how this impacts on our overall wellbeing 🙂 

  3. What a slick looking professional site. Great waterfall, easy on th eye, full of inspiration and sectioned well. I like the whole look of the site and it gives a real feeling of calmness, which is what we need at the moment. I was the first person to like the bit on Professionalism, so that’s a first for me. Well done

  4. hello dear,

    what a fantastic post you have on the topic professionalism in social work practice, as a blogger such an lightning post is of immense benefit because it keeps people intrigued and coming back for more of such post, I have learnt a lot from this very post on the importance of professionalism in social work practice, it is indeed very informative and thank you very much for your time and effort put in writing such a wonderful post…

    thanks for sharing have a great day

  5. This website is one of a kind. You are very active and I know you are ready to share your rich knowledge with the world. I appreciate you for swinging these wisdom my way.

    This website reminded me of how important it is to be confident and also most importantly of being a professional. I appreciate kudos to you.thanks.

  6. Hey nice article you have there, your thoughts are indeed invaluable. I would say that most people who engage in social work profession are motivated by the desire to help others as well as the desire to change their world. Social workers have a hard job and we all know they aren’t paid very well. Social workers are often the front line for protecting children and families from harm

    • I agree with you. Front line social work can be tough however, the desire to improve lives keeps us going 🙂 Thanks for stopping by! 


Leave a Comment