Essential Competencies in Social Work


In every professional sphere, it is necessary to demonstrate skills and knowledge corresponding to the standards of this particular practice. In the field of social work, these requirements are presented in the form of nine competencies adopted by the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE). These standards cover different aspects of social work practice, such as ethics, human rights, and policy. This paper aims to analyze three of these competencies in detail and explain why they can be considered the most important in this professional sphere.

Main body

Social work includes interaction with different groups of people, diverse in terms of cultural and educational background, economic conditions, race, ethnicity, gender, and many other factors. A social worker needs to understand that all these differences may become a reason for oppression, marginalization, poverty, and other issues (Zastrow & Hessenauer, 2021). This idea is expressed by competency 2 of CSWE: “engage diversity, equity, and inclusion” (Finn, 2020, p. xxx). According to this standard, a social worker should apply inclusive and collaborative approaches to prevent society from discrimination and domination (Finn, 2020). Therefore, the principle of diversity and equity implies respect for the opinions and views of every individual and a sense of belonging to the community.

Competency 2 can be considered one of the essential standards of social work because it emphasizes the importance of collaboration and inclusion. Finn (2020) underlines that social workers and clients are identified as both teachers and learners. By following this principle and working together, they contribute to constructing and sharing knowledge and creating action plans (Finn, 2020). This competency is especially applicable in the modern globalized world, where the situation with discrimination, cultural diversity, and oppression is rather tense.

The next competency can also be associated with the principle of the overall equity discussed above; however, it focuses on the legislative side of the issue. Competency 3 encourages social workers to “advance human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice” (Finn, 2020, p. xxx). According to Finn (2020), this competency requires social workers to understand that every individual has fundamental rights that should be protected. The right to freedom, equality in the standards of living, and access to healthcare and education are only some of the rights that should be protected to ensure overall social well-being. A more specific example is the impact of the physical environment as an important aspect of environmental justice, dealing with climate change, fossil fuel emissions, and similar problems (Mapp, 2020). Therefore, competency 3 focuses on social, economic, and environmental justice as special concerns of social workers.

The importance of this competency is expressed by fairness, equal opportunities, and social justice as the main principles of social work. When explaining the notion of social justice, Finn (2020) includes the dictionary definition of this term, where it is described as an ideal condition of overall equality in terms of rights and opportunities. By advancing social justice, as well as economic and environmental equality of people, social workers contribute to protecting the most vulnerable groups of the population from discrimination and institutional inequities (Finn, 2020). Therefore, this competency is essential for the sphere of social work as the provision of human rights is the basis of the community’s well-being.

The last competency under discussion relates to different types of social engagement. Competency 6 of CSWE encourages social workers to “engage with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities” (Zastrow & Hessenauer, 2021, p. 23). Social workers should understand that engagement is an “ongoing component” of social work, where any human relationship should be valued (Zastrow & Hessenauer, 2021, p. 23). In an engagement with cultural and political groups and organizations, as well as at the interpersonal level, social workers apply observation, anticipatory empathy, active listening, and other practices (Finn, 2020). Therefore, this competency is connected with learning about the theory and practice of social engagement.

The role of this competency is that it allows social workers to understand the theory of human behavior and apply it in their profession. According to Zastrow and Hessenauer (2021), in interaction with individuals and groups of people, it is possible to learn how personal experiences may influence the ability to work with diverse clients. Therefore, this competency can be considered fundamental in social work because it focuses on the theory of human behavior and social environment and how these frameworks are applied in engagement with clients.


In conclusion, all CSWE competencies focus on different aspects of social work, each being significant in its specific way. This paper provided an insight into three of these standards. Indeed, social workers generally deal with diverse clients and should follow the principle of inclusion and equity. Moreover, supporting human rights and ensuring social, economic, and environmental justice is a significant step toward the elimination of inequality and discrimination. Finally, engagement with individuals and organizations allows social workers to develop their theoretical knowledge about human behavior and society and apply it in practice. Therefore, it is possible to say that these principles provide a foundation for the sphere of social work.


Finn, J.L. (2020). Just practice: A social justice approach to social work (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.

Mapp, S.C. (2020). Human rights and social justice in a global perspective: An introduction to international social work (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press.

Zastrow, C.H., & Hessenauer, S.L. (2021). Generalist social work practice: A worktext (12th ed.). Oxford University Press.

Make a reference

Pick a citation style


PapersGeeks. (2023, January 28). Essential Competencies in Social Work.

Work Cited

"Essential Competencies in Social Work." PapersGeeks, 28 Jan. 2023,

1. PapersGeeks. "Essential Competencies in Social Work." January 28, 2023.


PapersGeeks. "Essential Competencies in Social Work." January 28, 2023.


PapersGeeks. 2023. "Essential Competencies in Social Work." January 28, 2023.


PapersGeeks. (2023) 'Essential Competencies in Social Work'. 28 January.

Click to copy

This paper on Essential Competencies in Social Work was created by a student just like you. You are allowed to use this work for academic purposes. If you wish to use a snippet from the sample in your paper, a proper citation is required.

Takedown Request

If you created this work and want to delete it from the PapersGeeks database, send a removal request.