OpenPlacement Blog

From Novice to Leader in Social Work

success-kidIn all professions, it is necessary to take steps in order to become a leader in the field. In social work, there are many paths one can take in order to become a leader in the field. The most crucial part of doing so involves being motivated and dedicated to the profession and one's pursuit of excellence and leadership.

In order to move toward any goal, it is crucial to develop a plan to do so. The social worker seeking leadership opportunities must find a way to position herself to be available and qualified for those opportunities. Creating a plan for professional development is absolutely imperative.

In creating a professional development plan, one must first set a goal. Once the goal has been established, an analyses of how to get to that goal must be completed. First, analysis of current credentials is necessary to ascertain what must be achieved to move forward, such as a Master’s degree or specialized certification. Additionally, evaluation of the leadership skills one currently possesses, and what skills need to be improved or built upon is also necessary.

The next step is to develop ideas of how to learn the skills necessary to be a successful leader within the profession of social work. Speaking with others in the field at higher levels can be helpful in determining what is necessary to gain upward mobility into a leadership role.

Some important steps that can be a part of one's professional development plan include:


Joining professional associations can be of tremendous benefit when attempting to move upward or gain new skills within the profession. Professional associations offer networking events and contact lists that can help those with aspirations of leadership roles get in contact with those who may have advice or knowledge of available positions. Social media sites such as LinkedIn and specific social work based boards online can also be useful for the purpose of networking.

Keep Up To Date

Part of being successful in social work is understanding the research and best practice trends that are constantly changing. In order to be leader in social work, reading journals and books and seeking professional development courses will all be useful to stay abreast of changes. Being knowledgeable is one of the key factors of being an effective leader.

Find A Mentor

Within any profession there are those who are highly skilled and trained and who have many years of experience and who are willing and happy to share that information with those less experienced in the field. The social worker looking to become a leader in social work should find such people and seek their mentorship.


Keeping up to date through reading research and other means of professional development is crucial, but it is also imperative to seek higher education. Achieving a Masters degree or Ph.D will help to improve one's credibility in the field of social work as well as better qualify one for high level roles within her current organization, or at another agency.