5 of the Most Important Core Social Work Values

There are more than five core social work values that encompass everything from integrity to individual dignity to compassionate service to social justice to human relationships. These core values are inherent to the effectiveness of social work activities and programs. These core codes serve certain purposes. For example, they establish the moral foundation of the social worker's organization and they summarize the ethical principles used to set professional standards and guide social work practices. These codes help social workers identify professional obligations and legal conflicts of interest. The codes are public standards that the public can use to hold social workers accountable.

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The primary goal of social workers is exemplary public service through helping needy people address, manage and resolve various social problems. Social workers must always elevate public service above self-interest and personal gain. Social workers use their skills and knowledge to help their clients through serious social problems, such as drug dependency, child abuse, residential instability and criminal behaviors. Social workers often volunteer their professional skills through community organizations free of charge.

Social Justice

Social workers advocate for social justice and fight against social injustice. They offer social support and resources for vulnerable individuals and oppressed groups. Their social change efforts are primarily focused on poverty, education, housing, unemployment and discrimination. They promote public sensitivity to social justice issues and encourage the public to embrace cultural respect and genetic diversity. Social workers ensure that their clients have access to basic services, resources and information. They promote the equality of opportunity and wholesome engagement with clients.


Social workers value the dignity and worth of each person. They treat each client in a compassionate and respectful way that is mindful of individual differences, cultural norms and ethnic diversity. They promote clients' socially responsible self-determination based on their individual values. Social workers strive to increase their clients' capability to change, address their own needs and become self-reliant. Social workers are always aware that they are simultaneously responsible to their clients, the law and their organization. They resolve conflicts between clients and society in ways that are respectful and socially responsible.

Human Relationships

Social workers recognize the primary importance of human relationships. They understand that relationships between people are important vehicles for change, advocacy and equity. Social workers engage clients, other professionals and community program staff as partners in the healing and helping process. They improve relationships among people in order to restore and promote the functionality of clients, their families and communities. Because social work depends on the ability to maintain positive relationships with individuals who may be hostile and unreliable, social workers must be patient and communicative.


Social workers must always act in trustworthy ways. They must maintain a continual awareness of their organization's mission, their profession's values and their individual ethical standards. Social workers must honestly and responsibly conduct themselves in public to encourage their coworkers and support their organization. In order to maintain their integrity, social workers improve their work expertise through continually increasing their career competency.

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The core social work values ensure that those in need receive appropriate support and services. Anyone who wants to become a licensed social worker will need a master's degree that is approved by the NASW. They maintain a registry of approved bachelor and master degree programs. They also offer a helpful list of unique social work career and certification specializations.