Frontline workers play a crucial role in implementing activation policies. Nevertheless, research on what competencies are required for activation work is limited. We explored activation competency based on a survey of 1,735 frontline workers in the Norwegian labour and welfare administration. Factor analysis revealed two distinct underlying dimensions in activation competency: market competency and user-oriented competency. We found that the social workers in the study viewed themselves as having significantly less market competency and slightly more user-oriented competency than non-social workers have, but the differences were small. The results also indicate that these effects are partially mediated by attitudes towards conditionality. The results give reason to treat activation competencies as twofold and raise the question of whether social work education improves frontline workers’ competency in activation work compared with frontline workers with other educational backgrounds.