Social Work Degrees and Career Options

Canadian Schools offering Social Work Degree Programs

Canada’s social work industry is a dynamic and lively field. Social workers do their jobs in different settings. Their main concern is human welfare, and they give special attention to mental, spiritual and physical needs. There are several areas that social workers are employed in.

  • Community Health Centres
  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Mental Health Clinics
  • Government Departments
  • Advocacy Organizations
  • Child Welfare Settings
  • Social Service Agencies
  • Correctional Facilities
  • Family Service Organizations
  • Family Courts
  • Social Housing
  • School Boards
  • Private Counselling and Employee Assistance Programs
  • Consultation Agencies

Admission Requirements

In order to be considered for admission to a social work program an individual must complete these requirements.

  • Good grades in their undergraduate degree or pre-professional studies
  • Letters of reference
  • Completed coursework in subjects such as social sciences, English, introductory social work and humanities.
  • Written personal statements stating the reason why they want to enter the social work profession
  • Work or volunteer experience in areas of human and social services that are related to social work
  • Personal interviews with the program’s selection committee

The level of education needed to be a social worker varies with the work setting and the type of job performed. A bachelor’s degree in social work is the minimum requirement to enter the profession in many provinces. However, a diploma in social work is the minimum requirement in Alberta. Preparation at the secondary school level is also very important. Students must take courses such as the following.

  • Economics
  • Psychology
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology

Some programs admit students who have already obtained a bachelor’s degree. However, many schools require one or two years of undergraduate studies. This is the minimum requirement to apply for their social work program. Students can also do a social work degree as a second degree that usually takes two additional years. Graduate programs also need an undergraduate degree to be accepted. It may take one or two more years to complete.

Career Research / Contact the Schools

Before inquiring about a school’s programs, an applicant must perform research about careers in social work. It must contain information about the following.

  • Working conditions
  • Duties
  • Education
  • Salary
  • Skills
  • Opportunities
  • Employment prospects

This is very important. Obtaining information helps applicants decide if they want to be a social worker. Additionally, it allows them to plan ahead and decide what area and where they want to work. After doing this, they can contact different universities. This is done in order to obtain information about transferable credit and entrance requirements.

Schooling and Training

Social work education consists of practical and theoretical training. This training occurs at the graduate or undergraduate level. Students get hands-on experience after starting their first year. This experience includes working with the following.

  • Children at risk
  • Homeless people
  •  Single mothers
  • Young offenders
  • The elderly

Students also practice and gain knowledge in different social works skills such as the following.

  • Goal setting planning
  • Conducting environmental scans and assessments
  • Supportive counselling with families, individuals, communities and groups
  • Setting up interventions


The Canadian Association for Social Work Education (www.caswe-acfts.ca) is the organization responsible for accrediting social work programs at universities and colleges. They also publish a guide that covers accredited programs. Currently, there are 38 accredited university and college programs in Canada.

Entry Level Jobs

After graduation, it is important for individuals to obtain experience. This is done by working in the field. Graduates commonly work as either a counsellor or therapist in different organizations and fields. These agencies usually hire fresh graduates to help them obtain more experience.


Aside from offering a bachelor’s degree, many universities also offer postgraduate education. This leads to a doctoral or master’s degree. Students may obtain a master’s degree after as little as a year of postgraduate studies. It is a good idea to get an advanced degree. However, many students feel that they need more time between their undergraduate studies and graduate school while some students complete their schooling before staring their jobs.

It may be better to find a job before getting a postgraduate degree. Agencies that hire social workers usually prefer applicants who have obtained a master’s degree. A master’s degree is also required for senior positions. At the same time, it allows social workers to perform specialized functions such as therapy.

Social workers also have the option to study for a doctorate degree. This is done after they finish their master’s degree. Having a doctorate degree allows social workers to apply for teaching positions at universities and colleges.

Registration before Practice

Some provinces require social workers to be registered before practicing. Many also require applicants to pass an examination. This examination serves as a prerequisite for certification. The organization responsible for the certification and registration of social workers is the Association of Social Work Boards. In British Columbia, a social worker with experience and knowledge in clinical health may apply for licensure and training with the British Columbia College of Social Workers. This allows them to work as a registered clinical social worker.


There are several specializations for social workers available in Canada today.

Children and Their Families Specializations

This specialization deals with the following concerns

  • Research for practice with families and their children
  • Contemporary issues in dealing and working with families and their children
  • Family social work practice
  • Social work practice with adolescents and children

Diversity and Social Justice Specialization

This social work specialty deals with the following concerns.

  • Access, equity and diversity in the workplace
  • Process of marginalization, social exclusion and resistance
  • How social work responds to trans-nationalization and globalization
  • Creating knowledge to inform clinical practice

Health and Mental Health Specializations

This social work specialization primarily tackles the following.

  • Mental Health Practice and Policy
  • The Context of Health and Mental Health Practice
  • Practice Based Research in Health and Mental Health
  • Social Work Practices in Health

Social Work in Gerontology Specialization

Social workers who are highly skilled in this specialization deal with these problems.

  • Social Work Knowledge Building
  • Gerontological Social Work Special Issues
  • Aging Principles
  • Integrated Practice and Policies in Aging and Social Work
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