Career Options after Social Work

What is Social Work?

Social work is a profession concerned with helping individuals, families, groups and communities to enhance their individual and collective well-being. It aims to help people develop their skills and their abilities to use their own resources and those of the community to resolve problems. There are two streams:

  • The clinical stream focuses on helping individuals, families, and groups to identify and understand problem areas in their lives. Graduates often go on to work in counselling, child welfare, and healthcare.
  • The policy stream focuses on planning and programming for communities and organizations. Graduates typically go on to service coordination, program evaluation, advocacy and policy analysis.

Three different levels of preparation qualify you for this registered profession

  • Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) requiring 4 or 4+2 years of study.
  • Master of Social Work (MSW) requiring 1 additional year of graduate study for those with a BSW and 2 years for those with a non-BSW degree.
  • Doctoral studies in social work for those who wish to teach at a University or who are involved in research, social policy or high-level administration.

What are the common academic requirements for MSW programs?

  • 4-year bachelor’s degree from a recognized university.
  • A minimum mid-B (3.0 GPA) average in your final 5-10 credits of full-time study.
  • Completion of a minimum of three full credits in the Social Sciences, including a course in Research Methodology – a mid-B in this required course is advantageous. Some universities require 0.5 credits in Statistics as well.
  • Experience (voluntary and/or paid) in social services.
  • Proficiency in the English language.

What supporting documents may be required?

  • Official transcripts from all previous post-secondary education
  • Letters of reference (up to three) from professors and/or work/volunteer supervisors
  • Statement of intent/personal statement
  • Resume or CV

Looking for Related Experience?

Review the Volunteering and Internships tip sheets, attend a Work Search Strategies workshop or book an appointment with a Career Counsellor or Career Strategist.

What should I include in my personal statement?

  • Your interest in social work (indicating clinical or policy)
  • Your future goals and career path, as well as why their school fits your goals
  • What you will contribute to the program
  • Related knowledge, experience and skills, including community involvement
  • Research interests (where applicable)

Start Early!
Social work programs require a minimum B average. Many look for demonstrated interest in social work on your application

Improve your GPA:
Visit the AA&CC and the Centre for Teaching & Learning to improve your academic skills.

Cultivate References:
Get to know a few professors early so that they write a strong reference letter for you.

Get Involved:
Join volunteer and co-curricular activities that demonstrate your skills and ongoing interest in a career in social work.

What other considerations are there?

  • Students normally complete the MSW full-time, within 2 years. Part-time programs are available.
  • The program of study consists mostly of courses; there may be a thesis option.
  • Many programs require practicum experience and a criminal records check.
  • Students are required to be on campus regularly to participate in program activities.
  • To call oneself a Social Worker, which is a protected title, registration with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (OCSWSSW) is required.

Where can I study Social Work?

There are 12 institutions in Ontario that offer MSW degrees. Schools requiring the completion of an undergraduate degree with a minimum B average (3.0 GPA) are:

  • Carleton University
  • Laurentian University
  • University of Toronto
  • University of Windsor
  • Wilfrid Laurier University
  • York University

Schools requiring a BSW for MSW admission are:

  • Lakehead University
  • McMaster University
  • Ryerson University
  • University of Ottawa (French)
  • University of Waterloo
  • University of Western Ontario

The following institutions have BSW programs, giving partial credit for undergraduate courses in another discipline:

  • Algoma University, Carleton University, Lakehead University and Laurentian University offer advanced standing to their BSW program
  • University of Waterloo and York University require a completed undergraduate degree prior to admission to their BSW program

Paying for a Social Work Program

Annual tuition for Ontario students ranges $3,500-$6,000. Remember to ask about scholarships and bursaries! You might also find financial support via government financial aid programs.

The AA&CC can help!
Attend the Graduate & Professional Schools Fair (October), go to a Preparing for Professional & Graduate School workshop, meet professionals in the field through Extern Job Shadowing, or speak with a Career Counsellor to learn how to get relevant experience!

Where can I find more information and resources?

Canadian Association of Social Workers
Ontario Association of Social Workers
Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers

Professional Programs Guide accessible through CLN (Resources section)
Application & Personal Statement Resources

Please note: While this tip sheet aims to ensure accuracy, requirements do change. Consider it a starting point for your further research. Visit individual Faculties of Social Work for detailed, up-to-date information about admission requirements and application procedures.

Last update: November 2016