A Career in 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 at helping them develop their skills and the ability to use their own resources and those of the community to resolve problems. Social work is concerned with individual and personal problems but also with broader social issues such as poverty, unemployment and domestic violence.

In a socio-political-economic context which increasingly generates insecurity and social tensions, social workers play an important and essential role.

Where Do Social Workers Work?

Social Workers are usually employed in hospitals, community health centres, mental health clinics, schools, advocacy organizations,  government departments, social service agencies, child welfare settings, family service agencies, correctional facilities, social housing  organizations, family courts, employee assistance programs, private counselling, First Nations agencies, settlement programs and consultation agencies.

What Do Social Workers Do?

Social workers provide services as members of a multidisciplinary team or on one-to-one basis with the client. The duties performed by social workers vary depending on the settings in which they work.

Social workers investigate cases of family violence, child abuse and neglect and take protective action as required. They may recruit foster parents or supervise the placement of children in protective care. Others work on adoption cases.

Many school boards hire social workers to help students adjust to the school environment. They help students, parents and teachers to deal with problems such as aggressive behaviour, truancy and family problems which affect the students'  performance.

In health settings such as hospitals & long term care facilities, social workers are members of the treatment team. They  provide a link between the team and the family as well as with community resources. In these settings they contribute to  the care, treatment and rehabilitation of the elderly, those with physical or mental illness and the care of persons with  disabilities.

In health and community services centres, social workers are involved in the provision of counseling to individuals or families and in providing services to seniors. Some work as community developers helping citizens to identify their needs and  proposing ways of meeting these needs. Others may assist with parent-child relationships and marriage counseling. The  services may be offered on an individual basis or in groups.

In the correctional field, social workers may be part of a team concerned with the social rehabilitation of young or adult  offenders. They may work as classification officers. Others work as probation officers or as parole officers. Parole officers help ex-prisoners adjust to life in the community while conforming to the conditions of their parole.

Social workers in private practice offer their services on a fee-for-service basis to individuals, families and organizations. Their services include counseling, psychotherapy, mediation, sex therapy, policy and program development, organizational  development, employee assistance program, and other specialties.

Social workers involved in policy analysis, policy development and planning are usually working in federal and provincial  departments or social planning councils. Researchers are found in universities and governments. Others are teaching in  universities and community colleges.


Social work education consists of theoretical courses and practical training at the undergraduate or graduate level.

The Bachelor of Social Work is the minimum educational requirement for entry into the profession. Postgraduate education leading to a master or doctoral degree is also available.

Most social work programs are accredited by the Canadian Association of Social Work Educators. This association publishes a directory of accredited programs. As admission requirements and program orientation vary between schools, interested persons should consult the directory or communicate with the school of their choice.

For further information:

Canadian Association of Social Workers
383 Parkdale Avenue, Suite 402
Ottawa, ON K1Y 4R4
Phone: (613) 729-6668 FAX: (613) 729-9608
email: casw@casw-acts.ca

Canadian Association of Social Work Educators (CASWE)
383 Parkdale Avenue, Suite 410
Ottawa, ON K1Y 4R4
Phone: (613) 792-1953 FAX: (613) 792-1956
e-mail: cassw@cassw-acess.ca
web site: www.cassw-acess.ca