What is a Social Worker?

From individuals and families to organizations and communities, social workers collaborate with their clients to address challenges through a process of assessment, diagnosis, treatment and evaluation.

Registered social workers have specialized university education and must participate in continued professional learning and skills development to fulfil the requirements of their professional regulatory body, the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers.

Social workers serve in a variety of workplace settings, from hospitals and community centres to schools and social service agencies.

According to the College’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, the scope of practice of the profession of social work means the assessment, diagnosis, treatment and evaluation of individual, interpersonal and societal problems through the use of social work knowledge, skills, interventions and strategies, to assist individuals, dyads, families, groups, organizations and communities to achieve optimum psychosocial and social functioning and includes, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the following:

SW1 – The provision of assessment, diagnostic, treatment and evaluation services within a relationship between a social worker and a client;

SW2 – The provision of supervision and or consultation to a social worker, social work student or other supervisee;

SW3 – The provision of social support to individuals and/or groups including relationship building, life skills instruction, employment support, tangible support including food and financial assistance, and information and referral services;

SW4 – The provision of educational services to social work and social service work students;

SW5 – The development, promotion, management, administration, delivery and evaluation of human service programs, including that done in collaboration with other professionals;

SW6 – The provision of services in organizing and/or mobilizing community members and/or other professionals in the promotion of social change;

SW7 – The provision of contractual consultation services to other social workers or professionals or organizations

SW8 – The development, promotion, implementation and evaluation of social policies aimed at improving social conditions and equality;

SW9 – The conduct of research regarding the practice of social work, as defined in paragraphs (1) to (8) above; and

SW10 – Any other activities approved by the College.

In Ontario, in order to use the title Social Worker or Registered Social Worker or their French equivalents, or to hold out expressly or by implication that you are a social worker, you must be registered with the College. Typically, members of the College have obtained a Bachelor of Social Work degree (BSW), a Master of Social Work degree (MSW) or both. In Ontario, a BSW program is four years in duration and an MSW program is a further one to two years.