Scope of Practice for Social Work

Most social workers obtain a degree from an accredited professional program within the university system. As per the Canadian Association for Social Work Education standards of accreditation, a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree is a four year program and students are required to complete a minimum of 700 practicum hours. A Master of Social Work (MSW) degree is a graduate degree of a further one to two years, with a minimum of 450 practicum hours in one year degree programs plus an additional 450 practicum hours and/or a thesis in two year degree programs. 

Workplace settings for social workers may include but are not limited to: 

  • Hospitals
  • Social service agencies 
  • Schools 
  • Palliative care settings 
  • Colleges and universities 
  • Private practice

The scope of practice of the profession of social work means the assessment, diagnosis, treatment and evaluation of individual, interpersonal and societal problems using social work knowledge, skills, interventions and strategies, to assist individuals, couples, families, groups, organizations and communities to enhance psychosocial and social functioning and/or reduce systemic barriers and promote equity, inclusion and belonging. This includes: 

SW1 – Assessing, diagnosing, treating and evaluating services within a relationship between a social worker and a client;

SW2 – Supervising and/or consulting with a social worker, social work student or other supervisee;

SW3 – Providing social support to individuals and/or groups including relationship building, life skills instruction, employment and tangible support (such as food and financial assistance), and information and referral services;

SW4 – Educating social work and social service work students and other professionals and paraprofessionals;

SW5 – Developing, promoting, managing, administering, delivering and evaluating human service programs, which may be done in collaboration with other professionals;

SW6 – Organizing and/or mobilizing community members and/or other professionals in the promotion of social change and/or in the elimination of structural and systemic racism and oppression in the context of direct client care;

SW7 – Providing contractual consultation services to social workers, social service workers, other professionals, organizations and/or communities as they relate to direct/indirect, clinical/non-clinical care or services;

SW8 – Developing, promoting, implementing and evaluating social policies; 

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

SW10 – Any other activities approved by the College.

Additional Resources:
Scopes of Practice Paper

If College registrants are unclear about whether specific activities fall within the scope of practice of social work and their professional obligations in that regard, College registrants should consult with the College’s Professional Practice Department.

When the certificate of registration of a social worker is suspended, they shall not engage in the practice of social work, including but not limited to the activities listed above. Engaging in the practice of social work while the certificate is suspended constitutes an act of professional misconduct. College registrants who are suspended are still subject to the jurisdiction of the College.

College registrants who have an inactive or retired certificate of registration also shall not engage in the practice of social work, including but not limited to the activities listed above.

The Standards of Practice apply to the professions of social work and social service work. The Principles and Interpretations set out in the Standards of Practice are to be applied in the context of the scope of practice of each profession.