Social Worker

What does a social worker do?

Social workers help individuals, families, groups or communities enhance their quality of life and develop the full potential of the individual or group.

Social workers are members of a health care team may play many different roles. These include acting as an advocate, a counselor, an administrator, a facilitator, a mediator, an organizer, a clinical supervisor, an educator, or a researcher.

According to the Canadian Association of Social Workers, duties performed vary depending on the settings in which they work.

Child Welfare Agencies (Public and Private)
Social workers investigate cases of family violence, child abuse and neglect and take protective action as required. They may recruit foster parents, supervise the placement of children in protective care, and/or work on adoption cases.

School Boards
Social workers working for the school board 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 student performance.

General and Psychiatric Hospitals
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 older adults and of physically or mentally ill individuals, as well as the care of people living with disabilities.

Health and Community Services Centres
Social workers are involved in providing counseling to individuals or families and 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.

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.

Private Practice
Social workers can 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, and employee assistance programs.

Federal/Provincial Departments
Social workers perform policy analysis, policy development and planning. Researchers work in universities and governments. Others teach in universities and community colleges.

Social workers can:

  • Provide information about programs and services for clients
  • Advocate for disadvantaged members of society
  • Change the conditions (positively) for their patients
  • Provide counseling to help people adjust to their illnesses
  • Provide a link between the hospital based treatment team and community services and agencies
  • Conduct psychosocial assessments to evaluate an individual’s social setting, such as their family system, abuse and violence
  • Assess family violence issues, child abuse, or neglect

Social workers may work with:

  • Patients with medical concerns (physical or mental health)
  • Family members, friends, or other support networks of a patient
  • Families in crisis
  • Street youth
  • Seniors
  • Trauma victims
  • Criminal offenders

Social workers begin by assessing the client’s current situation with an interview. After the assessment, the social worker then connects the client to programs and resources to help their needs. This can vary from:

  • Support programs
  • Counseling, including grief counseling
  • Legal programs
  • Health programs
  • Child care
  • Senior care
  • Housing aid
  • Abuse support
  • Addiction support



What education do social workers have?

Social workers must have a university degree to practice, with a Bachelor’s Degree (BSW) as the minimum. Some organizations and positions require a minimum of a Master’s Degree (MSW).

Where do social workers work?

Social workers work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Child welfare settings
  • Family service agencies
  • Hospitals
  • Rehabilitation facilities
  • Mental health organizations
  • Community care facilities
  • Addiction programs
  • Treatment centers
  • Employee assistance programs
  • Community living agencies
  • Private counseling or consultative practice
  • Research, in universities, government departments and social agencies


What licensures do social workers have?

All social workers must be registered under the BC College of Social Workers.

BC Social Work Colleges and Associations – Canadian Association of Social Workers
 – BC College of Social Workers – BC Association of Social Workers