There are specific job requirements and qualifications that you must have to work in the field of social work in Canada. As well, social work (NOC 4152) is a regulated profession in all provinces in Canada. And, only those who meet the standards set by the provincial regulatory bodies can use the titles of “Social Worker” and “Registered Social Worker.” These bodies issue licenses or certificates to individuals who meet their registration requirements.
The Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) is the national organization that represents social workers from across Canada. You need to apply directly to the appropriate provincial regulatory authority to become licensed as a social worker or registered social worker in Canada. And to find a job, it’s vital to know the employment and social work job requirements in Canada. These five key areas will increase your knowledge about what’s required.
1. Understanding Social Work Job Requirements in Canada
To achieve career success, it’s important to understand the skills that the Canadian labour market requires. And you need to know if your international qualifications will meet the social work job requirements. To learn what you require to work as a social worker in Canada, there are steps you can take before you move to Canada, for example:
- Contact the provincial association that regulates social workers in the province where you plan to settle in Canada.
- Learn what licensing procedures to complete before and after you move to Canada.
- Find out what documents you need to bring to Canada and verify if they need to be translated. You might need to use a professional translation service in Canada.
- Gather your education, work, and identity documents when in your home country.
- Improve your language skills and enroll in language classes in your home country and continue them after you move to Canada. You’ll need to prove your English or French (depending on your destination province) language competency, or be tested.
- Assess your language skills by taking on an online self-assessment on the Canadian Language Benchmarks website.
- Learn about social work job requirements and become familiar with provincial laws and legislation that regulate the field.
- Know the name of your job in Canada and make a list of potential employers.
2. Employment for Social Workers in Canada
The National Occupational Classification (NOC) is Canada’s reference on occupations. You can use this tool to find social work job requirements and labour market information. It’s a helpful place to start researching the social work occupation in Canada. Learn more about how the NOC can help you to understand labour needs in Canada.
Social workers may have job titles such as:
- Coordinator of social work
- Medical social worker
- Psychiatric social worker
- Social work supervisor or
- Clinical social worker.
The Canada Job Bank is another useful tool to learn more about your profession in Canada. Find out more at Canada Job Bank: Your Vital Research Tool.
Credentials Recognition to Meet Social Work Job Requirements in Canada
One of the first things to do is to learn the employment and job requirements to work as a social worker in Canada. This will help you to understand if you meet the job requirements, or if you have to take steps to meet the requirements. This could include getting recognition for your credentials.
To find out what you need, you can contact the regulatory body in the province or territory where you intend to settle in Canada. They will advise you on what documents and assessments you require. You may have to submit:
- Original diplomas, degrees or full transcripts recording your course and marks, and the official program syllabuses or course descriptions
- Names and address of the schools you attended and obtained your social work qualifications
- Employment and character references
- Work descriptions and letters from professional agencies.
All documents must have certified English or French translation (depending on the province).
Contact the professional association in the province or territory you will settle in before you move to get more information about the schedule of exams and take that into consideration when deciding the actual date of your departure to Canada.
It’s important to know and understand the licensure procedure and what the regulatory body expects from you. So be sure to take time to complete the application process properly.
The Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) assesses your credentials. Learn more about the CASW application procedure The CASW assessment is accepted in all Canadian provinces, with the exception of British Columbia and Quebec. These two provinces have their own assessment process.
Credentials Assessment Services
If you plan to enroll in a college or university program to upgrade your skills, you may need an education evaluation. You can contact the school that you plan to attend to find out what credential assessment agency you should use and the steps to follow.
Make sure to showcase your international education and skills. As well, build on your existing knowledge and skills and explore university and college options thoroughly before deciding. You might be able to have advanced standing, transfer some of your credits and benefit from prior learning assessment options by using your international credentials and experience to gain credit or course exemptions. This way you will complete your program more quickly, without wasting money and repeating the education you already have.
Learn how education evaluation and credential recognition differ with this helpful infographic.
Best Locations to Find Employment
There are thousands of social organizations across Canada that employ social workers. However, it’s best if you research the labour market to determine what provinces and cities have the greatest demand for social workers. You’ll have better success finding a job in the cities where there is a high demand for your skills and experience.
Social workers can be employed in:
- Family service agencies
- Social housing agencies
- School boards
- Welfare administration agencies
- Child welfare agencies
- Community health centres
- Employee assistance programs
- Addiction services and government departments
- Private practice.
You can view a directory of Canadian organizations and job postings in the social sector by visiting Charity Village. The directory contains information about the nonprofit sector in Canada. You can also learn about the companies that hire recent immigrants by visiting Canada’s Best Diversity Employers website. These employers offer programs to help newcomers transition to a new workplace, and a new life in Canada.
3. Upgrading Your Skills to Meet Social Work Job Requirements
In addition to accreditation, you may have to upgrade your skills to meet social work job requirements and get a job. So you may have to:
- Take courses
- Enroll in a bridging program, or
- Upgrade your language skills to become a certified social worker.
Canadian employers expect social workers to have strong professional ethics, computer skills, and the ability to work in difficult situations. And equally important are your soft skills such as empathy, understanding, and communication skills.
Having strong skills in one or both of Canada’s official languages – English or French –is extremely important for your future in Canada. Whether you choose to focus on learning or improving English or French will depend on which of the two languages most people speak in the area where you live.
You may be eligible for Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program. As well, many settlement agencies offer free English as a Second Language (ESL) or French as a Second Language (FSL) classes.
There are even language courses to teach you professional terminology, such as job-specific language training and Occupation Specific Language Training (OSLT) in Ontario. And, if you already speak one of Canada’s two official languages at a high level, learning the other one is a good idea. and it may offer you more employment options.
Bridging Programs for Social Workers (NOC 4152)
Bridging programs are a good way to transition from your international experience and training to the Canadian workplace. Though there are not many bridging programs for internationally trained social workers, many colleges, universities and immigrant-serving agencies offer courses or workshops related to the social work sector. You may be eligible for one. Do some research to find a program that’s suitable for you.
This program helps internationally educated social work professionals to work in their field in Ontario. Program participants can access training, workplace experience, employment support and an occupation-specific communications course. In addition, this program will develop a peer support program for effective workplace integration of participants.
Many immigrants take further education when they arrive in Canada. Some want to change careers or enhance their careers with a Ph.D. or MBA. Universities and colleges across Canada offer a number of bridging programs designed to help immigrants get Canadian certification in their field.
4. Job Search Techniques for Social Workers
Searching for a job in Canada may be different than how you would find a job in your home country. The Canadian job market is competitive and it can be hard to find a job. And it can take some time to find full-time work as a social worker, so you need to understand how to find a job and prepare for your job search.
Many settlement agencies can help you with your job search. For example, they can help you to broaden your search, identify other career options, or even other locations to consider. As well, they can suggest job-finding or networking groups in the social work field that you could join. Other job search techniques include:
- Attending career/job fairs, info sessions and conferences related to the social sector
- Volunteering with social agencies and centres in your community
- Seeking a mentor in the social work sector who could give you insight and advice about working in Canada.
Find out how a mentor can help you succeed.
Most settlement agencies can help you to:
- Find job vacancies
- Update your resume and cover letter
- Prepare for interviews, and
- Understand social work job requirements in Canada and what Canadian employers look for.
Click the link to find immigrant services in your area.
Informational Interviews to Gain Understanding of Social Work Job Requirements in Canada
An informational interview is a brief (20–30 minute) meeting with someone who works in your field. The purpose of the meeting is to learn more about working in the field in Canada. You can also use this interview to gain a deeper understanding of the social work job requirements in Canada.
You should not try to get a job during an informational interview. Instead, you want to explore whether a particular position or employer might be a good fit for your interests, skills, and knowledge. An informational interview with a contact from your network can be a helpful source of career information.
Networking for Social Workers
Networking is an essential tool that may give you job leads, offer you advice and information about a particular company or industry that can strengthen your resume, cover letter, and interview skills. As many job vacancies are not advertised, you must make connections with working social workers and others within your field.
Good places to network are gatherings such as conferences, association luncheons, and social mixers for their convenience in meeting people, building relationships, and sharing information.
LinkedIn is another important professional tool for networking. It is great for reconnecting with your former colleagues and employers, searching by company or jobs, and getting introductions and recommendations.
You can also mingle with people in the social sector and join some related professional groups.
Note that it’s not appropriate to ask a networking contact for a job, but if they know of any job leads, they may share them.
Remember, it takes time to cultivate and grow the ties you establish through networking. Nothing will happen overnight and therefore, you need to be patient.
Get more great tips for successful networking: Build Your Professional Network Before You Arrive.
Writing your Social Work Resume
A degree in social work can lead to finding a job such as a counsellor, admissions adviser, case manager, and management and director positions. Here are some helpful resume writing tips:
Write a Functional Resume:
To get an interview for any type of social work position, you need to tailor your resume for the specific position that you want. A functional resume works best for social workers. If you have experience working with at-risk children and adults with substance abuse problems, you can group your skills and experience to show the group that you worked with rather than your chronological work history.
Find out more about writing your resume: Types of Resumes that are Common in Canada.
Include a Statement of Objective:
When writing your resume for a social work position, include your statement of objective at the top.
Align Your Resume with Agency Needs:
Good social work resumes focus on your desire to serve society. So your resume should align with the agency’s mission and its needs. Clearly state how your experience aligns with that of the agency you are applying to. Blending your personal experience and education with the needs of the agency or hiring manager is key to getting your resume noticed.
Quantify Your Achievements:
Don’t be afraid to use numbers. If you worked with a 25-client caseload, tell a potential employer that, or list your success rate in preventing drug use in your adolescent clients. If you have served in director or management positions state the budget you managed. Adding numbers can clearly show your work experience and give a potential employer insight into your skills and capabilities.
Highlight Your Education:
Social work is a field where you need to constantly be taking courses for professional development. List your education and any bridging programs and continuing education courses you have taken. Potential employers want to see that you meet et all educational requirements to be a licensed social worker and that you are constantly improving your skills.
Interview Techniques to Ensure You Meet Social Work Job Requirements
A job interview will include behavioural questions to ensure you meet social work job requirements. and experience or qualifications questions. These questions are asked to assess your experience and qualifications for the social work position.
Here are some sample interview questions that you might be asked for a social work position:
- What are your experiences/qualifications for this position – working with people with social needs?
- Why did you choose this career? What motivates you about social work?
- Describe an unexpected or stressful situation you’ve experienced in your previous job as social worker. How did you handle the situation?
- Describe a time when you had a heavy workload. How did you prioritize your work?
- Describe a social problem and the way you collect information to establish a problem solving model.
Get the essential tips for your first job interview in Canada.
5. Social Work Associations in Canada
Each Canadian province has its own regulatory body to license social workers. Each body governs the social work profession and ensures that members meet professional standards. The associations listed below can provide information about licensure and certification and offer professional development, education and networking opportunities.
Provincial Social Work Regulators
Other Provincial Associations
Professional Immigrant Networks
Professional immigrant networks (PINS) are volunteer-run member-based associations or networks created by and for immigrant professionals. PINS exist to:
• create a forum to contribute to and enrich their respective communities
• provide opportunities for members to find employment and achieve their professional goals.
PINs organize networking events, mentoring, and job information sessions. As well, they provide professional development workshops, training, and connections to job opportunities.
While PINS may not exclusively serve the social work sector, they may have social workers among their membership:
In Nova Scotia
isans: Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia: isans helps newcomer professionals with economic and social integration in the province of Nova Scotia.
For information, tools, free webinars, and more visit our Finding a Job in Canada resource page. Get the help you need to achieve your career goals in Canada!