Social and community service workers (NOC 4212)

High opportunity occupation

About this job

Community and social service workers set up and manage a variety of social assistance programs and community services.

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Social and community service worker

People in this occupation:

  • are typically frontline workers who assist clients to better manage their personal and social problems
  • work for social services, mental health and government agencies
  • often work in group homes for youth or persons with disabilities, seniors' services, shelters, substance abuse centres, school boards, correctional facilities and other institutions
  • must have a positive outlook, as well as be kind and able to reach out to those in need
  • must also have highly developed communication and organizational skills, as well as basic computer skills
Common job titles
  • Aboriginal outreach officer
  • addictions worker
  • assistant / case aide, social services
  • coach / instructor, life skills
  • community counsellor - crisis intervention
  • community worker - liaison / mental health


Community and social service workers perform some or all of the following duties:

  • interview clients to get case history and background information
  • measure clients' skill strengths and deficits
  • help clients to determine options and develop plans of action while providing appropriate support and assistance
  • help clients locate community resources including legal, medical and financial assistance, housing, employment, transportation, assistance with moves, day-care and other referral services
  • prepare intake reports
  • advise clients living in group homes and half-way houses, supervise their activities and help with pre-release and release planning
  • provide crisis intervention and emergency shelter services
  • look into whether people qualify for social benefits and let them know about social assistance and pensions
  • meet with clients to rate their progress, give support and discuss any difficulties
  • help to measure the effectiveness of treatment programs by tracking clients' behavioural changes and responses
  • set up specific services within the community, such as life skills workshops, substance abuse treatment programs, behaviour management programs, youth services programs, and other community and social services programs under the supervision of social services or health-care professionals
  • refer clients to other social services and maintain contact with other social service and health-care providers to provide information and get feedback on clients' overall progress
  • coordinate the volunteer activities of human service agencies, health-care facilities and arts and sports organizations
  • maintain program statistics for evaluation and research
  • may supervise social service support workers and volunteers

Work environment

Community and social service workers work in many different settings, which may include an office or a residential facility. They may also work outside of the office to visit clients, take clients on trips or attend meetings with those who provide various services to their clients.

A 40-hour work week is standard for community and social service workers, with some hours spent on evenings or weekends. Some shift work may also be required in residential settings, where residents are typically supervised 24 hours a day.

Workers in this occupation  typically begin work on a part-time basis, perhaps for one or more agencies. This type of work can be emotionally draining, and understaffing and lack of equipment can add to the pressure. Many who have taken additional training, such as workplace wellness training, believe this work is very satisfying.

Insights from industry

Due to the large size of this group, a large number of openings are anticipated in the coming years. The average age of those working in this group in B.C. is younger than the provincial average, so there will be a limited number of positions available to replace retiring workers. The ability of workers to practise their trade or profession anywhere in Canada is quite high, as many workers enter and leave fairly rapidly.

New jobs will be created to take care of the growing population of aging people, those with psychiatric and developmental disabilities, pregnant teenagers, homeless people and those with substance abuse problems. Growth is also expected in the area of First Nations outreach and community development, especially for youth and in rehabilitation.

Job opportunities will be highest in job-training programs, residential care facilities and non-governmental social service agencies.

There is an increasing demand for workers with good records of achievement and higher skill levels. Graduates with work experience are preferred, and options such as internships, mentoring and internal training programs are available.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Recent graduates typically are accepted into entry-level jobs in youth care or residential care.

With additional education, training and experience, community and social service workers may progress to professional and supervisory social service positions, such as social workers, family, marriage and other related counsellors, or probation and parole officers. Highly experienced workers may also become coordinators, outreach workers or work in management.

Additional resources

Additional resources are not currently available for this career.