Social workers provide counselling, therapy and other supportive social services. They help individuals, couples, families, groups, organizations and communities develop the skills and resources they need to function well in society.
Social workers also refer clients to other social services. In addition, they respond to broader social issues such as unemployment, racism and poverty.
Watch the video below to see what a day in the life of a social development manager is like.
Estimated median employment income based on 2021 Job Bank median hourly wage rate (median annual salary = hourly wage rate x 40 (hours per week) x 52.14 (weeks per year))
Note:Estimated median employment income based on 2021 Job Bank median hourly wage rate (median annual salary = hourly wage rate x 40 (hours per week) x 52.14 (weeks per year))
Source: 2021 Job Bank Wage Report
Source: B.C. Labour Market Outlook
10 year expected job openings: 3,010
In general, social workers:
Social workers may also:
Most social workers work in the health and social services industry or are employed by government. They may work for hospitals, school boards, social service agencies, child welfare organizations, correctional facilities, community agencies, employee assistance programs or First Nation band councils.
Most spend their time in the office or in a facility, such as a hospital. They may also provide counselling, consulting and other services via the internet. Some social workers travel to meet with clients or to consult with service providers. Those involved with the legal system may spend time in court.
Social workers usually have a standard workweek, although they may meet with clients, attend public meetings, or deal with emergencies in the evenings or on weekends.
Social work can be emotionally demanding and lead to employee burnout. Workers may deal with cases involving extreme poverty, neglect and a lack of resources. Large caseloads add extra pressure. In addition, social workers who work in international settings often lack support.
Source: 2016 Census
To be registered to work in B.C., social workers must have a university degree in social work from a school accredited by the Canadian Association for Social Work Education. Some positions may also require:
Qualified applicants with degrees in related fields, such as youth and child care, may also be considered for employment.
Social workers must be empathetic and able to work in difficult situations.
Social workers who are certified for that occupation by a regulator elsewhere in Canada can apply for the same certification from the regulator in B.C. Under the terms of the Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA), most applicants who are transferring their credentials from elsewhere in Canada will not be required to complete additional training or testing. However, the B.C. regulator may ask applicants to provide further information such as a letter of good standing, references, or criminal record check.
For those who trained outside of Canada and never received certification from any Canadian jurisdiction, a full assessment is likely needed. Most occupational regulators have a process for assessment and recognize internationally trained applicants.
Contact the British Columbia College of Social Workers for details on how to apply for certification in B.C.
For information about labour mobility in Canada, visit www.workersmobility.ca.
View a list of B.C. occupational regulators.
For more information about programs offered specifically for this career, visit EducationPlannerBC.
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New job opportunities in social work will continue to emerge, mostly to replace retiring workers.
There is growing demand for social workers with clinical specialities, particularly in health care. The aging population will create work in gerontology, including jobs with assisted living and residential care complexes catering to seniors. In addition, hospitals will need more in-house social workers as they increase the rates of early discharge.
B.C.’s changing demographics will likely mean a higher proportion of social work jobs in urban areas. At the same time, workers will continue to be in demand in rural and remote areas.
Although part-time work and self-employment are unusual in social work, a rise in corporate employee assistance programs and training seminars will bring an increase in contract work.
Recent graduates often work in child protection services for the government. They also find jobs with community-based organizations dealing with youth, seniors and people with special needs related to mental health, the criminal justice system, disability, and immigration and adjustment to Canadian society. They may also do international work with non-governmental organizations.
Social workers with experience and further education may progress to supervisory or administrative positions, or they may become case managers or policy analysts. They may specialize in areas such as child welfare, family services, corrections, gerontology, mental health or substance use.
Those with advanced education, such as a master’s degree in social work, are in higher demand in fields such as youth services, psychiatric social work and geriatric social work. Social workers with graduate degrees can also pursue social planning or research. Those with doctorates sometimes take faculty positions in colleges or universities, where they teach or do research.