Social worker licensing and education in Canada

Written by Nicole Laoutaris
Last updated on: Feb 07, 2024

It’s a common misconception that social workers are only available in a community service role or in hospitals—social service workers and social workers are different. Social workers are therapists who work with individuals, families or other groups to address mental health needs in the context of social systems (family, culture, legal, etc.). They can be booked through First Session, and they’re often covered by workplace benefits.

Social Worker licensing and education in Alberta

At minimum, a diploma in Social Work is required to become a social worker in Alberta and to register with the Alberta College of Social Workers. Additional designations can be achieved with a Bachelor’s of Social Work (BSW) or a Master’s of Social Work (MSW). 

In Alberta, becoming a Registered Clinical Social Worker (RCSW) requires additional advanced clinical certifications.


Social Worker licensing and education in British Columbia

Becoming a Registered Social Worker (RSW) in British Columbia requires, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and passing a licensure exam. They can then register with the British Columbia College of Social Workers (BCCSW). More advanced job opportunities typically require a Master’s of Social Work (MSW).

Becoming Registered Clinical Social Worker (RSCW) requires advanced clinical certifications.

Social worker licensing and education in Manitoba

Social workers in Manitoba will have either a bachelor’s of social work (BSW) or a master’s of social work (MSW) and complete 5,600 hours of practice work before they can register with the Manitoba College of Social Workers

Social worker licensing and education in New Brunswick

Social workers in New Brunswick will hold at least a Master’s level degree, and complete some supervised practice experience to register with the New Brunswick Association of Social Workers.

Social worker licensing and education in Newfoundland & Labrador

To become a Registered Social Worker (RSW) in Newfoundland & Labrador, they must complete a bachelor’s degree in social work and 700 hours of field placement, or have a master’s or doctorate degree (PhD). RSWs in Newfoundland & Labrador will be registered with the Newfoundland & Labrador College of Social Workers

Social worker licensing and education in Northwest Territories

To become a Registered Social Worker (RSW) in Northwest Territories, they must complete a bachelor’s degree education and register with the Office of the Registrar, Professional Licensing with the Department of Health and Social Services. The Office also oversees Licensed Social Workers (LSW), which requires a diploma degree education.

Social worker licensing and education in Nova Scotia

To become a Registered Social Worker in Nova Scotia, they must have a bachelor’s or master’s degree, and complete 2,500 hours of practice after graduation to register with he Nova Scotia College of Social Workers. In Nova Scotia, to work in private practice, they must apply to do so through the college.

Social worker licensing and education in the Nunavut and the Yukon

Yukon and Nunavut do not currently require registration to practice as a social worker, but social workers in those regions are encouraged to voluntarily join The Association of Social Workers in Northern Canada (ASWNC), which also advocates for continued legislation for social work in the territories. In 2021, the Nunavut Arctic College announced their first degree program in Social Work. 


Social Worker licensing and education in Ontario

A Registered Social Worker (RSW) requires, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree, and More advanced job opportunities typically require a Master’s of Social Work (MSW). Both require registration with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers

The Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers also oversees Registered Social Service Workers (RSSW), a role that requires a diploma.

Note: there is no title of Registered Clinical Social Worker (RCSW) in Ontario.

Social worker licensing and education in Prince Edward Island

Social workers in PEI must complete at least a master’s level education, then four years of field experience to register with the Prince Edward Island Social Work Registration Board. Thereafter, 25 hours per year of continuing education are required to maintain standing with the Board.

Social worker licensing and education in Quebec

In Quebec, social workers are regulated by the Professional Code (which also oversees family and marriage therapists). To be certified to work as a social worker in Quebec, they must ​​obtain a degree in social work in Quebec or France, or already be a certified social worker elsewhere in Canada, usually within the last five years. 

Social workers in Quebec are overseen by the Ordre des travailleurs sociaux et thérapeutes conjugaux et familiaux du Québec. Social workers and marriage/family therapists in Quebec can also offer psychotherapy if they obtain a psychotherapy permit from the Order of Psychologists of Quebec.

Social worker licensing and education in Saskatchewan

Social workers in Saskatchewan must obtain, at-minimum, a bachelor’s degree in social work. Social workers are regulated in Saskatchewan, but unlike other provinces they are overseen and governed by their professional association, the Saskatchewan Association of Social Workers, instead of by a college. 

They must complete 40 hours of continuing professional education, annually, to maintain membership. In Saskatchewan, Registered Clinical Social Worker (RCSW) requires additional advanced clinical certifications, which allows them to assess and diagnose disorders.

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About the Author

Nicole Laoutaris

Nicole Laoutaris is a freelance writer and adult learning professional based in the Greater Toronto Area. She specializes in educational content for brands and companies in industries such as mental health, pet health, lifestyle and wellness, cannabis, and personal finance. Nicole holds a double undergraduate degree in Communications and Film studies from Wilfrid Laurier University, and post-graduate certificate in Corporate Communications from Seneca College. She currently lives in Hamilton Ontario with her spouse and her cat.

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