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Working as a Social Worker

Job Description

Social workers help individuals, families and communities with the resources and support they need to address personal and social issues.

As a Social Worker you will perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Interview clients individually, in families, or in groups, to assess their situation and determine the types of services needed
  • Provide counsel and therapy to assist clients in developing skills to deal with and resolve their social and personal challenges
  • Plan programs to assist clients including referral to agencies that provide financial assistance, legal aid, housing, medical treatment and other services
  • Meet with clients to track progress
  • Provide referrals to other supportive social services
  • Social workers may specialize in fields of practice such as child welfare, family services, corrections, gerontology or addictions.

Source: NOC 4152

Industry Overview

Employment opportunities for Social Workers are very good in British Columbia.  There is a growing demand for those with clinical specialities, youth services, psychiatric social work, and geriatric social work. Graduates, who have work experience, and higher education, are in demand in their fields.

Part-time work and self-employment has been unusual in this occupation, but a rise in corporate employee assistance programs and training seminars are creating these types of positions.

Source: WorkBC Career Profile 4152

Job Outlook in BC

job outlook for social workers

Chart from WorkBC

The Employment Outlook for BC provides job openings projections for social workers within BC regions:

Region 2010
Estimated Employment
Estimated Employment
Avg Annual % Change, 5 Years, 2010-2015
Vancouver Island 1,670 1,820 1.8%
Lower Mainland /Southwest 3,170 3,450 1.8%
Thompson-Okanagan 790 870 2.0%
Kootenay 200 230 3.0%
Cariboo 240 270 2.7%
North Coast & Nechako 140 150 2.0%
Northeast 90 110 3.2%

Source: Regional Employment Projections, BC Stats. Projections for development regions [accessed October 2014]

You can learn more about working as a Social Worker in BC from WorkBC Career Profile 4152.

Types of Employers

The majority of social workers work in the health and social services industry or in the public administration industry (government). Some social workers are self-employed, offering counselling, consultative and other services directly to the public or to workplaces, or contracting their services to organizations.

  • Hospitals
  • Mental health clinics
  • Community health clinics
  • Social Service agencies
  • Schools
  • Correctional facilities
  • Employee Assistant programs
  • Aboriginal Band Councils


The average annual salary of social workers in BC is between $53,000 and $66,000. Some senior-level workers earn $90,000 or more a year. In general, social workers with a master’s degree earn the higher-range salaries. Earnings for social workers in private practice depend on a number of factors including number of clients, clients’ ability to pay, and availability of government funding.

Full-time social workers usually receive benefits, such as paid sick days and vacation time, and dental coverage. Those in private practice must provide their own benefits.

Source: Career Cruising database (Profile for Social Workers).

Job Bank Canada provides hourly wages for social workers in BC’s regions:

social workers regional wage
Source: Job Bank Canada, Wage Reports

Working Hours

Most social workers have a standard 40 hour work week but they may be required to work some evenings and weekends to meet with clients or attend public meetings affecting the community. As well, emergencies may also occur outside of regular office hours and sometimes demand immediate action.

Skills, Education and Experience


  • respect for diversity
  • emotional maturity
  • interest in helping others
  • good with people
  • problem-solving skills and decision making
  • strong written and oral communication skills

Education and Experience

A university degree in social work is mandatory to work in this profession in British Columbia. However, increasingly, a master’s degree is required for many social work positions. Additional training may be required to work in specialized areas of social work. Qualified applicants with degrees from related fields such as Youth and Child Care may also be considered for employment in this area but will not have the ‘Social Worker’ designation.

There are eight schools of social work in British Columbia. There are also distance education programs available. A complete listing of Schools of Social Work in Canada can be found at Canadian Association For Social Work Education.

Sources: WorkBC Career Profile 4152, BC Association of Social Workers


Social Worker is a regulated profession in British Columbia

It is mandatory to be registered with the British Columbia College of Social Workers (BCCSW) in order to work in British Columbia.

BCCSW is the regulatory body for the practice of Social Work in British Columbia.  The BCCSW may register anyone with a BSW, MSW, or Ph.D. in social work from an approved university. In Canada this means a social work program accredited by the Canadian Association of Schools of Social Work.

Note: Social workers with the “government or its agencies, a health authority, a municipality, school board, Indian Band, or a university or college” are exempt from this requirement.

All applicants to the College are now required to successfully complete a licensure exam to become registered.

Internationally Trained Social Workers

Graduates of social work programs outside of Canada must determine if their credentials will be recognized in British Columbia. To do so, you must have your credentials evaluated by the

Finding Jobs

You’ll find job advertisements in local newspapers, trade journals, and electronic sources, as well as through professional associations’ publications.

Local Newspapers

You can look at the Vancouver Sun & The Province at Vancouver Public Library for free. Check the job postings daily, the careers section in the Vancouver Sun on Wednesdays and Saturdays and, in The Province on Sundays.

Job White Pages

  • Available online or in print at the Central Library
    NOTE: You can only access this database from the Central Library or VPL branch libraries. Access is NOT available from home or outside the Library.

Online Job Postings

BC has five regional health authorities that provide acute care and community programs (acute care hospitals, mental health, public health, addictions, and home and community care services).

  • Provincial Health Services Authority
    Operates agencies that provide province-wide health care services including, BC Cancer Agency, BC Children’s Hospital, BC Women’s Hospital.
  • Providence Health Care
    Providence Health Care is a health care community operating four hospitals in the Metro Vancouver region
    Find jobs posted on a multitude of company career sites and job boards

Professional Associations’ Career Resources

Identifying the Right Position

When you browse job advertisements, you’ll find a range of different job titles that are relevant. For social workers, look for these related job titles (from NOC and the Board of Registration for Social Workers in BC):

  • Registered Social Worker
  • Addiction Social Worker
  • Case Management Consultant – Social Work
  • Case Work Consultant – Social Work
  • Caseworker – Social Work
  • Child Welfare Social Worker
  • Clinical Social Worker
  • Family Social Worker
  • Mental Health Worker/Counselor
  • Geriatric Social Worker
  • School Social Worker
  • Social Casework Consultant

Creating a List of Potential Employers

You can use directories to produce lists of employers who work in the social work sector in Vancouver or the Lower Mainland. Contact them directly to find out if they’re hiring. You can photocopy from the print directories at Central Library, or use the online directories from a computer connected to the Internet.

  • The Red Book Online
    Directory of social service providers in the Lower Mainland
    Also available at the Central Library, The Red Book 360.6 C734di
  • Community Services Directories
    A selection of directories of community services and community resources for regions across British Columbia and Canada
    Available at the Central Library
  • Reference Canada
    Click on “Start Search” beside Canadian Businesses, then select the “Advanced Search” button.
    Select both “Keyword/SIC/NAICS” under Business Type and “City” under Geography.
    In the top search box enter “social worker” and click LOOKUP.
    Select the appropriate headings.
    Lower down, select the Province, choose the cities, and click the “View Results” button.
    NOTE: You can access this database from a Library computer. If you are using a computer from outside the Library, you will need a Vancouver Public Library card to login to this database. After clicking on the database name, you will be asked to enter your library card number and PIN (usually last four digits of your telephone number).

Applying for a Job

In Canada, employers usually expect to receive a resume (curriculum vitae) and a cover letter that identifies the position you are applying for and summarizes your relevant experience.

Use the library catalogue to find books on writing resumes and cover letters specific to your industry.

To learn about applying for jobs in Canada, see the following:

Getting Help from Industry Sources

Industry Associations

Associations for social workers in BC and Canada provide assistance to individuals. Registration and fees are required for membership.

Industry Journals

Search the Vancouver Public Library catalogue for journals related to your profession. Examples at the Central Library:

  • Perspectives / British Columbia Association of Social Workers
    Also available at VPL Central, 361.9711S67