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Social Work

Have you ever wondered how personal problems are caused or affected by society? Ever wanted to understand and do something about injustice? Social Work might be for you.

Social Work emphasizes the social context of what many see as personal problems. Social workers use their skills and knowledge to facilitate change with and for people who are experiencing difficulties in their lives and who struggle with the impact of injustice and oppression.

As social workers, we see personal troubles as inextricably linked to oppressive structures. We believe that social workers must be actively involved in the understanding and transformation of injustices in social institutions and in the struggles of people to maximize control over their own lives. 

Focus of Study

Our program prepares graduates for the general practice of social work by developing:

  • Capacity to analyze personal, community, family and societal problems.
  • Practical skills such as interviewing, counselling, community development, social action and advocacy.

Areas of focus include: 

Struggles for Social Justice

Injustice is embedded in society, whether it be the: dismissal of and violence against indigenous people, disabled people, people labeled as ‘mad’, racialized people, women, people who are queer, people who are old. Social workers strive to understand, challenge and transform social injustice.

Critical Practice & Leadership

‘Critical’ social work practice and leadership recognizes the historical and social inequities which cause (or worsen) individual, family and community troubles. Critical approaches also recognize the contradictions and harms of social work and social policies.

Advocacy & Support

Social workers are actively involved in supporting individuals and communities gain access to decision making, within their own lives and in public settings.

Political & Institutional Change

Social policies and social welfare institutions significantly impact the lives and life chances of individuals and communities. Social workers study and take action to improve and transform them.


Our Bachelor of Social Work Programs are accredited by the Canadian Association for Social Work Education.

photo of Chriselle Vaz

Chriselle Vaz

Honours Bachelor of Social Work, McMaster University2018

“I love the social work program at McMaster because it has taught me so much about the world, the community and myself. The classrooms are the perfect place to challenge existing ideas, situations and institutions as well as learn from your remarkable peers and professors. “

Social Work Degree Options

All Social Sciences students start in Level I. At the end of first-year, students who meet the requirements outlined below may qualify for one of the following degree options in Social Work:

  • Honours B.S.W. (Bachelor of Social Work)
    Completion of six units of introductory Social Work or introductory Sociology and six additional units of introductory level courses from the Social Sciences course list (or equivalent). Students who are interested in the Honours B.S.W. are strongly encouraged to take both SOCWORK 1AA3 and SOCWORK 1BB3. Students are also encouraged to take INDIGST 1A03 in Level I as this course will be required for completion of the B.S.W. Admission requires, as a minimum, completion of any Level I program with a grade point average of at least 6.0(C+) and evidence of personal suitability which may be evaluated by one or a combination of written statements, tests or interviews.

  • B.S.W. (Bachelor of Social Work) as a Second Degree
    Eligibility is dependent upon completion of an undergraduate degree from a recognized university, including six units of introductory Social Work or Sociology and six additional units of Level I courses. Students who are interested in the B.S.W. (post degree) are strongly encouraged to take both SOCWORK 1AA3 and SOCWORK 1BB3 during their first degree. Students are also encouraged to take INDIGST 1A03 in their first degree, as completion of this course will be required for completion of the B.S.W. To be considered for admission, students must normally have a minimum average of 6.0(C+) on the most recent 30 units of university-level courses completed and evidence of personal suitability which may be evaluated by one or a combination of written statements, tests or interviews.

Please note that enrolment in these programs are limited, therefore possession of the published minimum requirements does not guarantee admission.


Social Work Program Details

Build Your Skills

Experiential Education

You will have two field placements during your degree. Working in a community organization you will:

  • Gain real-life experience working with service users and community groups.
  • Apply skills and knowledge acquired in academic courses.
  • Understand how social service organizations and networks work.
  • Collaborate with other professionals and learn social work values and ethics.
  • Learn from and be supervised by a practicing social worker.

Skill Development

  • The capacity to gather, analyze and interpret information from a range of sources
  • Effective communications skills, including composition and organization of ideas
  • Writing and presentation skills
  • Knowledge of current practice approaches
  • Skills for working effectively with individuals, families, groups and communities
  • Hands-on learning gained within the field

Our graduates have been successful at finding interesting and rewarding careers in a range of fields in both the public and private sectors

Social Workers make vital contributions to the community, working in many different settings, including:

  • Health care settings – hospitals, family health teams, addictions services, mental health agencies
  • Children’s services, including Children’s Aid societies
  • Services for immigrants and refugees
  • Anti-poverty organizations
  • Schools
  • Disabled people’s organizations
  • Indigenous communities
  • Women’s services, including shelters
  • Elder care organizations
  • Criminal justice and legal services
  • Governments

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