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Master of Social Work Critical Leadership in Social Services and Communities

The primary objective of the MSW: Critical Leadership in Social Services and Communities is to foster progressive leadership in the community and social service sectors.

M.S.W.Master of Social Work Critical Leadership in Social Services and Communities

The primary objective of the MSW: Critical Leadership in Social Services and Communities is to foster progressive leadership in the community and social service sectors.

The MSW: Critical Leadership in Social Services and Communities supports students’ development of:

  • conceptual, theoretical and analytical skills in relation to social work practices and social policies
  • appreciation of the changing conditions in social services and communities and the complexities and possibilities of ethical leading in the contemporary context
  • the ability to apply these skills and modes of understanding to the practice of leadership

The MSW: Critical Leadership in Social Services and Communities curriculum has two main components:

  1. Required courses that provide foundational knowledge of the critical analysis of social work practice, and the critical analysis of policy;  and required courses that provide analyses and conceptual frameworks about changing conditions in social services and communities, and about leadership 
  2. A leadership-focused practicum -- a practical experience of leadership with personalized feedback and mentorship that prepares students for leadership roles in social and community services  

Required Courses

And one of:


Each student will have a leadership practicum (SOC WORK 751) in a social service agency or community organization. Students will take on a leadership project - for example, lead the development of a new policy, move a service initiative forward, or explore and provide recommendations about how a community need might be better met. An MSW-prepared social worker will provide field instruction. Students’ experiences, observations and actions in the field setting will become topics for reflection in the accompanying seminar (SOC WORK 750) with theory and concepts from coursework brought to bear on specific aspects of their leadership practice. The practicum will be 450 hours long (this number of hours is required for accreditation by the Canadian Association for Social Work Education).


To be eligible for admission to the MSW: Critical Leadership in Social Services and Communities stream, applicants are required to hold a B.S.W. degree from an accredited social work program. In addition, admission requirements are:

  • half course in introductory social research methods;
  • B+ standing in senior level social work courses;
  • the equivalent of an accumulated 3 years of experience working in social services or communities/community services

Applications should demonstrate capacity to:

  • Rationalize experience and its link to leadership
  • Contextualize the experience to leadership in a critical and complex way

Applicants should have the equivalent of an accumulated 3 years of experience to be accepted into the program. This experience needs to be demonstrated - to inform their leadership activities and to support an analysis of organizational and systemic processes that inform leadership and may in some contexts limit/shape the nature of leadership practice.

The point of this experience level is not to meet a technical requirement, but rather to ensure that students have particular kinds of experience and have the capacity to process their knowledge in a critical way in the classroom and placement setting.

Application Materials

In order for your application to be considered complete, it must include the following items:

  • Online Application Form and Fee
  • Statement of Interest (applicant uploads pdf directly)
  • Resumé (applicant uploads pdf directly. Please include work experience using template below)
  • Referee Reports (referees complete online report directly using e-referencing system - due within one week of receiving email request.)
  • Transcripts (applicant uploads unofficial transcript directly). Original transcripts must be sent directly from issuing institution*.
  • English proficiency requirements, if applicable (applicant uploads unofficial copy directly). Original documents must be sent directly from issuing institution*.

*Note: Transcripts and English Proficiency documents must be sent directly from issuing institution(s) to:

Darlene Savoy, Administrative Assistant
School of Social Work, McMaster University
1280 Main Street West, KTH-319
Hamilton ON L8S 4M4  

Timelines for Application

Review of applications will be considered until all positions have been filled. Applicants will upload an unofficial copy of their transcript(s) and English Language Proficiency (if applicable) by the deadline date so that we may expedite assessment of their qualifications. The deadline for MSW (Critical Leadership) applications is December 16th.

Offers of admission and financial support are normally sent out from early March to late July.

Application Form and Fee

Application forms must be completed online (Note: portal is NOW OPEN for September 2020 admission). Please note the search criteria for Academic Program is “Social Sciences MSW” and may choose, "Full-time" or "Part-time" option. In the “Upload Documents” section, in addition to your CV & Statement of Interest, please also upload Samples of Writing, Unofficial Transcript(s) and TOEFL (if applicable).

A non-refundable $100 (CAN) application fee is applied to all applications. The fee can be paid on-line by MasterCard.  Please note that you must upload all documents BEFORE you pay the online application fee. If you choose to pay by cheque or money order please send it to the School of Graduate Studies address noted below. There is a handling fee of $15 (CAN) for cheques or money orders, making the total amount due $115 (CAN).

School of Graduate Studies
McMaster University
Gilmour Hall, Room 212
1280 Main Street West
Hamilton ON Canada L8S 4L8


Applicants must provide one official transcript(s) of university academic work completed to date, sent directly from the issuing institution to the School of Social Work (address above).


Relevant work/practicum experience should be included using this work experience template, which can be uploaded separately or added to your resumé. 

Applicants don’t need to specifically have paid experience, but they do need to have substantive experience. So 2 weeks running the food hamper program as volunteer or paid staff 3 years in a row would not be considered “substantive”.

Placement hours do not count towards the “three years” – all student apply with placement experience as this is a standardized requirement for completion of a BSW. Student’s placement experience may enhance their statement related to the hoped for placement or leadership project.

Paid work activities which include part-time, full-time, contract and on call work.

Activities that contribute to your knowledge/capacity for MSW study

Unpaid work activities: This work can include volunteer work undertaken in form organizations/institutions, informal organizations or within the context of your own personal life, such as care giving activates or other personal, familial labour and other kinds of social navigation such as such as self-advocacy, accessing services.

Placement and Practicum (service learning, experiential education):
Work activities undertaken as experiential education activities. Such as field education, service learning activities. Student receive educational credit for this kind of work.

Statement of Interest

All applicants must provide a Statement of Interest not exceeding 5 typed double-spaced pages, expanding on your resumé, covering the following areas:

1. Describe a situation in which you have offered (or tried to offer) leadership?

2. Within this situation what was possible to achieve (and why), and what constraints did you face in attempting to act in a leadership capacity? 

3. Discuss how your employment, experience and practicum have shaped your understanding of leadership and your desire to participate in the MSW in Critical Leadership in Social Services and Communities. 

This program requires students to undertake a leadership project within the context of a field placement. Describe your proposed leadership project, and some of the experience[s] you hope to have in the course of completing the project. If you have ideas about a context, sector, setting, or have a mentor with whom you’d like to complete the project, please describe.

The supplementary statement is assessed based on comprehensiveness, clarity of presentation, capacity for critical thinking, and capacity for critical reflection based on experience. The declaration of your career goals and your ability to connect these with the specific focus of this program is important.

Letters of Reference

A complete application includes three confidential letters of recommendation - one academic, and two from work colleagues. Referees will be asked to describe work that you have been involved in that they have direct knowledge of, and to comment on a) your understanding and analysis of the organizational, community or activist contexts in which you work, and b) your potential for justice-oriented leadership in social services or communities. McMaster University uses the Electronic Referencing System. You must enter the email addresses of your referees as part of the on-line application form. The system will automatically send an e-Reference request on your behalf to the referees once you submit your application. Referees have one week upon receipt of email request to submit the e-Reference.

English Proficiency Requirements

If applicable, an official copy of your TOEFL score, or other evidence of competency in English is required. A minimum TOEFL score of 580 (or 237 on the computer-based TOEFL test) is needed.

Additional Information

Please complete our Pre-Application form so that we can verify your academic qualifications before you send a full application.

The School of Graduate Studies policy with regard to students with disabilities can be found in section 6.6 of the School of Graduate Studies Calendar. The full policy and further information may be obtained from the School of Graduate Studies or the Student Success Centre 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail  For further information, consult McMaster University’s Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

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Ontario Student Assistance Program

Application forms and brochures can be obtained from the Student Financial Aid and Scholarships office at McMaster University. Application to OSAP can be made on line at

The Sidney L. Blum Bursary

Established in 1989 by friends and associates in memory of Sidney L. Blum.  To be awarded by the School of Graduate Studies, on the recommendation of the Student Financial Aid and Scholarships Office, to any graduate student in good standing in the Master’s program of the School of Social Work.


The agency guidelines and deadlines are subject to change at any time without prior notice. For complete and accurate information about external scholarship opportunities, applicants should always consult the external agency directly.


Naomi Grigg Fellowship

Soroptimist International of Toronto, a service club of business and professional women, is offering a Fellowship with a value of approx. $6,500.  This Fellowship is available to full time students enrolled in a post-graduate degree program (Masters, PhD) or in a program by which they acquire additional professional qualifications in an area related to gerontology.  Application forms are available from Margot Ryan 32 Pricklewood Crescent, Thornhill, Ontario, LeT 4T9, (905) 764-9961.   Deadline:  March 15.

Northern Bursary Program, Ministry of Community & Social Services

This provincial program offers various levels of financial assistance to post-secondary students pursuing careers in psychology, social work, speech pathology and Native ancestry, who are interested in working in designated areas of Northern Ontario.  Every student who receives a bursary must work in an area of the province designated by the Ministry of Community & Social Services, Northern Regional Office, 473 Queen St E, Ste 202, Sault Ste Marie, ON, P6A 1Z5.  Application deadline: August 31.




Ontario Graduate Scholarships (OGS)


Tri-Agency Canada Graduate Scholarship - Master's Programme

Applicants apply directly via Research Portal.

  • Deadline: December 1 (8:00pm)


School of Graduate Studies, Scholarships & Funding

Darlene Savoy, Graduate Administrative Assistant
School of Social Work, McMaster University
1280 Main Street West, Kenneth Taylor Hall, Room 319
Hamilton ON L8S 4M4  


Program Brochure Apply Now
For more information:
School of Social Work
KTH 319
905-525-9140 ext. 24596
1 year
Required Credential:
Bachelor of Social Work degree from an accredited social work program
Program Type:
Course Based, Practicum Based
Program Options:
Full-time, Part-time
Typical Entry:
Current Deadline:
December 16