The Profession of Social Work

Social work is a profession working for social justice at individual, family, organization, community and societal levels through various knowledges (plural intentional), values, ethics and skills.

The following definition of social work was approved at the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) General Meeting and the International Association Schools of Social Work (IASSW) General Assembly in July 2014. Membership entails 116 countries that are committed to social work as a profession:

Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work. Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledge, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance well being. The above definition may be amplified at national and/or regional levels.

The Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

Social workers who hold BSW degrees have achieved proficiency in generalist practice. This means they have multiple skills, knowledges, ethics, and values to work in the different areas of social work intervention: direct practice (micro), group work (mezzo), and social community development (macro).

Common generalist social work roles are case manager, counselor, advocate, facilitator, group worker, educator, community developer, and social activist, to name several.

While a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree enables students to focus on a discipline (e.g., psychology, sociology), a BSW integrates discipline-specific knowledge and skills into an applied profession. About 15% of BSW students yearly possess a discipline-specific degree.

The Master of Social Work (MSW)

Social workers who hold MSW degrees have all the qualifications of workers with a BSW degree. These professionals also demonstrate expertise in one or more areas of specialization, as indicated by their mastery of the relevant social theories, research, and practice in their areas of interest. They have the competence to teach, provide leadership in various ways, engage in either quantitative or qualitative research, and develop new programs.

The profession of social work across Canada has three intersecting ‘posts’: academic, regulation and advocacy. The curriculum of social work programs is guided by accreditation standards developed by the Canadian Association for Social Work Education (CASWE). The regulation of social work is guided by provincial legislation that set out requirements for competency over the course of a professional social worker’s career. The organization charged with this mandate is the BC College of Social Workers (BCCSW). Advocacy for the social worker’s role is carried by the BC Association of Social Workers (BCASW).┬áStudents can be members of the BCASW.

The BC College of Social Workers

Starting September 1, 2015, the BCCSW has instituted an Entry to Practice exam. This practice is in keeping with all other regulated professions in the country. Students completing their BSW will have the option of writing their exam as soon as they have finished their education. Requirements for registration can be found on the BCCSW website.