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Programs / Social Work

Program Summary

Carleton’s Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) is a four-year Honours degree that places strong emphasis on the interactions between people and their environments.

The BSW program combines a liberal arts education with a professional social work education. In first year, you will take a range of courses outside of social work and one main social work course which introduces you to the profession of social work and the programs and policies of the welfare state.

A “structural” approach

When you choose to study Social Work at Carleton, you will be entering a school that has pioneered the “structural approach” to social work.

This approach recognizes that the society in which we live consists of diverse groups of people who have differential access to economic and political power.

The ability to explore the connections between individual issues and socio-economic structures provides a basis for critical social analysis, empowerment and liberation.

Hands-on experience

The field practicum is an integral part of the Social Work degree program and offers you an opportunity to apply, test, develop and integrate your accumulated knowledge and skills.

You will have the chance to choose from a wide range of organizations and will work under the guidance of a placement supervisor with additional direction provided by a faculty member.

You will also have contact with other students through an on-campus field seminar.

Commitment to educational equity

Both Carleton University and the School of Social Work have an expressed commitment to the principles of educational equity.

The school recognizes that some groups of people have been historically disadvantaged and excluded from access to higher education. This includes, for example, Aboriginal peoples, people of colour, people with disabilities and people with low incomes.

The school affirms the principle that individuals from all groups should have opportunities to learn and to contribute in supportive environments that validate and develop their knowledge, insights and perspectives.

There are many advantages that come with Carleton University’s location in the nation’s capital. As a large urban centre, Ottawa provides many interesting possibilities for field work in diverse settings. Our students have had placements in a variety of organizations including:

  •  child protection and children’s services;
  •  community health centres;
  •  women’s health and crisis centres;
  •  non-government organizations;
  •  federal government departments;
  •  probation, parole and prison services; and
  •  hospitals.

Bachelor of Social Work (Honours)

The Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) at Carleton is an Honours program that provides an innovative approach to social work practice.

The school’s orientation places a strong emphasis on the development of strategies for working sensitively with people, both individually and collectively. The school also emphasizes the need for a critical analysis of the social policies and administrative practices that affect the lives of people from diverse populations in our society.

Additional requirements

We will be looking at grades, human service work experience (both paid and unpaid), your personal and social analysis statements, and letters of reference. Be sure to visit admissions.carleton.ca/additional-requirements for more details, including important deadlines.

Three ways to enter the program

To accommodate students from a range of backgrounds, the Bachelor of Social Work has three points of entry into the program:

Students entering directly from high school:

If you have completed secondary school and are accepted into the School of Social Work, you will need to complete 20.0 credits of course work, typically taken over four years of full-time study.

Within those 20.0 credits, 10.5 credits must be taken in social work, 8.0 credits must be taken in other disciplines (not Social Work), and 1.5 credits can be taken either in Social Work or in other disciplines.

In your first year of studies, you will take Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare (SOWK 1000), an introductory course in which you will explore the relationship between social welfare and Canadian society.

You will also examine the interrelationships among social work practice, societal change, social problems, social policies and social programs.

Students who have a community college diploma in social services (or a related field):

If you already have a social services diploma and are accepted into the School of Social Work, you will enter directly into the second year of the BSW program.

Second-year studies will allow you to build a theoretical framework for social work practice, as well as to develop an understanding of the history and theories of welfare.

You will be able to explore subjects of interest such as poverty, immigration policy and practice, alcohol and drug use, and programs and services for children and youth.

Students who have an undergraduate degree:

If you already have an undergraduate degree and are accepted into the School of Social Work, you will likely enter into the third year of the program.

You will be required to complete a special third-year course, Foundations of Structural Analysis, Social Welfare and Social Work (SOWK 3000), which is designed to provide you with an overview of the field.

As a senior student, you will study areas such as administration and social policy, and social research and planning. You will also examine major theories and practices pertaining to work in communities and human service organizations, and develop practice competencies in work with individuals, families and groups.

In this era of globalization where economic and social problems persist, social workers are among those who come into direct and immediate contact with the consequences of poverty and social dislocation.

To be a social worker in this environment requires knowledge, skills, energy and a strong commitment to social justice and equality for all people.

The workplace

Carleton Social Work graduates have opportunities to work across a broad spectrum of fields and settings with people from diverse cultures. As a BSW graduate, you might find yourself catching a seaplane to fly into a remote community to provide child welfare services or you might board a bus to begin a day’s work at a downtown youth drop-in centre.

Graduate studies

Graduates of this four-year Honours program may be eligible to go on to graduate studies in a variety of fields, including social work. Carleton’s School of Social Work also offers a graduate program leading to a Master of Social Work degree.

Professional programs

Many professional programs, including law and teaching, encourage well-rounded applicants from a variety of backgrounds to apply. Social Work provides a strong foundation for a number of programs and you are encouraged to pursue your interest in these fields.

What students are saying about Social Work


I decided to minor in American Sign Language. The classes are incredible and very informative. What makes ASL at Carleton University so unique is how close you become with your professors. They are more like mentors and they introduce you to opportunities that allow you to be immersed within Deaf culture.
Chris Brown, Social Work with a minor in American Sign Language student