Social Workers

Occupation:Social Workers
Category:Education, Law, Government, Social and Community Services

About the job

Nature of work:

Social workers help individuals, couples, families, groups, communities and organizations develop the skills and resources they need to enhance social functioning and provide counselling, therapy and referral to other supportive social services. Social workers help children, adults, families, and groups overcome problems in their daily lives; provide counselling, therapy and referral to other social services; and evaluate child development and the adequacy of child care. Social workers also respond to other social needs and issues such as unemployment, racism and poverty. They are employed by hospitals, school boards, social service agencies, child welfare organizations, correctional facilities, community agencies, employee assistance programs, and Aboriginal band councils, or they may work in private practice.

Job duties:
Social workers perform some or all of the following duties:
  • Interview clients individually, in families, or in groups, to assess their situation and problems and determine the types of services required.
  • Provide counsel and therapy to assist clients in developing skills to deal with and resolve their social and personal problems.
  • Plan programs of assistance for clients including referral to agencies that provide financial assistance, legal aid, housing, medical treatment and other services.
  • Investigate cases of child abuse or neglect and take authorized protective action when necessary.
  • Serve as members on interdisciplinary teams of professionals working with client groups.
  • Act as advocates for client groups in the community, lobby for solutions to problems directly affecting client groups and develop prevention and intervention programs to meet community needs.
  • Develop or advise on social policy legislation, conduct social research and assist in community development.
  • Provide mediation services and psychosocial assessments.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of counselling and social programs.
  • May provide public education and consultation to professionals or groups regarding counselling services, issues and methods.
  • May supervise other social workers.

Social workers may specialize in fields of practice such as child welfare, family services, corrections, gerontology or addictions.

Sample job titles:
  • addiction social worker
  • case management social worker
  • caseworker - social work
  • child welfare social worker
  • co-ordinator of social work
  • family social worker
  • psychiatric social worker
  • school social worker
  • social casework consultant
  • social worker

To work in these fields, you should have an interest in the social welfare of others and a desire to help them. Patience, maturity, good listening skills, and an understanding of human nature are important. You must be able to communicate clearly, both orally and in writing. Leadership, reasoning, and decision-making skills are also necessary.

Job requirements:
  • A bachelor's degree in social work is required in Nova Scotia.
  • Supervised practical experience is usually required.
  • Successful completion of provincial written and oral examinations may be required.
  • Registration with a provincial governing body is mandatory to practice as a social worker in Nova Scotia.
  • Use of the titles "Social Worker" and "Registered Social Worker" is regulated in Nova Scotia.
  • Membership in a provincial association of social workers is usually required.
Other considerations:


Labour Market Information

Work Prospects:Good

The employment outlook over the next few years for this occupational group is “good”, which indicates the chances of a qualified individual finding work is better than average when compared to other occupations in Nova Scotia. This is a fairly large occupation in Nova Scotia so job opportunities occur fairly regularly. The number employed in this occupation is expected to grow slightly over the next few years, which should provide some additional opportunities for employment. With a large percent of workers being 55 years of age and older, retirements are expected to be a key contributor to employment opportunities over the coming years. Social Workers most commonly work full-time hours. Furthermore, the jobs are typically permanent positions. Also, a fair portion of the workforce is self-employed, so having the option to "work for yourself" may appeal to some individuals’ interests/motivations.

The median employment income for 73% of Social Workers who worked full-time, year-round in 2015 was $70,006. Across all occupations in Nova Scotia, 59% of those who worked full-time year round had a median employment income of $43,600.
(Source: 2016 Census)

OccupationEstimated employment in 2018Estimated change in employment between 2017 and 2019Estimated openings due to growth and retirements, 2017-2019Estimated rate of unemployment in 2018 Estimated hourly earnings in 2015 (learn more)Estimated annual earnings in 2015
Social Workers1,495Weak growth120Low
Minimum: $20.00
Median: $30.77
Maximum: $42.90
Minimum: $24,924
Median: $64,444
Maximum: $83,730
Occupations in Education, Law, Government, Social and Community Services55,420Moderate growth4,880Low
Minimum: $14.00
Median: $26.88
Maximum: $46.15
Minimum: $5,616
Median: $44,335
Maximum: $92,599
Social WorkersCompared to: Occupations in Education, Law, Government, Social and Community Services
Percent employed full-time92%79%
Percent self-employed18%6%
Where will I likely work?
Area of EmploymentSocial WorkersCompared to: All NS Occupations
% EmployedMedian Annual Income% EmployedMedian Annual Income
Cape Breton17%$57,61113%$32,974
Annapolis Valley12%$50,53113%$32,958
What are the workers like?
AgeSocial WorkersCompared to: All Education, Law, Government, Social and Community Services
% Employed% Employed
Median Age4344
GenderSocial WorkersCompared to: Occupations in Education, Law, Government, Social and Community Services
% Employed% Employed
EducationSocial WorkersCompared to: All Education, Law, Government, Social and Community Services
% EmployedMedian Annual Income% EmployedMedian Annual Income
Less than high schoolxx2.8%$11,346
High school2.5%x14.3%$25,801
Trades certificate0.9%x4.2%$35,678
College certificate or diploma5.5%x21.5%$28,183
University certificate or diploma1.8%x2.6%$35,967
Bachelor's degree43.9%$25,91429.2%$43,533
University advanced certificate or diploma7.7%x3.4%$47,801
Master's degreex$61,02617.2%$35,978
Medicine, dentistry, veterinary, optometryxx0.2%$83,456
Wage Disclaimer

Hourly earnings data are from the Labour Force Survey by Statistics Canada. Data are not available for all occupations. Hourly earnings are calculated based on usual hours worked per week. This is how an annual salary, for instance, gets converted to an hourly rate. The data include full and part-time workers along with new and experienced workers. Self-employed workers are excluded.

Annual employment income data reported in the Work Prospects section, are from the 2011 National Household Survey by Statistics Canada. Much of the data (around 70%) came directly from tax records. The data relates to the year 2010 and includes total wages and salaries and net income from self-employment.


Employment Requirements & Contacts

Social Worker
Right to Title and Practice:This job is regulated and the job title is protected in Nova Scotia (you may not use this job title without holding a provincial licence). A licence shows that the holder has met provincial requirements and is required to work in this job.
Regulating body:
Nova Scotia College of Social Workers
1888 Brunswick Street, Suite 700
Halifax, NS B3J 3J8
(902) 429-7799
(902) 429-7650
Useful contacts:
Nova Scotia Association of Social Workers
1888 Brunswick Street, Suite 700
Halifax, NS B3J 3J8
Tel: (902) 429-7799
Fax: (902) 429-7650
Nova Scotia Department of Community Services
PO Box 696
Halifax, NS B3J 2T7
Tel: (877) 424-1177
Canadian Association of Social Workers
383 Parkdale Avenue, Suite 402
Ottawa, ON K1Y 4R4
Tel: (613) 729-6668
Fax: (613) 729-9608

Training Paths & Education

Program Name:Social work - General
Education Level:This program is typically offered at the college or university level.
Program Description:
This instructional program class comprises any program that prepares individuals for the professional practice of social welfare administration and counselling, and that focuses on the study of organized means of providing basic support services for vulnerable individuals and groups. These programs include courses in social welfare policy; case work planning; social counselling and intervention strategies; administrative procedures and regulations; and specific applications in areas such as child welfare and family services, probation, employment services, and disability counselling.
See all institutions providing this program+
Dalhousie University
Office of the Registrar
Halifax, NS B3H 4R2
(902) 494-2450
Universite Sainte-Anne
Siège Social: 1695, Route 1
Pointe-de-l'Église, NS B0W 1M0
(902) 769-2114
Additional resources: