In Canada, 20% of occupations are regulated to protect the health and safety of citizens. Social Workers are regulated just like architects, chiropractors, doctors, engineers, massage therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and psychologists.

The social work profession is regulated in all provinces in Canada, and in the Northwest Territories. The professional titles of "Social Worker" and "Registered Social Worker" are reserved for those practitioners who meet the qualifications and standards as set by the provincial regulatory bodies and are registered. They may display the designation “R.S.W” (P.S.W. in Quebec) after their name. Some provinces also regulate closely related occupations, for example in Ontario, the practice of social service work or in Alberta the practice of clinical social work are regulated also.

Each Canadian jurisdiction has enacted legislation that outlines practice for Registered Social Workers (RSWs). Depending on jurisdiction, the regulatory organizations are a college, council or association of social work or social workers. Together, they bring consistency, identity and control to the social work profession across Canada. Provincial social work legislation varies somewhat from province to province, however, generally all :

  • Set admission and licensing standards
  • Set practice standards
  • Monitor the work carried out  by Registered Social Workers
  • Require RSWs to maintain competence by continuing their professional education
  • Publish ethical guidelines
  • Discipline practitioners for misconduct

In general, people who want to work in the capacity of a Social Worker,  must:

  • Attend accredited education and on-going professional development
  • Follow a code of ethics and standards of practice
  • Meet other standards set out by the regulatory organization, as applicable
  • Have a criminal record check completed
  • Become registered by joining the provincial regulatory organization as a member

Specific information regarding application and registration processes, complaints and discipline processes, code of ethics and standards of practice can be obtained by contacting the regulatory organization in your province or territory.