Social workers and social service workers may perform similar duties, but the scope of practice, education requirements, and salary range for these two professions have some big differences. If you’re thinking about whether to become a social worker or a social service worker in Ontario, this blog will help you make the right decision.
The Difference Between Social Workers vs. Social Service Workers
Social workers and social service workers both deal with individual, interpersonal and societal problems. Therefore, the responsibilities of a social worker and a social service worker are quite similar. However, there are differences in terms of the scope of practice for each of these professions.
According to the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (OCSWSSW) Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, a social worker is responsible for assisting clients to achieve optimal psychosocial and social functioning, while a social service worker is responsible only for helping clients with their social functioning. A social worker can also provide a specific diagnosis to a client, while a social service worker cannot.
Where Do Social Workers & Social Service Workers Work?
According to the OCSWSSW website, both social workers and social service workers serve in a variety of settings. Depending on where they work, the responsibilities of social workers and social service workers will vary.
Social service workers often work in community-based health centres, from group homes and shelters, to income maintenance and youth programs. On the other hand, social workers often serve in a more diverse workplace setting, from hospitals and community centres, to schools, social service agencies, or government departments.
How Are Social Workers & Social Service Workers Regulated?
In order to become a regulated social worker or social service worker, you need to become a member of a provincial regulatory body. In this case, it’s the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers. After being registered with the OCSWSSW, you can legally practice in Ontario and refer to yourself as a:
- Social Worker
- Registered Social Worker
- Social Service Worker
- Registered Social Service Worker
These are protected titles, meaning that they can only be used by individuals who are registered with the regulatory body, i.e. OCSWSSW.
Education Requirements for Social Workers & Social Service Workers
In order to register with the OCSWSSW and practice as a social worker or social service worker in Ontario, you must complete the necessary education requirements for these professions.
Generally, you can register with the OCSWSSW as a social service worker after obtaining a two-year college diploma in a Social Service Work program or in any other equivalent programs approved by the OCSWSSW. Programs from private career colleges do not meet the education requirements for registration as a social service worker with the College.
University education is required to become a social worker in Ontario. You will need to obtain a Bachelor of Social Work, which means four years of post-secondary education. Some companies might also require having a Master of Social Work, which will take either one or two years of post-graduate education. You can visit the OCSWSSW website to find a list of Social Work programs provided by Ontario universities—all of which have been accredited by the Canadian Association for Social Work Education (CASWE).
Salaries for Social Workers & Social Service Workers
According to Job Bank Canada, social workers in Ontario typically get paid from $20.63 to $47.00 per hour, with $34.86 being the median. Annually, this would be a range of about $42k to $97k, with a median of $72k.
Social service workers typically get paid less than social workers. Figures from Job Bank Canada show the hourly wage of a social service worker in Ontario ranges from $14.29 to $33.31 per hour, with $22.00 being the median. Annually, this would be a range of about $29k to $69k, with a median of $45k.
The salaries of social workers and social service workers will vary depending on where they are working, the demand within the geography, and whether they are paid an annual salary or on a per-visit basis. For example, a social worker with an annual salary from a Toronto hospital may have a higher salary than a community social worker in Thunder Bay.
At Closing the Gap Healthcare, we’re frequently hiring social workers in community-based settings throughout Ontario. To see if there are any open positions near you, visit our Careers page.