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NOC Code: NOC Code: 4152 Occupation: Social workers
Occupation Description: Occupation Description:
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 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. 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 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.

  • Click on any of the Essential Skills to view sample workplace tasks for this occupation.
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Table will display the Skill Level for the Noc specified
Essential Skills Essential Skills Levels
Reading Reading 1 2 3 4
Writing Writing 1 2 3 4
Document Use Document Use 1 2
Digital Technology Digital Technology 1 2
Oral Communication Oral Communication 1 2 3 4
Money Math Money Math 1 2
Scheduling or Budgeting and Accounting Scheduling or Budgeting and Accounting 1 2
Measurement and Calculation Measurement and Calculation 1 2
Data Analysis Data Analysis 1 2
Numerical Estimation Numerical Estimation 1
Job Task Planning and Organizing Job Task Planning and Organizing 1 2 3
Decision Making Decision Making 1 2 3 4
Problem Solving Problem Solving 1 2 3
Finding Information Finding Information 1 2 3
Critical Thinking Critical Thinking 1 2 3

  • The skill levels represented in the above chart illustrate the full range of sample tasks performed by experienced workers and not individuals preparing for or entering this occupation for the first time.
  • Note that some occupational profiles do not include all Numeracy and Thinking Essential Skills.

If you would like to print a copy of the chart and sample tasks, click on the "Print Occupational Profile" button at the top of the page.

  • Read instructions for administration and descriptions of potential side effects on the labels of prescription medications. For example, a psychiatric social worker may scan the label of an anti-psychotic medication to locate information about how often clients need to take the drug. (1)
  • Skim descriptions of social programs, community events, workshops in bulletins, brochures and other marketing materials. Read to become informed about resources for clients and professional development opportunities. (1)
  • Read newsletters, magazines and newspapers to stay informed about current social work issues. Pass useful information on to co-workers and clients. For example, an addictions social worker may read a newspaper article about the effects of crystal methamphetamine and its use by certain population groups in order to answer questions from clients in an addictions awareness program. (2)
  • Skim case notes from counselling and therapy sessions to review observations, key issues, conclusions and recommendations in preparation for returning clients. Some files contain descriptive paragraphs to explain problems, circumstances and clients' reactions. (2)
  • Read brief notes and comments written on a variety of reporting forms such as intake and assessment forms, applications, medical charts and referral forms. Read these notes for information about clients' backgrounds, needs and requests for assistance. For example, a children's aid social worker may review notes from a child's hospital report to learn about the physical trauma that the child has suffered. (2)
  • Read training manuals and their organizations' policy and protocol manuals. For example, a social worker who facilitates group sessions for compulsive gamblers may review various training manuals to locate new exercises that can be incorporated into group counselling sessions. A school social worker may refer to crisis management protocols to understand what steps to take in the event of a student's death. (3)
  • Refer to social policy legislation such as the provincial Child Protection Act and the Adult Guardianship Act to determine if clients are in need of protection and explain the implications of the acts to parents and guardians. (3)
  • Read medical reports, psychosocial and clinical assessments, investigation reports, affidavits and program evaluations. In these documents, read about medical diagnoses, psychiatric conditions, clinical observations, legal matters, investigation results and evaluation outcomes. Incorporate information from clinical assessments into treatment plans, social work programs and community development initiatives. For example, social workers and caseworkers read police and medical reports to determine if there is just cause to apprehend children. (4)
  • Read resource books, textbooks and articles from peer-reviewed journals to learn about various topics such as child abuse, drug addiction, mental illness, grief and loss, and community development. Read social work journals to expand knowledge, incorporate it into counselling practices, assist with social work research and to develop prevention and intervention programs. For example, geriatric social workers may read articles from the Journal of Gerontological Social Work and books about elder abuse to further their understanding of social issues affecting seniors and develop elder abuse prevention programs. (4)
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  • Write comments on forms such as intake and assessment forms, referrals and discharge summaries. For example, legal aid social workers may write comments on intake forms to explain their decisions to grant legal aid coverage to clients. (1)
  • Write case notes for clients' files. Record information about clients' personal problems, home situations and concerns. Detail observations about progress made and matters that require follow-up. Because files may be subpoenaed for court proceedings, carefully consider what to write down. (2)
  • Write speaking notes and learning materials for workshops and presentations. For example, summarize the topics covered during presentations and hand them out to participants. (2)
  • Write letters to co-workers and colleagues such as doctors, psychiatrists, lawyers and parole officers. For example, write letters of referral outlining observations, recommendations, reasons for referrals and summaries of clients' situations. Write letters to other social workers to request financial assistance and other supports, such as writing letters of support on behalf of clients. (3)
  • Draft social work policies and protocols. Summarize background research, describe methodologies, offer rationales, discuss findings, offer recommendations and analyze implications for social work practice. For example, a social worker may write a community planning report which suggests the integration of suicide intervention protocols into medical counselling services. (4)
  • Write a variety of assessment, evaluation, investigation, research and funding reports. For example, in assessment reports, geriatric social workers summarize clients' case histories and offer their observations, recommendations and conclusions. Child protection workers write investigation reports in which they summarize allegations against caregivers, detail observations of children's health and living conditions, offer assessments of risks and make recommendations. They consider the content carefully because these reports may be used as evidence in court proceedings and may affect funding decisions. (4)
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Document Use
  • Scan lists and tables. For example, social workers scan resource directories to identify appropriate community resources for clients. Addictions social workers may scan tables comparing different illegal drugs and their effects. (1)
  • Complete reporting forms such as referrals, discharge summaries, confidentiality agreements, timesheets and mileage claim forms. For example, a social worker completes a referral form for a client who requires housing assistance. (2)
  • Refer to simple schematics such as decision making trees. For example, a crisis social worker may refer to a decision making schematic to assess risk of suicide and to follow proper protocol for crisis intervention. (2)
  • Complete various assessment forms such as intake forms, screening assessments, investigation forms and applications for assistance. Enter clients' contact and demographic information and tick checkboxes to identify issues or risk factors. (2)
  • Locate test scores and interpret psychosocial information presented in graphs. For example, mental health social workers may compare clients' psychiatric test scores to personality disorder charts in order to develop appropriate treatment plans. School social workers may use graphs to understand the severity of children's learning disabilities. (2)
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Digital Technology
  • Use spreadsheets. For example, create spreadsheets to manage counselling and program data, and use them to track number and types of clients in social programs. (2)
  • Use word processing software. For example, use word processing applications such as Word and WordPerfect to write letters of support for clients and to prepare assessment reports. (2)
  • Use databases. For example, enter program statistics and generate reports for funding agents and retrieve data from the organization's case management databases. (2)
  • Use Internet browsers to find information about work-related topics such as effects of illegal drugs and community resources for drug education. (2)
  • Use communication software. For example, use email software to exchange messages with other social workers and send attachments such as referrals, research reports and program announcements. (2)
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Oral Communication
  • Discuss schedules, clients' files, office supplies and other matters with support staff. (1)
  • Discuss clients and social work programs with colleagues in other community and social service agencies. For example, seek information about available programs and resources for clients. If consent is obtained, share information about clients' situations and needs, discuss their suitability for available programs and advocate for assistance. (2)
  • Interact with other social workers to discuss difficult cases, coordinate clients' care strategies and seek advice about counselling strategies and resources. Social workers and their supervisors meet regularly to debrief and further develop their counselling skills. They also meet to discuss other work-related issues such as caseloads and administrative procedures. For example, social workers and their supervisors discuss strategies to help clients with mental illnesses and addictions. Some social workers participate in coalition meetings with other professionals to develop social policy and co-ordinate new initiatives in their communities. (3)
  • Interview clients to assess their needs and determine the services they require. Ask open-ended questions to gather information about the clients' mental, emotional, physical, spiritual and financial health. Listen actively to the clients' responses, explain services and suggest appropriate resources. Sensitivity and good conflict management skills are needed to engage with clients and family members who may be angry, defensive and embarrassed about seeking help. (3)
  • Deliver educational seminars and workshops to schoolchildren, community groups and colleagues. Present information about specific programs and services, current social issues and counselling strategies. Adjust communication styles and workshops' contents to suit audiences of schoolchildren, pensioners, teachers and medical doctors. For example, a school social worker may present strategies for reducing aggression in children at a teachers' conference. A medical social worker may educate other social workers about the symptoms of sexually-transmitted diseases and the stigma of being infected. (3)
  • Counsel individual clients who are struggling with personal problems such as depression, families torn by abuse and groups affected by social problems such as poverty. Social workers may present ideas that will spark discussion and ask probing questions to elicit personal reflection and sharing of insights. They actively listen to clients describe their feelings and thoughts, cuing into signs of anxiety, depression, anger and other extreme emotions that may indicate risks of emotional distress. They provide reassurance and guidance to clients and assist them in developing the skills and resources they need to enhance social functioning and resolve their personal problems. For example, social workers validate the feelings of clients who are struggling with depression and assist them to develop healthy coping strategies. (4)
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Money Math
  • Calculate travel expense claims. Calculate reimbursements for using personal vehicles at per kilometre rates. Add amounts for meals, accommodations and incidentals. (2)
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Scheduling or Budgeting and Accounting
  • Schedule appointments for clients, allocating realistic amounts of time for counselling sessions. Reschedule appointments to accommodate cancellations and urgent requests. (1)
  • Create budgets. For example, draw up household budgets to determine if clients qualify for financial assistance. Create program budgets that include cost categories for personnel, rent, office equipment and supplies. (2)
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Measurement and Calculation
  • Score psychosocial tests and assessment instruments. For example, social workers may administer and score suicide assessment scales. (2)
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Data Analysis
  • Compare clients' incomes to benchmarks to determine if they qualify for benefits such as social assistance and legal aid. For example, caseworkers may compare clients' net incomes to benchmark amounts to determine whether they are eligible for legal aid. (1)
  • Analyze lab results and scores on psychosocial tests to assess clients' health and wellness. For example, social workers may compare lab test results to baseline norms to identify differences that indicate health problems such as drug addictions. They may analyze scores on suicide assessment scales to determine levels of risk. School social workers analyze cognitive test results such as the Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children to identify learning disabilities. (2)
  • Compile data and develop statistics to describe social programs and the populations of clients that are served. For example, social workers operating programs for victims of spousal abuse may calculate numbers of referrals received monthly and classify program participants by gender, ethnicity and age group. (2)
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Numerical Estimation
  • Estimate amounts of time required for counselling sessions. Consider clients' needs and the average duration of previous appointments. (1)
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Job Task Planning and Organizing
  • Social workers plan and organize their own job tasks. New cases are assigned to them by intake workers, supervisors and managers. They also acquire new walk-in cases and referrals directly from social work departments and human services agencies. Social workers usually book their own counselling appointments, but must be prepared to modify their schedules if clients are in crisis and require emergency assistance. Child protection social workers may be required to work long hours to carry out investigations until children are deemed safe. (3)
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Decision Making
  • Select programs and social service agencies for clients. Consider clients' counselling needs, goals and treatment plans and the availability of suitable placements. (2)
  • Decide that interpreters are needed for interviews. Assess the clients' language skills from introductory interactions with them and information received from referral sources. Consider your own language abilities and the clients' comfort with interpreters before requesting assistance. (2)
  • Decide to terminate counselling and therapy with clients. Consider the degree to which clients' problems have been resolved, the benefits of continuing counselling and clients' abilities to maintain healthy lives. For example, a school social worker may terminate counselling for a child at the end of the school year if sufficient progress has been made. They may also recognize their own professional limitations in dealing with their clients' problems and may make referrals to appropriate helping professionals. (3)
  • Choose counselling strategies and therapies for clients' treatment plans. Consider clients' problems, the appropriateness of interventions, treatment costs, and your own preferences. You are guided by the organization's protocols and precedents. (3)
  • Decide to call emergency services for assistance. Consider the safety risks to clients and others by violent and suicidal behaviours. For example, social workers call police in cases of injuries and suspected sexual abuse of children. (4)
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Problem Solving
  • Deal with clients who are intoxicated and under the influence of drugs. Explain to impaired clients why you cannot provide services and encourage them to come back when they are sober. You may arrange transportation to detoxification centres for clients. (2)
  • Deal with difficult and hostile clients. For example, counsel hostile, aggressive and suicidal clients. Address clients' behaviours, clarify what is expected and work with them to develop appropriate personal boundaries and behaviours. If clients continue to exhibit unacceptable behaviours, you may terminate counseling and refer them to other resources. For example, refer hostile clients to anger management programs. (3)
  • You cannot access the services that clients need due to long wait lists and resource shortages. Help clients to develop contingency plans and provide them with interim counselling while waiting for appropriate services to become available. In some cases, advocate for other agencies to adjust admission criteria and develop needed client services. (3)
  • Deal with clients' family members who are uncooperative and dissatisfied. For example, child protection social workers may encounter parents who do not attend scheduled family visits and prevent social workers from seeing their children. They make repeated attempts to discuss their concerns with clients' families. They apply for mental health and child protection warrants to enforce their decisions if clients are at risk. (3)
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Finding Information
  • Locate information about community resources for clients by searching local resource directories, consulting information available on the Internet and telephoning community agencies directly. (1)
  • Find information about suspected cases of child abuse and neglect. For example, when sexual abuse of children is suspected, social workers may set up interviews with police officers, teachers, health professionals, children's families, friends and neighbours. They may also examine medical and school records. (3)
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Critical Thinking
  • Assess the performance of other social workers, practicum students and volunteers. Review feedback provided by clients and other social workers and observe them directly to assess their communication skills. For example, social work supervisors may participate in group counselling sessions to observe social workers' facilitation skills. (2)
  • Evaluate clients' needs. Interview clients and their families to gather information about social supports and stressors such as financial difficulties. For example, geriatric social workers may interview elderly people who are suffering from depression to determine what counselling services, medical treatment and social programs they need. They recommend resources, develop treatment plans and implement counselling strategies that will enhance their clients' quality of living. (3)
  • Assess clients' emotional health and mental stability. Ask questions and compare clients' responses to explore benchmarks of wellness such as feelings of self-worth, happiness and existence of supportive relationships with others. Some social workers administer psychosocial assessment and screening tools and analyze the results against norms. They assess the clients' behaviours and examine their appearance to identify signs of stress, poor health and indications of emotional instability. Mental health social workers may ask questions which their clients' levels of stress and assess whether they are taking their medications. (3)
  • Assess safety and welfare of children to determine their need for protection from abuse and neglect. Gather information from interviews with children, family members, neighbours, teachers and other professionals. Compare testimonies to medical evidence, police reports, psychiatric assessments and observations. Examine the children's living conditions to identify signs of neglect and make recommendations for corrective actions under the Child Protection Act. (3)
  • Judge the effectiveness of therapies and interventions. Compare clients' self-assessments over time, and observe their behaviours and overall demeanours to identify positive changes that indicate improvements. Consider clients' commitments to their goals and steps taken to reach them. (3)
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of counselling and social programs to recommend service revisions and social policy development. Analyze outcome and evaluation data collected from program participants to determine if services are meeting expected needs. Gather feedback from clients, staff members, colleagues and other stakeholders such as funding agents to identify successes, weaknesses and gaps in services that require attention. Review literature from similar programs and synthesize conclusions into recommendations for new social programs and policy reforms. (3)
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