Social Work

The Faculty of Social Work offers two degree programs, a Master of Social Work and a Master of Indigenous Social Work.

Master of Social Work

Associate Dean - Research & Graduate Program: Gabriela Novotna, PhD       
MSW Program Advisor: Meghan Gardiner Hoehn

Master of Indigenous Social Work (First Nations University of Canada)

Graduate Program Coordinator: Susannah Walker
Note:  Admission to this program will resume for Fall 2022 and in alternating years thereafter, i.e. 2024, 2026.

Faculty Listing

Master of Social Work

Program Description

The Faculty of Social Work is committed to a graduate education program that will enhance the quality of individual and community well being.  Our focus is with the development of advanced social work intervention methods as well as with broader aspects and issues of service delivery, professional leadership, social policy analysis, and social welfare research.

Students may select major areas of study such as: social policy, social justice and human rights, direct practice, community development and research.  The MSW program provides an option to complete the program with a thesis or a practicum.

Program Objective
The MSW program is designed to enable students to undertake a variety of responsibilities in management, policy formulation, program consultation, planning, research roles, and advanced direct social work practice within human services. Fundamental to the program is an emphasis on integrative analysis as a means of understanding the manner in which social research, direct social work practice, social policy development, and social administration are interrelated.

Candidates may be enrolled on either a full time or part time basis. Students must maintain candidacy. No more than two semesters may elapse before a student is required to register. Students have a maximum of five years to complete the thesis program and six years to complete the practicum program.

Candidates for the degree of Master of Social Work must hold a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree with a minimum GPA of 70% and have the equivalent of at least two years employment in a social work position following their BSW degree.  However, human service employment gained prior to and during the BSW degree may be considered as part of the two year employment requirement.  A previous undergraduate or graduate course in research methods is required.  In addition, evidence of awareness of contemporary global and social issues and values will be assessed through a letter of intent and stated areas of social research. Applicants are required to submit two confidential letter of reference. It is recommended that at least one reference be able to speak to the applicant’s academic and research abilities. Preference will be given to applicants with experience in the broad field of human services.

The MSW program provides an option of completing the requirements with a thesis, or a practicum. The practicum option contains two streams: the field practicum and the research practicum. Program requirements are slightly different depending on which option is chosen. Thesis students, admitted after 2015, must complete six courses and a thesis.  Field practicum students must complete six courses and a practicum. Research practicum students must complete six courses and a project undertaken in the field.  All three groups will participate in a graduate seminar. Course requirements include two research courses (qualitative and quantitative research) and for students enrolled in the thesis route, SW 885 (Thesis Proposal) is an additional required course.The following presents the program requirements for each program option (course offerings may alternate year to year)

Degree Requirements

Master of Social Work (MSW) (thesis)

SW 880 3 credit hours
SW 881 3 credit hours

Three of:
SW 803, 810, 811, 812, 816, 817, 820, 821AA-ZZ, 831, 835, 840AA-ZZ, 849, 850AA-ZZ, 851, 852, 855, 860AA-ZZ, 861, 867, 872, 873, 876, 879, 890AA-ZZ

9 credit hours
SW 885 3 credit hours
SW 901 12 credit hours
Total 30 credit hours

Master of Social Work (MSW) (research practicum)

SW 880 3 credit hours
SW 881 3 credit hours

Four of:
SW 803, 810, 811, 812, 816, 817, 820, 821AA-ZZ, 831, 835, 840AA-ZZ, 849, 850AA-ZZ, 851, 852, 855, 860AA-ZZ,  861, 867, 872, 873, 876, 879, 890AA-ZZ

12 credit hours
SW 910 12 credit hours
Total 30 credit hours

Master of Social Work (MSW) (field practicum)

SW 880 3 credit hours
SW 881  3 credit hours
Four of:
SW 803, 810, 811, 812, 816, 817, 820, 821AA-ZZ, 831, 835, 840AA-ZZ, 849, 850AA-ZZ, 851, 852, 855, 860AA-ZZ, 861, 867, 872, 873, 876, 879, 890AA-ZZ
12 credit hours
SW 920 12 credit hours
Total 30 credit hours


SW 803 End of Life Issues (3)
This course deals with impacts of end of life issues on individuals, families, social workers and health practitioners. Cultural, societal and personal perspectives of death and dying will be explored, along with roles of social workers and health professionals in practice, research, education and policy in end of life care.
Note: Crosslisted with AGIN 803

SW 810 Social Policy Analysis (3)
This course will examine the historical basis and contemporary trends in social policy in Western welfare states, and consider the effectiveness of policy outcomes in light of social work's goals of promoting social justice and improving social welfare. Primary attention will be given to the Canadian experience, with international comparisons.

SW 811 Family and Child Policies and Programs (3)
Historical, theoretical, comparative and current literature will be used to gain a comprehensive overview of the development of policies relevant to families and to children. A critical analysis of family and child policies developed within the liberal welfare state will be incorporated into this course. The development of alternative policies and programs will be considered.

SW 812 Theory and Practice in Human Service Organizations (3)
This course is designed to provide MSW students with the conceptual and technical skills to conduct appropriate interventions in human service organizations. Topics include: the role of social work in organizational intervention, organizational theories, ethics, organizational development as well as critical review of management roles and practices.

SW 816 Aging, Society and Human Service Work (3)
This course considers social work practice, research, education and policy with seniors in the community and in institutions. The focus of the course will be the role of the social work perspective in each of these professional activities with seniors.
Note: Crosslisted with AGIN 816

SW 817 Critical Issues in Addiction (3)
This course explores research, theory, and policy in addictions and examines individual, group and community levels interventions within the Canadian political and economic realities.  The complex interactions of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors will be examined to provide knowledge and skills in advanced social work practice in the field of addiction.

SW 820 Feminist Theory and Analysis (3)
This course will provide a feminist analysis of the historic and current issues pertaining to women's lives and to critique patriarchal institutions and structures of society. A specific emphasis will be on feminist therapy as it pertains to practice and the contributions of feminist research.

SW 821AA-ZZ Selected Topics in Social Policy (3)
These courses may be offered by the Faculty of Social Work. Such courses will be arranged as needed when the student's research interests are determined.

SW 831 Work, Welfare and Social Justice (3)
Most people's economic security hinges on attachment to the labour market. Certain groups, particularly women, the disabled and people of colour, often confront significant employment inequities. This course will help students understand the relationships between work and employment issues, and explore possibilities for promoting social justice through policy and practice.

SW 835 Current Aboriginal Issues in Social Work Practice (3)
This course will critically examine current counselling models through the lens of colonization, decolonization and employing cross-cultural, structural and anti-oppressive approaches to social work practice with specific attention given to the historical legacies of colonization and residential school in examining practice issues of power, cultural competence and sensitivity.

SW 840AA-ZZ Selected Topics in Direct Social Work Practice (3)
Courses which emphasize direct social work practice with individuals, groups, families and communities will be offered as needed.

SW 849 Social Work Practice with Families (3)
This course will review various approaches of family therapies and discuss how they can be used in a variety of practice settings and for a wide array of issues and problems.  Limitations, criticisms and ethical issues for each approach will be explored.

SW 850AA-ZZ Special Topics in Social Justice (3)
Courses will be offered that focus on issues of social oppression, on human rights, and on social justice within Canadian and international contexts.

SW 851 Social Justice, Human Rights and Social Work (3)
The course will focus on the evolution of human rights as tools for promoting social justice. Some of the areas to be explored include: inequalities as they relate to gender, radicalized minorities, children, individuals with special needs, those living in poverty. The course will give careful consideration to the impact of human rights laws on the job of the social worker.

SW 852 Advanced Social Work Practice with Children and Youth (3)
This class will review child and adolescent development, ethical considerations in working with children and youth, diversity, group work and other theories of intervention.  Students will be expected to focus on common problems for children and youth. 

SW 855 Social Work and the Environment (3)
This course explores emerging theoretical perspectives and skills necessary for critical ecological social work practice. Links between environmental, social, structural and justice issues will be made through critiques of western industrialization and consumerism. Implications for direct practice will occur through reflection, dialogue, and the development of holistic practice frameworks.

SW 860AA-ZZ Special Topics in Social Work (3)
Course offerings in a variety of topics of relevance to social work. Generally these courses will be offered as electives.

SW 861 Ethical Issues, Ideologies and Practice (3)
This course calls attention to the moral essence of social work intervention and to the fundamental beliefs, values and ethical predicaments inherent in practice, whether on the front-line, in administration, or at the policy level. The course deals with selected current issues, controversies or dilemmas in the field.

SW 867 Critical Indigenous Analysis of Social Welfare Policy (3)
This course focuses on critical and theoretical analyses of historical and contemporary social welfare policies and practises affecting Indigenous people in Canada.  A wide array of Indigenous theory writings and public policies are introduced and reviewed to facilitate understanding of Indigenous and decolonizing frameworks for social welfare policy anaylsis. 

SW 872 Community Organizing & Social Work Practice (3)
This course explores various theories, principles, models and strategies of community organizing, and their importance for social work. Emphasis is placed on issues of power and the reallocation of power within society.

SW 873 Social Work Practice with Couples (3)
This is a graduate level course on social work practice with couples. This course is theory and practice driven and equips students with couple's therapy assessment and treatment skills. The course focuses on experiential learning and students will have multiple opportunities to practice counselling skills in class.

SW 876 Perspectives and Models of Social Work for Direct Practice (3)
Major SW practice perspectives/models are subject to a critical comparative analysis with respect to the epistemological background and the basic values and premises about people. Applicability of the major practice perspectives/models to SW practice is examined, with a concentrated focus on relevant approaches for differing situations of practice. 

SW 879 Social Work, Empowerment and Disability (3)
Drawing on a critical realist perspective, this course will examine a pluralist, engaged and nuanced approach to disability in relation to practice, policy, research and education. Key topics discussed will include dichotomies such as disabled people versus non-disabled people, identity politics, bioethics in disability, and care and social relationships. 

SW 880 Quantitative Methods in Social Work Research (3)
This course will provide an overview of design and methodology options in quantitative research with an emphasis on the application to social welfare policy and social work practice issues. In addition to methodological issues, the course will review the appropriate use and interpretation of statistical techniques in social work research.
Prerequisite: An undergraduate course in research methods (such as SW 451)

SW 881 Qualitative and Applied Research Methods (3)
This course is designed to develop a thorough knowledge and range of skills in the research methodologies of qualitative, applied, and participatory research and action research for use in social work practice situations. The course will review the foundations of qualitative research and their relevance to social work practice-based and knowledge building research.

SW 885 Thesis Proposal (3)
Students registered in the thesis route will complete a comprehensive thesis proposal.

SW 890AA-ZZ Directed Readings (3)
Directed individual reading courses on topics approved by the Supervisory Committee.

SW 900 MSW Practicum Report (3)
This consists of a written report and analysis of the practicum experience. Offered only for students admitted to the MSW program before Fall 2000.
Prerequisite: SW 904 and admission to the MSW program
Note: SW 900 and SW 904 are offered only to students who were admitted previous to Fall 2000. Program changes in Spring 2000 eliminated the need for these courses for students who are subsequently admitted.

SW 901 Thesis (1-15)
This is the student's MSW thesis. Students participate in a seminar as part of the thesis requirements.

SW 904 MSW Practicum (1-9)
Students will be involved in experimental field-based learning activities for the purpose of pursuing and developing practice and analysis skills related to significant areas of human services. Reflection-in-action and participatory research as a contribution to the acquiring of skills and concepts based on theory emerging out of practice and practice informing theory will be emphasized. Offered only for students admitted to the MSW program before Fall 2000.
Note: SW 900 and SW 904 are offered only to students who were admitted previous to Fall 2000. Program changes in Spring 2000 eliminated the need for these courses for students who are subsequently admitted.

SW 910 Research Practicum (3-12)
Registration for the project will follow the same pattern and conditions as the registration for a thesis. Projects are conducted in a field setting under the supervision of a social work professional associate.

SW 920 Field Practicum (3-12)
Students register in the practicum which will take place over one or two semesters in a social work practice setting under the supervision of an experienced social work field supervisor. Students work under the direction of a faculty member over the duration of the practicum.
Prerequisite: Completion of all required coursework for MSW unless approved by MSW chair.

Master of Indigenous Social Work

Program Description

The Faculties of Social Work and Graduate Studies and Research offers graduate work leading to a MISW degree.  Faculty Members form the School of Indigenous Social Work at First Nations University of Canada are involved in this program. The graduate program of studies aims to prepare students as clinical practitioners, especially skilled in First Nations approaches to therapy and especially sensitive to issues facing First Nations and Metis communities. As clinicians, they would be capable of functioning in a broad spectrum of human services activity and in a wide variety of social work and social welfare settings.  There will be a focus on the abuses of residential schools, including intergenerational effects, as one lens through which generic clinical skills, relevant to serving all populations, are developed. The program encourages the development of critical analytical framework with which to understand the effects of colonization on Indigenous people. The program has a commitment to respecting the principles and practices of Indigenous pedagogy, and to building its teaching and learning experiences on a foundation which respects traditional Indigenous knowledge and the collective wisdom of the Elders.

The program of studies leads to a Master of Indigenous Social Work (MISW). Candidates will enroll on a full-time basis. On-line application is made through the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research website with an application deadline of March 15 of each alternating year ie. 2022, 2024, 2026 etc.

There are two program options: an internship route and a thesis route. The internship route will include clinical interships.

Degree Requirements

Master of Indigenous Social Work (MISW) (internship)

MISW 800
MISW 810
MISW 822
MISW 830
MISW 850
MISW 860
MISW 900
MISW 904

3 credit hours
3 credit hours
3 credit hours
3 credit hours
3 credit hours
3 credit hours
3 credit hours
9 credit hours
Total 30 credit hours

Master of Indigenous Social Work (MISW) (thesis)
This route is not offered at this time.

MISW 800
MISW 810
MISW 822
MISW 830
MISW 850
MISW 860
MISW 901
3 credit hours
3 credit hours
3 credit hours
3 credit hours
3 credit hours
3 credit hours
12 credit hours
Total 30 credit hours


All courses require admission to the MSW or MISW programs as prerequisite.

MISW 800 Cultural Camp (3)
This course provides an opportunity to learn traditional Aboriginal spirituality, values, philosophy, and ceremonies. At its core is a weeklong experiential cultural immersion program guided by elders, taking place in a local First Nationsl community, coupled with seminars to prepare for and debrief the experience.

MISW 810 The Residential School Experience and Its Legacy of Abuse (3)
An examination of the nature, history and structure of the residential school system, emphasizing the experience of residential school students and the abuses they suffered, including intergenerational impacts of this legacy of abuse. Psychological, cultural and political perspectives will be employed, focusing on generic issues of colonization and liberation

MISW 822 Traditional Aboriginal Counseling (3)
An exploration of the principles and practices of traditional Aboriginal counseling with the dual aim of having students develop effective ways of collaborating with the healing efforts of traditional counselors in Aboriginal communities, and enhance the cultural relevance and sensitivity of their own counselling approaches.

MISW 830 Individual Counseling (3)
An individual counseling course examining First Nations and Western approaches to counseling with regard to the legacy of residential schooling. Emphasis is placed on effective collaboration and integration of approaches, making Western approaches more sensitive to First Nations healing, and developing deeper understanding and practice of First Nations methods of therapy.

MISW 840AA-ZZ Selected Topics (3)
Courses which emphasize direct social work practice with Aboriginal individuals, groups, families and communities will be offered as needed

MISW 850 Group, Family, and Community Counseling (3)
An intensive practice course examining First Nations and Western approaches to group, family, and community counseling, particularly emphasizing residential school impacts. With emphasis on effective integration of perspectives on issues of health and healing, this course facilitates a deeper understanding of First Nations counseling methods.

MISW 860 Community-based Participatory Research (3)
This course will focus on community-based research as a methodology which can be most relevant to the issues and needs of Indigenous communities. Emphasis on both qualitative and quantitative methods including statistical analysis, all within the context of collaborating sensitively with affected communities.

MISW 900 Internship Research Report (3)
This course consists of a written report and analysis of the internship experience, including the student's areas of learning and the students' understanding of their boundaries of competence and qualifications and their abilities to build an effective network of qualified serviace providers.

MISW 901 Thesis Research (3-12)
This is the students’ MISW thesis

MISW 904 Internship (3-12)
This course is an experimental field-based agency placement. The student will develop clinical and counseling skills under professional supervision. The integration of theory and practice of the needs of the Aboriginal community will be paramount considerations in the internship experiences.