Make a positive difference in the lives of individuals and communities
Explore how human interactions are influenced by individual, collective, and structural forces such as mental health, social relationships, economic conditions, education and politics, and movements for social justice and social change. The common goal of those who study Social Development Studies is to help people, communities, and nations flourish.
Through courses in areas such as psychology, sociology, and social work as well as hands-on community engagement opportunities, you’ll be well prepared for a meaningful career in social work, counselling, education, public services, human resources, law, or community and international service organizations. You can also enhance your learning experience by enrolling in co-op and applying what you learn in class to real work situations.
International exchanges in 25 countries
Co-op available through Honours Arts and Honours Arts and Business
Available as a major and minor
- Six Grade 12 U and/or M courses including English 4U (minimum final grade of 70% is required)
- Mathematics of Data Management is recommended as helpful background for the program.
Admission average: Low 80s
We recommend completing the Admission Information Form once you've applied.
Not studying in Ontario? Search our admission requirements.
Learn about transfer credit pathways from college Social Service Worker programs.
Applying to Social Development Studies (SDS)
There are several ways to choose SDS as your major. Please email us if you have questions about any of the options.
You can apply directly to the SDS major on your application. This is a perfect choice if you want to focus on SDS in first year and to have spaces reserved for you in SDS courses.
With considerable flexibility, Honours Arts lets you explore several majors in Arts, including SDS. At the end of first year, you can select SDS as your major.
Honours Arts and Business
Apply to Honours Arts and Business and choose SDS as your major at the end of first year to add valuable business courses to your degree.
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Monthly topics include how to choose a university program, what it's like to be a Waterloo student, and more.
Questions? Ask a student!
Contact an Arts student ambassador to learn about their experience.
Ask them questions such as why they chose their program, what the classes are like, and how you can get involved on campus.
First-year courses and beyond
September to December
January to April
*The Arts First requirement consists of two first-year courses that are capped at 25 students: ARTS 130 - Inquiry and Communication and ARTS 140 - Information and Analysis. Instead of listening to a lecture and trying to capture notes, Arts First courses will have you and your classmates working together to respond to a challenge posed by the instructor.
After first year
About half of the classes you’ll take will be SDS courses. With your remaining classes, you can choose electives from many of the 100 subject areas at Waterloo.
Sample upper-year courses
Co-op = relevant paid work experience
Alternate school terms and paid co-op work terms throughout your degree, exploring career areas and types of employers as your career interests evolve.
Sample co-op job titles
- Client and sales support
- English teacher
- Training and documentation associate
- Project coordinator
Sample co-op employers
- Third Eye Solutions Inc.
- University of Waterloo
- Chicopee Ski and Summer Resort
Customize your degree
You can add additional areas of expertise to your degree by including one of the areas of focus in the program.
- Diversity and Equity
- Individual Well-being and Development
- Social Policy and Social Action
- Social Work
You can also include one of the minors available to all Waterloo students. Popular areas of focus for SDS students include Psychology; Sociology; and Sexuality, Marriage, and Family Studies.
What can you do with a degree in Social Development Studies?
Graduates commonly pursue careers in support work, child and youth counselling, early childhood education, and more. They often work in schools, youth mentorship groups, counselling offices, hospitals, and a wide variety of government departments.
- Senior Case Worker - Regional Municipality of Waterloo
- Probation Officer - Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services
- Bereavement Coordinator - St. Paul's Hospital
- Coordinator, Newcomer Settlement – Multicultural Association of Perth-Huron
- Community Behaviour Consultant – Woodstock General Hospital
- Support Worker – Community Living North Halton
- Early Childhood Educator – Waterloo Catholic District School Board
Apply directly or choose SDS as a major at the end of first year
Offered by the Faculty of Arts
Earn a Bachelor of Arts in Social Development Studies
Ready to learn more?
- Visit the Social Development Studies website
- Email Samantha Boehmer, our Arts recruitment co-ordinator, who can answer questions about the program
- Subscribe to our newsletter to get tips and advice from current students
- Related programs
Visit our Beyond Ideas website to learn about Social Development Studies at Waterloo, studying abroad, the student experience, co-op, and more.
Get some serious experience
Enhance your résumé with an apprenticeship, where you’ll get experience by volunteering in a local community agency or by helping a professor conduct their research.
Fast-track your BSW
Want to become a professional social worker? After completing SDS, you can apply directly to our accredited one-year Social Work program and earn a Bachelor of Social Work.