Social Development Studies

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.

Social Development Studies admission requirements  

Ontario students: 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

See also Honours Arts or Honours Arts and Business for admission requirements in those programs.

We recommend completing the Admission Information Form once you've applied.

Not studying in Ontario? Search our admission requirements.


Options for studying Social Development Studies (SDS)

There are several ways to choose Social Development Studies as your major. Please email us if you have questions about any of the options.

Apply directly to Social Development Studies

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.

Apply through Honours Arts

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.

Choose the regular system of study or add optional paid co-op terms to earn money and explore career opportunities.

Apply through 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.

Choose the regular system of study or add optional paid co-op terms to earn money and explore career opportunities.


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.





First-year courses

September to December

January to April

  • SDS 150R - Lifespan Processes
  • SDS 131R - Social Ideas, Social Policy and Political Practice
  • ARTS 130 - Inquiry and Communication *
  • Two electives

*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 Social Development Studies courses. With your remaining classes, you can choose electives from many of the 100 subject areas at Waterloo.

Sample upper-year courses

PSYCH 334R – Theories of Individual Counselling Psychology
SDS 350R – Adult Life Crises and Events
SOCWK 321R – Social Work with Families
SDS 425R – Educational Equity in Canada


Marielle chose Social Development Studies because it can lead to careers in teaching, counselling, and social work. 

Arrow pointing up and clickingApply directly or choose SDS as a major at the end of first year

briefcaseCo-op available through Honours Arts and Honours Arts and Business

Graduation capEarn a Bachelor of Arts in Social Development Studies


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
  • BlackBerry

icon of the globeInternational exchanges in 25 countries

icon of network of peopleOffered by the Faculty of Arts

icon of open bookAvailable as a major and minor


Customize your degree

You can add additional areas of expertise to your degree by including one of the areas of focus in Social Development Studies.

  • Cultural Diversity
  • Education
  • 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 Social Development Studies students include Psychology, Sociology, and Sexuality, Marriage, and Family Studies.

What can you do with a degree in Social Development Studies?

Waterloo 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, hospitals, and community centres.

Recent graduates

  • 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

For more information on potential careers, check out our page on careers in arts, humanities, social sciences, languages, and creative arts.

Ready to learn more?