Social Development Studies

Make a positive difference in the lives of individuals and communities.

Combine courses in psychology, sociology, social work, and interdisciplinary Social Development Studies (SDS) topics to understand social issues from many different perspectives.

You’ll explore how physical and mental health, socioeconomic realities, education, and emotional support affect well-being on the local, national, and global scale.

With the knowledge you gain in our small classes and the skills you develop through 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.

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.


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

About the program

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 Business

Graduation cap Earn a Bachelor of Arts in Social Development Studies

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


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 to Honours Arts and choose SDS as your major.

With considerable flexibility, Honours Arts lets you explore several majors in Arts, including SDS. At the end of first year, you can choose SDS as your major.

Apply to Honours Arts and Business and choose SDS as your major.

If you apply to Honours Arts and Business, you can choose SDS as your major at the end of first year and include valuable business skills as part of your degree.

Apply to Honours Arts and Business (co-op) and choose SDS as your major.

Choose SDS as your major at the end of first year and include valuable business courses and paid co-op work experience through Honours Arts and Business (co-op).


Social Development Studies admission requirements

  • Ontario students: 6 Grade 12 U and/or M courses including
    • English 4U - (final grade of 70% is required)
    • Mathematics of Data Management is recommended (i.e., it will help you succeed at Waterloo but will not affect admissions)
  • Admission average: Low 80s

  • See also Honours Arts or Honours Arts and Business for admission requirements in those programs.
  • Not studying in Ontario? Search our admission requirements.

First-year courses

September to December

PSYCH 101R - Introduction to Psychology
SOCWK 120R - Introduction to Social Work
SOC 101R - Introduction to Sociology
ARTS 140 - Information and Analysis*
1 elective

January to April

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

*The Arts First requirement consists of 2 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


Customize your degree

You can choose a specialization within Social Development Studies (Cultural diversity, Education, Individual well-being and development, Social policy and social action, and Social work) or add additional areas of interest by including a minor as part of your degree.

Gain relevant work experience through co-op

By choosing Honours Arts and Business (co-op) and majoring in SDS, you can 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

  • BlackBerry
  • Third Eye Solutions Inc.
  • University of Waterloo
  • Chicopee Ski and Summer Resort

Recent graduates

  • Head of Legal, Engage Pakistan
  • Student-Parent Support Worker / Tutor Facilitator, Pathways to Education Program
  • Child and Youth Counsellor, Lutherwood
  • Case Manager, ADAPT
  • Coordinator of Care, Participation House
  • Global Learning Coordinator, University of Waterloo
  • Manager, Parents for Community Living
  • Team Lead, Engagement and Wellness, McMaster University

Learn more about Social Development Studies