Social Development Studies

Make a positive difference in the lives of individuals and communities

Students in the Social Development Studies program at the University of Waterloo.

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.

icon of the globeInternational exchanges in 25 countries

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

icon of open bookAvailable as a major and minor


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

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.


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

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.

Apply directly

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.

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  paid co-op terms to earn money and explore career opportunities.

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  paid co-op terms to earn money and explore career opportunities.


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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.


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

icon of network of peopleOffered by the Faculty of Arts

Graduation capEarn a Bachelor of Arts in Social Development Studies


Ready to learn more?

Student stories

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.