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. A 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.

Program highlights

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 (BSW).


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

What will you learn?

First-year courses

In your first year, you'll develop communication skills through Waterloo's Arts First program, take introductory courses in psychology, sociology, social work, and social development studies, and have two free electives of your choosing.

Learn more about courses you'll take for your SDS degree.

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
  • 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 SDS students include Psychology; Sociology; and Sexuality, Marriage, and Family Studies.


Get tips from Waterloo students

Join our newsletter for tips such as choosing a program, life at Waterloo, and finances.

Contact a student ambassador

Ask a Faculty of Arts student about their program, classes, getting involved on campus, and more!


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. This is a perfect choice if you want to focus on SDS in first year and have spaces reserved for you in SDS courses. Available through the regular system of study.

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 between the co-op and regular systems of study.

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 between the co-op and regular systems of study.



Apply to Honours Arts or Honours Arts and Business and choose Social Development Studies as your major at the end of first year.

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

Not studying in Ontario? Search our admission requirements for Honours Arts or Honours Arts and Business.

Learn about transfer credit pathways from college Social Service Worker programs.

Connect with us

Questions about courses, programs, requirements, careers?

Please contact our Faculty of Arts recruitment team who can answer any questions you have.


Related programs