Social Development Studies

Education for social impact

The common goal of those who study Social Development Studies is to help people, communities, and nations flourish. In Social Development Studies, you'll explore how human interactions are influenced by individual, collective, and structural forces including mental health, social relationships, economic conditions, education and politics, and movements for social justice and social change. 

Through courses in 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 to apply what you learn in class to real work situations.

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

Why study Social Development Studies at Waterloo?

  • Develop a solid foundation across the social sciences, including Psychology, Sociology, and Social Work
  • Learn through diverse course offerings in areas like social justice, social policy, community development, diversity and equity, and counselling  
  • Variety of program-specific experiential learning opportunities available
  • Engage with your peers and instructors through small class sizes and a supportive learning environment


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

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.

In second year, you should take the required statistics (SDS 250R) and research methods (SDS 251R) courses. Don't worry, your SDS advisor is there to help if you need it!

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


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


SDS is a flexible degree with lots of room to tailor your elective choices. You can add additional areas of expertise to your degree by including one of these specializations:

  • Diversity and Equity
  • Education
  • Individual Well-being and Development
  • Social Policy and Social Action
  • Social Work

For full details, visit our SDS Specializations Page.

You can also include any of the minor or double-majors available to all Waterloo students, or simply take courses that interest you! Popular areas of focus for SDS students include Psychology; Sociology; and Sexuality, Marriage, and Family 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.

Recent graduate positions:

  • 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

Check out what some of our SDS grads are doing now, visit Grads at Work.

Learn more about the future of careers in arts, humanities, social sciences, languages, and creative arts.

SDS courses are interesting and engaging. Plus, Waterloo and Renison set you up for academic and career success by providing dozens of supports. They're incredibly helpful, so you never feel like you need to figure it all out on your own.

Abby, third-year Social Development Studies student

Admission requirements

High School student/recent graduate

Admission average: Low 80s

  • Six Grade 12 U and/or M courses including English 4U (minimum grade of 70% is required)
  • Mathematics of Data Management is recommended as helpful background for the program
College student/recent graduate

Admission average: Minimum cumulative college average of 75%

  • Any Grade 12 English 4U (minimum grade of 70% is required), OR a college English/communications equivalency
University student/recent graduate

Admission average: Minimum cumulative university average of 65%

  • Any Grade 12 English 4U (minimum grade of 70% is required)
Not studying in Ontario?

Fees, Scholarships, and Financial Aid

Study options that suit your needs

  • Study SDS part-time or exclusively online and begin your studies in the Fall, Winter, or Spring term 
  • Apply to the 3-Year General degree or 4-Year Honours degree option 
  • Previously attended college or university? You may be eligible for transfer credits

SDS Living-Learning Community

As a first year student in SDS, you can be part of the SDS Living-Learning Community.  You will grouped into "clusters" of 8-16 SDS students living within your residence.

Whether you're staying up late to study for a test or getting together to work on a group project, it's reassuring to know that those around you are sharing similar experiences.

Upper-year peer leaders will organize academic events and study skills workshops throughout the year and be there to show you the ropes. Learn more about Student Life at Renison.

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 10-month Social Work program and earn a Bachelor of Social Work.

Stay social. Stay connected.

Be sure to follow @renisoncollege to stay connected to our community and get a glimpse of life as a Renison student.

Want to learn more about Renison and Social Development Studies? 

Get in touch!

If you have any questions, reach out to our Marketing and Recruitment Team! We'll answer all of your questions about Renison, and if we don't know the answer, we'll help to find it! Reach us by email at