Master of Social Work

Expand your career opportunities with a health specialization Master of Social Work

The School of Social Work is proud to offer Canada’s first health-focused Master of Social Work (MSW) program. The MSW program is housed at Renison, and is part of the Faculty of Health at the University of Waterloo. The MSW will build on your Bachelor of Social work degree and prepare you for leadership in health-related practice areas including clinical, community, health promotion and advocacy, program evaluation, policy, and research settings.

Waterloo’s online MSW degree will advance your understanding of, and practice skills needed to be responsive to, the social and structural determinants of health in relation to individual, community, and global well-being. You will also develop an advanced understanding of social work’s unique commitment in interprofessional health settings to address structural sources of injustice and inequity as they relate to health and health services access.

The MSW is delivered primarily online, allowing you to continue to participate in family and community life while pursuing a graduate degree in social work. The MSW program offers a rich and highly interactive learning environment where you will gain knowledge and skills in advanced social work practice within a focus on health, research/scholarship, professional leadership, and social work supervision.

On-campus attendance is mandatory on ONE occasion for a 5-day (Monday to Friday inclusive) block course offered as an intensive Summer Institute in August at the start of the program. The 5 days will be preceded by preparatory learning activities and an assignment, and followed by activities that will wrap up the course learning. This on-campus experience will give you an important opportunity to meet face-to-face with your peers, faculty members and staff to build and strengthen teaching and learning relationships. The second Summer Institute occurs in August of the graduating year and is offered as a three-week long, intensive, online course with daily synchronous components in the second week. 

Remote video URL

Renison's MSW program takes a holistic approach to social work

Why pursue an MSW at Waterloo?

  • Canada's first health-focused MSW program
  • Advance your understanding of, and practice skills needed to be responsive to, the social and structural determinants of health in relation to individual, community, and global well-being
  • Gain knowledge and skills in advanced social work practice with a focus on health, research/scholarship, professional leadership, and social work supervision
  • Get the best of both worlds - the flexibility of online learning with the personal connections made during the on-campus summer institute.

Program Options

Your MSW degree can be completed in one year (full-time; 3 terms) or in two years (part-time; 6 terms). Whether you pursue the full-time or part-time option, you will participate in:

  • Six core courses. Two of these are offered as 'Summer Institute' intensive courses: the first is an on-campus, 5-day course in August at the beginning of the program. The 5 days will be preceded by preparatory learning activities and an assignment, and followed by activities that will wrap up the course learning.  The second Summer Institute is an on-line, 3-week course (with daily synchronous learning periods during the middle week) in August of the student's graduating year. The remaining four core courses are completed as 12 week online courses.
  • Two online elective courses.
  • Two milestones:

Note: There is no research/thesis option. This is a course-based Master's program, and meets all University of Waterloo post-graduate degree requirements.

Full details:


Core Courses

  • SWK 600R - Health, Equity Social Justice(on-campus, 5-day, intensive Summer Institute course in August at the beginning of the program. The on-campus course will be preceded by preparatory learning activities and an assignment, and followed by activities that will wrap up the course learning.)
  • SWK 601R - Health Policy
  • SWK 602R - Social Work Practice in Health
  • SWK 603R - Social Work Leadership in Health Care(on-line, 3-week-long Summer Institute course, with daily synchronous learning periods during the middle week, 1-21 August at the end of the program)
  • SWK 606R - Advanced Social Work Research
  • SWK 608R- Health Issues and Ethics

Elective Courses (2 only)

  • SWK 609R - Clinical Practice in Mental Health Addictions*
  • SWK 610R - Substance Abuse and Chemical Dependency* (not offered in 2023-2024)
  • SWK 651R - Relational Practice with Families in Oncology 
  • SWK 653R - Grief and Palliative Care in Social Work
  • SWK 654R - Indigenous Health and Social Justice
  • SWK 680R - Critical Topics in Social Work and Health

* Anti-requisites. You may take SWK 609R or SWK 610R. 

When will I take each course? For detailed program schedules:

Field Placements

Field education (i.e. the practicum) is the key method of instruction and learning through which Social Work prepares you to become a practitioner, and is often considered the 'heart' of social work education. The practicum is intended to provide you with opportunities to integrate knowledge into your practice, and develop competence through a supervised social work experience related to your learning goals. Field education is comprised of two milestone requirements, the Practicum and the Integration Seminar.

The MSW field education program provides you with:
  • 462 hours in an approved practicum in your own community or region in Canada
  • flexibility in the organization of practicum hours, depending upon the agreement of the agency/organization
  • supervision from an agency-based field instructor qualified at the MSW level
  • facilitated online Integration Seminars. The Integration Seminar modules are intended to provide you with an opportunity for group discussion of issues encountered in the field practicum.

The location of the placement is determined through consultation and agreement among you, the MSW Team Lead of the School of Social Work, and the practicum agency/organization. All placements must be located in Canada.

More details about MSW field education

Admissions Requirements

Academic Requirements

1. A completed Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree from an accredited Social Work program.

Minimum 75% grade point average (GPA) in the final two years of study (equivalent to last 20 half-credit courses).

2. A Research Methods university-level course. There is no specific minimum mark requirement. You will be required to list your Research Methods course/s as part of the application process.


Other Application Requirements
  1. You must be living in Canada for the duration of the program.
  2. Transcripts, References, Resume and Supplementary Information Form (SIF).
  3. English Language Proficiency Criteria

Full MSW admissions criteria

Are you a French Canadian Citizen?

Canadian citizens with qualifications from French-speaking universities in Canada are not required to submit an English Language Proficiency (ELP) certificate. However, we are an English speaking institution and as such you need to ensure that your English speaking/comprehension skills are at a level that you would succeed in our program.

Did you complete your BSW degree outside of Canada?

International applicants, and applicants educated outside of Canada, are eligible to apply to the MSW program.

Further details.

“I really liked the MSW’s focus on the social determinants of health. I am able to see policies through multiple lenses – we can structure policies around those social determinants and really make a positive impact on our community. I’ve learned how to mobilize resources from different sources to best support the people I am working with.”

Msenwa Oliver Mweneake, MSW graduate

How to Apply

The application process for the MSW program includes two steps:

Step 1

Apply through Graduate Studies 

  • The online application process begins on September 1 and closes on November 15 each year.
  • You will be required to enter each of your educational institutions and the contact details for your three referees (1 academic and 2 professional) at this time - and pay a non-refundable application fee of $125 CAD. 
  • ONLY apply for ONE option, either Full-time or Part-time. You may NOT apply to both options.
Step 2

Submit your supporting documents

Please note: During the admission process you may be called for an interview.

For full details on how to apply, please see the MSW How to Apply page.

Career Options

Your MSW degree will lay the foundation for leadership in a range of settings related to health, including:

  • public health and health promotion programs
  • primary care and long-term care
  • hospitals
  • health-related governmental agencies
  • community-based health services
  • health advocacy groups.

Practicing in this field involves working with individuals, families, groups, communities and organizations on issues such as health disparities and inequities, health promotion and education, treatment and rehabilitation, building community partners and social support, and/or health reform promotion.

Further Education

Graduates from the MSW program often pursue a PhD in Social Work as well as Public Health, Health Systems, and Social Justice Education, among other doctoral degrees.

Common Questions

1. What are the tuition fees for the Master of Social Work Program?

  • Please find information about the tuition fees (charged per term, not per course), on the: Graduate Finance Fees web page
  • (Search by: term - home/international - Online Professional Graduate Programs - Master of Social Work)

2. What funding is available for MSW students?

  • If you are accepted into the MSW program, you are not guaranteed funding. We encourage you to investigate the possibility of scholarships, bursaries, or other awards for which you may be eligible at your home institution/organization or the appropriate government office.

  • Funding opportunities

3. What is the deadline for applications?

  • Applications open every fall for admission to the MSW program. Full details

For more, visit Frequently Asked Questions

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Want to learn more about Renison's School of Social Work or the Masters of Social Work? 

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Meet Keri

Hi there! Im Keri, the Administration and Student Services Manager at the School of Social Work. I can help answer your questions about the Master of Social Work.

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