Best Universities in Canada for Social Work

Are you in high school and want to get into the best universities in Canada for Social Work?

The CampusRankings team has created the most comprehensive analysis on the web of the best universities in Canada for social work with a focus on undergraduate degrees. To see our unfiltered, student-generated ratings on Canadian universities, visit the latest University Rankings on our rankings page.

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We evaluate each school based on threecriteria; (1) level of undergraduate education, (2) reputation, (3) student life & happiness. This will ultimately result in a final score based on equal weightings. The top 5 best universities in Canada for social work are as follows (in no particular order). Please either read through or click on each school to jump there. It’s important to note that any CASWE accredited program will give you a great opportunity at a career in social work. Each of the below university programs are CASWE accredited. 

– University of Waterloo
– University of British Columbia
– York University
– Carleton University
– Ryerson University

Renison University College at University of Waterloo



Waterloo’s Social Work program is a 10 month, 3 term program. During this time, students have 2 days of classes and 3 days of practicum. The course is not available online. To get in, students need to have completed a bachelor degree.

Waterloo likes to promote itself as a university that encourages diversity, and the Social Work program is a prime example of that. In addition to its Aboriginal Perspectives course, there a few courses related to diversity in the program.

Times Higher Education listed Waterloo as the 6th best social sciences university in Canada while the QS World University Rankings put Waterloo as 9th best for social sciences in Canada.

According to, University of Waterloo came second in Canada for attracting the best employers which is an indication of the strong reputation the school has. Although practicum is required as part of accreditation, the 3 days a week of practicum is hugely beneficial in career preparation. Given that Renison University College is focused on social sciences and social development, it is known as a go-to place for recruiters.


The University of Waterloo has one of the best reputations in Canada, even the world, for computer engineering and computer science, but that reputation doesn’t fully extend to Social Work. That being said, the power of the Waterloo degree will help with Social Work.

According to, University of Waterloo came fourth for reputation out of all institutions in Canada. Moreover, in MacLean’s Magazine’s rank of university reputations, Waterloo finished second in Canada.

Although social work is only one aspect of social science, it is worth noting that US News (which methodology is heavy on reputation) rated Waterloo’s social sciences as the 9th best in Canada. At a more macro level, Maclean’s ranked Waterloo as the 3rd best comprehensive university in Canada in its reputational survey.


Student experience and student life is an important aspect of the university experience and Waterloo seems to perform adequately in this respect, but nothing special. Some student reviews mentioned that the 5 day a week course load (between classes and practicum) minimized their ability to have a strong work-life balance. That being said, given that this program is delivered by Renison College, it has its own sort of student community, including a 220 student residence.

Waterloo failed to make the list of top 10 universities in Canada for fun, and according to the Globe and Mail Report on University 2017, Waterloo was rated as average for student experience. MacLean’s also ranked Waterloo 11/14 for comprehensive universities for student satisfaction. Moreover, it also failed to reach the top ten in most recommended universities in Canada. according to CampusRankings. Thus, this may be the single biggest reason why some may avoid Waterloo, but then again, Wilfred Laurier University is close by for those who want to party.

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University of British Columbia



UBC has so many strong programs, and sometimes its Social Work program flies under the radar.

Unlike Waterloo, the program at UBC is 2 years full time (4 terms) after already completed 60 credits in bachelor of arts or science as opposed to 3 terms after completing a full bachelor. Students have practicum 2 days a week for their entire 2 terms, then 4 days a week for one term in second year. One interesting addition to UBC’s curriculum is their social work in First Nations communities which is increasingly important in the industry.

Times Higher Education, US News and QS World Rankings all ranked UBC as the second best university for social sciences in Canada as well as 28th, 21st, and 35th in the world, respectively.

Due to all these factors, UBC is definitely one of the best universities in Canada for social work.


Sometimes student from Eastern and Atlantic Canada do not think of UBC as one of the most reputable universities in Canada, but make no mistake, in Central and Western Canada, as well as in Asia, UBC is highly reputable.

According to, UBC was the 6th most reputable university in Canada. MacLean’s goes a step further and ranks UBC as the 3rd most reputable behind U of T and Waterloo. QS World Rankings also puts UBC third in Canada and 51st in the world. Times Higher Education goes even further rankings puts UBC as second in Canada and 40th in the world in its World Reputation Rankings.

US News also ranks UBC as having the second best reputation in Canada for Social Sciences, and 21st in the world.

Therefore, from a reputation perspective, UBC is definitely one of the best universities in Canada for Social Work.


This is where UBC differentiates itself a bit from other super prestigious universities in Canada – it has pretty good student life. This could very well be a combination of the stunning landscape, the comparatively good weather, and the amazing city UBC is near, but it’s also because UBC has been actively trying to keep a community feel while still being one of the biggest universities in Canada.

Although its Globe and Mail student experience score was the same as McGill or Waterloo, its ranking for most fun school out of schools on this list.

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York University



Unlike UBC or Waterloo, to enter Social Work at York, you do not need any previous university education. You can do a direct-entry but the program is 4 years, which would make it one of the most focused social work programs in Canada. Alternatively, you can do post-degree entry where the student would require a bachelor degree to enter and then take 2 years to complete. Thus, in this sense, the total required education is greater than Waterloo or UBC for social work.

One thing that York University specializes in through it curriculum is human rights and social justice. This specialization is built upon during the required practicum that has some of the best employers and opportunities in Canada. Also, given the size of the school, the social work program is fairly small being about 80 students, which is smaller than some other schools on this list.

QS World Rankings also puts York as 7th best in social sciences in Canada and given that social work is one piece of the pie, it’s clear that York University is on the best universities in Canada for Social Work.


York University as a whole does not have the greatest reputation domestically or abroad. However, its reputation for Social Work is very strong. Thus, any hit you might take for having a York degree vs a McGill degree (for example) is made up for by its strong program reputation, and the top employers know this.

The Times Higher Education and QS World Rankings both list York University as the 7th best for social sciences in Canada, and given that York’s Social Work program is specifically sought after, it’s clear this is one of the most reputatable and best universities in Canada for social work programs.


This is where York University doesn’t fare so well. It does not score well in any of’s student focused rankings for fun, safety, or activities. Also, according to Globe and Mail, it got a considerably below average student experience. Thus, we would recommend this program for people who are serious about studies and are not looking for a strong community field or a party school.

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Carleton Universitybest-universities-in-canada-for-social-work-carleton


Carleton University usually isn’t near the top of many programs, but for a few, they are the leaders. Journalism, International Affairs, and Social Work at Carleton are each some of the best in the country. The program is four years, but if you already have a university degree, you’ll go directly into 3rd year.

Carleton’s pitch, or its Carleton advantage as they call it, is that Carleton offers a “structural” approach.  This approach “recognizes that the society in which we live consists of diverse groups of people who have differential access to economic and political power. The ability to explore the connections between individual issues and socio-economic structures provides a basis for critical social analysis, empowerment and liberation.”

The program, like other accredited programs, has a field practicum. Students also have an on-campus field practicum with other students. It is quite a small program of under 50 people so for those who like small classrooms, this is a great option, making it one of the best universities for social work in Canada.


Carleton University lacks the reputation of all the schools on this list, however, Carleton is still quite well known for research. Moreover, its structural approach is quite reputable and has led many students to attend just because of it.

Moreover, being in Canada’s capital, Carleton is well known to employers in the National Capital Region. In fact, given the field, going to Carleton gives students a unique advantage over many other schools in the country due to the relevancy of the field in the capital.


Similarly to York University, Carleton is a commuter university outside of the city core. It also doesn’t have much of a community feel and night life isn’t amazing. Given that it’s a bit further out from the city’s nightlife, a lot of the social life at the school resolves around the oncampus pubs such as Oliver’s.

Nonetheless, students do tend to enjoy the school, particularly their athletic teams and facilities.

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Ryerson University



The social work program at Ryerson is a 4 year program, or 3 year program if the student has any diploma from a public Canadian college that is eligible for registration with the external,Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers. Students in their third year must do 336 hours of field placement, and then in their fourth year 504 hours, making this the most field work out of any program on this list.

Ryerson’s focus is on integrating anti-oppression and social justice into its teaching, with attention to marginalized populations and communities. Ryerson also has a Social Work Students’ Union (SWSU) to help build a strong sense of community, along with providing hubs for social work students to relax, socialize and study.


Ryerson is known as having incredibly hands on university degrees which can be attributed to its history as being a College. As such, the Social Work program is well known as it requires substantial field work and prepares students well for their careers.

That being said, internationally, Ryerson has very little reputation compared to other universities on this list and therefore doesn’t quite stack up. Reputation isn’t everything and as such Ryerson should still be considered one of the best universities in Canada for Social Work.


According to the Globe and Mail, students rated Ryerson as having a considerably below average student experience. The university itself is also not well known as being the most fun despite being in Toronto. Moreover, the results show overall that Ryerson did not fare very well in terms of community feel, traditions or fun.

However, in the social work program, given their social work union, this does enhance the community feel a bit and create a more inclusive environment.

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As explained above, all of these criteria are equally rated so our finally score may not reflect what you need so please read the entire article. That being said, our final score of the best universities in Canada for Social Work is below:


If you’re still unsure where to go to university, make sure to take our MatchU quiz. It’s free and takes just 3 minutes!


Alex Dorward

Alex Dorward

Alex is the co-founder of UniversityHub (now CampusRankings) and current Technical Director for CampusRankings. Alex grew up in Ottawa before attending St FX in Antigonish, NS. After graduating, he joined Accenture and is currently a Manager in Accenture Digital.