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Social Work

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Thesis-based program

Program overview

The Master of Social Work (MSW) is a nationally-accredited program that prepares students for advanced professional practice in social work. The thesis-based route is designed for students who intend to pursue doctoral studies and/or anticipate a career requiring advanced program evaluation and research skills. 

Students are required to attend the residency attached to their program, which may be in Calgary or Edmonton.

Students holding an accredited Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree are admitted directly into a 36-month thesis-based MSW program. Students admitted with a non-social work degree complete 9 foundation courses (in 12 months) followed by the 36-month program (48 months total).

Completing this program

  • Courses: Students must follow the prescribed curriculum plan for their specialization and complete all 10 courses (30 units) if they entered the program with a BSW or 19 courses (57 units) if they entered the program with a non-social work degree.  The specialization year consists of 4 courses in Advanced Social Work Practice (12 units), 4 specialization courses (12 units), and 2 thesis research courses (6 units).

  • Thesis: Upon completion of required courses, students conduct original research and prepare a thesis which is evaluated on the written content and is orally defended before an examination committee.

  • Research Proposal: Students should complete all coursework prior to having their proposal approved by their supervisor.

  • Optional Practicum:  Students may elect to complete Social Work 660 Advanced Practicum, but it is not a mandatory component of the thesis-based degree.  Students with a non-BSW degree may need additional Foundational Practicum hours to meet accreditation requirements.


  • Clinical Social Work Practice (CSWP)
  • International and Community Development (ICD)
  • Leadership in the Human Services (LHS)

For more information about these specializations please see the Academic Calendar.


Hospitals/community health centers, mental health clinics, schools, non-profit/advocacy groups, government, social service/child welfare/family service agencies, correctional facilities, social housing, family courts, employee assistance programs, private counselling, school boards, consulting.

A thesis-based master’s degree in social work is a preferred pre-requisite for a PhD.

Thesis-based program

Students are required to complete all required courses, prepare and successfully defend a thesis in an open oral examination.


Students with a BSW complete 10 courses (30 units).  Students with a non-social work bachelor's degree must complete 9 Foundation courses (27 units) prior to their 10 Specialization courses (30 units).  Advanced Practicum (SOWK 660 - 6 units) is optional.

Learn more about program requirements in the Academic Calendar

Online delivery

The MSW thesis-based program in all three specializations will be offered by distance (online) learning with in-person residencies in Calgary or Edmonton. Online courses consist of a mix of real time classes at set times and learning that can be done on your own schedule. Students not attending residencies may be required to withdraw from the course or the program.

Please consult the Social Work website for specific program delivery information.

Time commitment

Three or four years (maximum) of full-time study, dependent on entry route, specialization and program location.


For incoming MSW thesis students, the PhD/MSW Thesis Coordinator will act as the interim supervisor. Before the end of April of the first year, each student must designate a faculty member as permanent supervisor. Students will work with their supervisors to determine if a co-supervisor and/or supervisory thesis committee is preferred. This decision should be made prior to start of SOWK 670 and must be approved by the Graduate Program Director.

Fees and funding

See the Graduate Calendar for information on fees and fee regulations, and for information on awards and financial assistance.

Virtual Tour

Explore the University of Calgary (UCalgary) from anywhere. Experience all that UCalgary has to offer for your graduate student journey without physically being on campus. Discover the buildings, student services and available programs all from your preferred device.


Learn about faculty available to supervise this degree.
Please note: additional supervisors may be available.  For more information, visit our website.

  1. Photograph of Dr. Heather M Boynton

    Heather M Boynton

    Spirituality , Holistic Health and Wellbeing, Interprofessional Education and Collaboration, Mental Health
  2. Profile

    Patrina Duhaney

    Accepting Inquiries
    Ethno-cultural, and racialized groups, Intimate partner violence, Criminal justice system/policing, Social work education/higher education, Social justice
  3. Placeholder Profile Image

    Yahya El-Lahib

    Accepting Inquiries
    Social work; Critical Disability Studies; Immigration, refugee and displacement studies; Social work & Bedouin Arabs; The scholarship of teaching and
  4. Placeholder Profile Image

    Rick Enns

    Accepting Inquiries
    Canadian Federal Indian Education Policy, Immigration and Resettlement Policy, Critical Social Work Practice in Mental Health
  5. Linda Kreitzer

    Linda Kreitzer

    International Social Work, Refugees and immigrants, African social work issues, compassion fatigue, community practice International indigenous issues
  6. Yeonjung Lee

    Yeonjung Lee

    Accepting Inquiries
    Outcomes of Caregiving for Older Adults, Aging-in-place and Long-term Care in Later Life, Aging in Poverty and Wealth Inequality in Later Life, Perceived Discrimination in Older Adults, Psychosocial Risk Factors for Dementia, Cross-national/Cultural Comparative Study, Population-based Secondary Data Analyses
  7. Placeholder Profile Image

    Anne Marie Mclaughlin

    Accepting Inquiries
    Translating social work values into practice
  8. Hieu Ngo

    Hieu Ngo

    Accepting Inquiries
    Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion, Youth crime prevention, Social entrepreneurship
  9. William Pelech

    William Pelech

    Accepting Inquiries
    Group Work
  10. Photograph of Melanie June Rock (headshot)

    Melanie Rock


Admission requirements


A minimum of 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 point system, over the past two years of full-time study (a minimum of 60 units) of the undergraduate degree.

Minimum education

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree from an accredited/recognized* institution or a four-year bachelor’s degree in another discipline.  The degree must be conferred prior to the May program start.

*The Faculty of Social Work recognizes BSW degrees accredited by the Canadian Association for Social Work Education (CASWE), the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE), and international credentials deemed equivalent to a Canadian BSW degree by the Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW).

Work samples


Work experience

Applicants must have the equivalent of two years of full-time paid work or a minimum of 3,000 hours of paid and/or volunteer work in the human services field.


  • A program proposal outlining the applicant's social work perspectives and educational goals.
  • A preliminary thesis proposal describing the research problem you hope to investigate and the research methodology or methodologies you are considering.
  • A resume

Reference letters

Two; one professional and one academic

Test scores


English language proficiency

An applicant whose primary language is not English may fulfill the English language proficiency requirement in one of the following ways:


For admission on May 1:

  • Canadians and permanent residents: November 1 application deadline 
  • International students: November 1 application deadline 

If you're not a Canadian or permanent resident, or if you have international credentials, make sure to learn about international requirements

Learn more about this program

Faculty of Social Work

MacKimmie Tower (MT) 301
2500 University Drive NW
Calgary, ABT2N 1N4

Visit the Faculty of Social Work website


Learn more about UCalgary by taking a virtual tour

Highlights of the Social Work program

David Nicholas with students

Creating Meaningful Experiences for Neurodivergent People

Dr. David Nicholas’ Vocational Abilities Innovation Lab is internationally acclaimed for its innovative approach in supporting autistic and other neurodivergent youth and adults.

Dr. Yeonjung Lee

Making neighbourhoods more liveable for older adults

As our population ages, it’s becoming increasingly important to ensure that Canadian neighbourhoods are liveable for everyone, which is the focus of Dr. Yeonjung Lee’s innovative research.

Julie Drolet with students

Leading Field Education Innovation

Finding meaningful practicum opportunities is a growing crisis in social work. Dr. Julie Drolet leads a national/international group that is finding surprising solutions.