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. 

The Faculty of Social Work offers the MSW thesis program in Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge and online.

Students holding an accredited  Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree are admitted directly into a 24-month or 36-month thesis-based MSW program.  Students admitted with a non-social work degree complete 9 foundation courses (in 12 months) followed by the 24-month or 36-month program.

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
  • International and Community Development
  • Leadership in the Human Services


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

In-person or online delivery

With the exception of the Calgary-based Clinical Social work Practice specialization and Calgary-based Foundation courses, which are delivered in-person in Calgary, the MSW program is offered by distance/online learning with limited in-person residencies.  See the Faculty of Social Work website for information about location and specialization specific delivery.

Time commitment

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


A supervisor must be appointed before students begin their research courses (SOWK 670 and SOWK 672).

Fees and funding

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


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

    Accepting Inquiries
    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. Dr. Ilyan Ferrer

    Ilyan Ferrer

    Accepting Inquiries
    Social and critical gerontology; Intersectionality; Life course; (Im)migration and transmigration; Oral history and storytelling
  6. Linda Kreitzer

    Linda Kreitzer

    International Social Work, Refugees and immigrants, African social work issues, compassion fatigue, community practice International indigenous issues
  7. 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
  8. Placeholder Profile Image

    Anne Marie Mclaughlin

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

    Hieu Ngo

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

    William Pelech

    Accepting Inquiries
    Group Work

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 10 full-course equivalents or 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. (If applying to the Calgary program with a non-social work degree, you must indicate your intended area of specialization: (Clinical Social Work Practice or International and Community Development or Leadership in the Human Services) in your application.
  • 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


Highlights of the Social Work program

David Este with students

Social Work researchers find cultural gaps in mental health services

David Este and Christa Sato work to reduce the stigma of mental illness in Asian men

Mishka Lysack

Helping our society transition to a lower carbon future

Mishka Lysack focuses on helping Canadians make the shift to a lower carbon future

Lana Wells

Preventing domestic violence before it occurs

Shift: The Project to End Domestic Violence seeks to reduce and prevent domestic violence