McMaster School of Social Work

McMaster School of Social Work

The McMaster School of Social Work is 1 of 11 departments under the Faculty of Social Sciences. The school was first established in 1968 and is geared for students who want to prepare themselves in a career in social work or any related profession. Dr. Jane Aronson B.Sc. Social Administration, B.S.W., M.S.W., and a Ph.D. in Behavioural Science is the director of the program. Dr. Aronson is not only the director but she is also a professor for the program. In 2008 the School of Social Work celebrated its 40 years of being a department.

The program offers many undergraduate degree opportunities such as: a combined program of liberal arts and social work for students without an undergraduate degree called the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Social Work (BA/BSW); and a program for social work students who do have an undergraduate degree which awards them with a degree in Bachelor of Social Work (BSW).

In graduate school, McMaster offers a one-year program, which leads to the degree Masters of Social Work (M.S.W). This program specifies in two areas of focus, Analysis of Social Welfare Policy and Analysis of Social Work Practice. The PhD program focuses on Social Work and Social Justice.

The Canadian Association of Schools of Social Work accredits the School of Social Work BSW and MSW programs.

Social Science Level 1 and Social Work Program



When grade 12 students apply to McMaster University and want to pursuit Social Work, they apply to Social Science 1. Once their first year is over they can then specify and apply to Social Work in their second year. This path will lead them to earning a degree in social work. The McMaster Social Work program gives future students insightful skills on how to properly interview, counsel, have a crucial role in community development, and how to analyze problems such as personal, family, societal, or community issues. It has a prominent focus on social justice, analyzing how social institutions and social work itself respond to problems and are able to solve them. 

 -To get into the first year program from high school, you must have 6 M/U credits and obtain an average of 70% or higher 
-You can choose any high school subjects you wish to take for the 6 credits
In university;
 -You must take SOC WORK 1AO6, SOCIOL 1AO6, Inquiry 1SS3 and Soc Sci 1EL0 
-You must obtain an average of 67% (average of 6.0) or higher in all 30 units and be able to obtain this average in 6 additional courses from either the Social Sciences or Humanities programs 
-To get into the school of Social Work, you must submit an application to the school of Social Work by March 1, and write a S.W.A.T. (Social Work Admissions Test) in order to get in 
-You must be able to prove yourself as suitable and worthy for the program, as you will be evaluated based on many interviews, tests, and evaluations .
-Once you have graduated, you can earn a B.S.W. (Bachelor of social work) or a combined Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Social Work (B.A./B.S.W).

Getting into the School of Social Work will give students the opportunity to: 
-gain skills in creating presentations, knowing how to effectively analyze and present data, and how to set efficient goals while working under pressure 
-learn better studying techniques and practices, like learning in many different places and presenting facts in a proper and organized format for any audience
 -learn the skills necessary to succeed in your specific specialization

Undergraduate Program

The undergraduate program for Social Work at McMaster University prepares students by helping them gain knowledge about social structure, social welfare services, social work methods, and human behaviour. There are a variety of courses touching many different topics of Social Work at McMaster University for undergraduate students. Students can learn about social work in: the family, community, groups, in aging populations, with indigenous people, and with women. There are also courses offered that relate to violence, social change, justice, and social aspects of health and illnesses. Some recommended undergraduate courses for students interested in social work include:

SOC WORK 1A06: This course introduces Social Work and allows individuals to gain a better understanding of what Social Workers deal with on a daily basis. Students become clearer regarding if they want to pursue a career as a Social Worker after the completion of this course.

INQUIRY ISS3: Research has shown that individuals who have taken this course receive higher grades throughout their time at University. This course allows students to properly prepare a research essay and teaches them how to publically present information successfully.

Students wanting to become a Social Worker may be eligible to receive a combined degree including a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Social Work, if they meet certain requirements. In order to gain the opportunity to be in the Social Work program students must begin by completing any level one program at McMaster University that includes either Social Work 1AO6 or Sociology 1A06, and also any other six units from any Social Science courses. Completing these courses is not enough however; students must also receive at least a 67% average. Prior to March 1st of the year students wish to enter the Social Work program they have to submit an application form to the School of Social Work. An S.W.A.T Admissions test also needs to be completed. Enrolment in this program is limited. Calculation to get into the Social Work program is based on: 50% from a student’s average from the last 30 units completed and 50% from the students S.W.A.T score.

McMaster University offers a variety of learning opportunities for the undergraduate Social Work program. Students have the option of completing the Bachelor of Social Work as a second degree or have the option of receiving a combined Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Social Work degree. Students who do not plan to receive a degree in Social Work are encouraged to take Social Work classes to gain a through understanding about the practice of Social work, and to learn how to think critically about future plans regarding social justice.

Masters and Ph.D. Program

MSW Program At McMaster University, the school of social work offers a one-year, thesis-based program leading to the degree in McMaster social work (M.S.W). When involved in this program, students will take part in analyzing social problems and policies and much more. The Canadian Association accredits McMasters Social work program for Social work Education (CASWE).

PhD Program In the PHD program students will learn to develop critical appreciation of current emerging social work scholarships that area related to social justice and will also deepen their understanding with relevant perspectives from other areas of the field. This will be achieved through research seminars as well as independent study. This PhD program will prepare candidates for research, teaching as well as positions of leadership in social welfare and social work.

Graduate Diploma (Ph.D.) in Gender Studies and Feminist Research The Graduate Diploma (Ph.D.) in Gender Studies and Feminist Research aims to enhance the intellectual development and training of students already enrolled in doctoral programs by allowing them to combine disciplinary research with interdisciplinary scholarship from the fields of Gender and Feminist Studies. Students enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Social Work whose research intersects with Gender and Feminist Research may apply to the program and complete the requirements alongside those of their home Ph.D. program. For more details, please contact the program coordinator, Dr. Susan Fast or visit their website.

PhD Program Requirements

Candidates for the PhD are required to complete a minimum of six post-MSW courses.

SW770, Social Work and Social Justice: Theoretical Tensions which will engage students with current theorizing on the relation between social work, social change and social equality.

SW 771, Research for Social Change which will examine scholarship on the embedding of power relations in the production of knowledge and in the conduct of research as a mechanism of social change.

SW 772, Qualitative Methods for Social Work or students seeking quantitative or other methods courses can locate them in other programs on campus.

  • Pre-requisite Social Work 737 or equivalent.

SW 773, Doctoral Research Seminar that will examine key professional concerns among social work academics and researchers.

Two elective courses. Students will be encouraged to take at least one of their elective courses in another department in order to profit from the interdisciplinary opportunities at McMaster.

A Ph.D. candidate admitted without master’s level courses in epistemology (737) and in critical analysis of practice/ policy (700/731 or 701/703) will be expected to complete these courses in addition to the requirements of the doctoral program.

Candidates may be required to complete courses beyond the minimum requirements of the program in order that they achieve the breadth of perspective required by the program and are sufficiently prepared for their research.

Comprehensive Examination

PhD candidates are required to situate their anticipated research topics in a wide and critical review of related theory and research, and to demonstrate their capacity for the integration of ideas and their skills in scholarly inquiry and writing. Candidates will consult with their supervisor in order to define the focus and parameters of the comprehensive exam and, by September of their second year, submit a five-page proposal for the supervisor’s approval. With approval secured, candidates are expected to submit the completed examination (50-60 pages, plus references and appendices) by December 15th.


Students will be required to undertake original thesis research in areas of their substantive interest, engaging fully with its theoretical and methodological dimensions and demonstrating its contribution to academic and professional debate and action. By the beginning of their third year, students will submit a written thesis proposal to their supervisory committees, outlining the theoretical, substantive and methodological issues with which they plan to engage. PhD candidates will defend their thesis during a final oral examination. University regulations and procedures relating to supervisory committees and general degree requirements set the parameters for the program and are specified in the School of Graduate Studies calendar.


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