Updated December 2023
What does it mean to work as a community support worker? Is this the right career path for you?
There are so many myths surrounding the field of social services that it can be difficult for people to separate fact from fiction and make an informed decision about CSW training.
Let's start by debunking five of the most common myths about working in community services.
Read on to learn the truth about what CSWs do, who they work with, and how much money they earn.
Myth #1: Community Support Workers Deal Primarily with Poor People
It's true that CSWs sometimes work with economically disadvantaged people who need help getting back on their feet and securing stable employment.
But people in poverty are not the only at-risk populations CSWs work with. Community support workers offer guidance, counselling, and practical assistance to many groups in society, including:
- Children in foster or group care
- Youths and adults with intellectual disabilities
- People struggling with addiction and mental health issues
- Refugees and immigrants
- Indigenous people
The truth: CSWs help a wide range of people with personal and social problems. The goal is to connect these individuals with the best available community services, help them gain a sense of purpose, dignity, and independence, and improve their overall quality of life.
Myth #2: Community Support Work is Often Draining & Depressing
Yes, social work can be emotionally difficult at times. Sometimes CSWs work with people who do not follow treatment programs, make poor decisions, or simply won't allow themselves to be helped. Dealing with loss is part of this profession.
However, moments of frustration or sadness are usually far outweighed by the immense satisfaction of helping those in need transform their lives for the better.
Most CSWs will tell you that their work is deeply rewarding—and that they love seeing people who had previously struggled or lost hope, rebuild their lives with new confidence and purpose.
The truth: Community support work isn't depressing, it's uplifting. This career path is all about empowering others, and providing help where it's needed most. CSWs make a huge, positive difference in our communities.
Myth #3: You Need a Degree to Enter the Social Services Field
Social workers and counsellors typically need a bachelor's or master's degree to work in the field. However, front-line CSWs need only a community support worker diploma to begin their career in social services.
Some CSW programs can be completed in a year or less, and some provide internships to help students gain field experience before they graduate.
Myth #4: CSWs work mostly with adults
Actually, many CSW jobs focus on serving children and youth. There are a number of organizations that deliver housing, counselling, career support, and crisis intervention services to young people.
CSWs help victims of child abuse and neglect find shelter, guide disadvantaged adolescents into adulthood and independent living, and assist parents who need help caring for their children.
The truth: Community support workers assist people of all ages, with a strong focus on strengthening families and creating opportunities for at-risk children and youth.
Myth #5: Community Support Workers Make Almost No Money
No one enters the field of community service with the goal of becoming wealthy. It is true that we should definitely be investing more in our CSWs, but it is certainly possible to make a stable living pursuing this career path.
The Government of Canada Job Bank says CSWs make a median salary of about $50,000. At the higher end of the pay scale, they're making over $76,000.
Salaried positions sometimes come with benefits packages and pension plans, paid training to upgrade your skills, and paid bereavement or compassionate care leave.
The truth: Casual or part-time roles are typically lower on the pay scale, but most CSW positions have a starting salary of at least $40,000. And there is room for advancement and better earning potential with experience. After a few years in the field, some CSWs move into supervisor roles or take teaching positions at CSW colleges.
Interested in learning more about becoming a CSW?
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