Updated December 2022
A career in community services is one of the most effective ways to make a real difference in your local neighborhood.
If you're looking for meaningful work—a job where you will truly help people—this is the path for you. Community services workers (CSWs) play an important role in making our society safer, fairer, and more prosperous for everyone.
They focus on supporting and assisting people with serious social and personal problems, and limited opportunities to create a brighter future for themselves. For example, CSWs work with abused and neglected children, battered women, the homeless, people suffering from addiction and mental illness, and families living in poverty.
Everyone knows the world is not a "fair" place, where everyone has equal chances to succeed. Community services workers help level the playing field, by ensuring at-risk people get the help, respect, and support they deserve.
So, if you're interested in becoming a CSW, how exactly do you break into the field and begin your career? Here are your four first steps.
1. Understand your career options as a Community Services Worker
CSWs work with many different groups in society, and in a range of settings. As a first step, understand exactly what a community services worker does and what career options you have in this field.
In general, CSWs help at-risk people get access to services available to them in their local communities. They also provide counselling to help clients set goals and stay on track toward improving their overall quality of life (in terms of finances, social situation, physical and mental health, etc.).
But there are several ways to specialize as a CSW. For example, you could work at:
- A women's shelter, helping survivors of domestic abuse rebuild their lives
- A halfway house, helping eligible ex-offenders transition back into the community
- A residential care centre, assisting adults with special needs
- A youth program, helping at-risk teens or children in the foster care system
- An addiction or rehabilitation program, helping people overcome addiction
- A vocational counselling centre, helping people get career training and find employment opportunities
Community services workers assist people from all backgrounds and walks of life. You could also work with refugees and new immigrants, helping newcomers successfully settle in Canada. Or you could work within the Indigenous community, a historically marginalized and underserved group in Canadian society.
Just starting out after community services worker training, you may try working at several different places and with a range of people before deciding where you want to specialize.
For example, graduates of Herzing's CSW program have found employment with the following organizations in Ottawa:
- Immigrant Women Services
- Ottawa Freedom Centre
- Harmer House
- Bairncroft Residential Services
- Vanier Community Centre
- Mary Homes
- Partners in Parenting
- Christian Horizons
- Terrace Youth Residential Services
Interested in digging deeper into the kind of assistance you would provide as a community services worker?
Check out this post: 4 Ways Community Services Workers Change & Save Lives
This post has more on careers: 4 Popular Career Options After CSW Training
2. Look at Demand for Community Services Workers Where You Live
No matter which career you're aiming for, it's always a good idea to check demand for that occupation before you start training. This will give you an idea of how competitive the market is and how difficult it might be to find your first job after graduation.
Look at the Government of Canada Job Bank. They check demand for thousands of jobs all across Canada and publish a career outlook report for each occupation online.
We checked the latest report for Community Services Workers in Ottawa and found a fairly positive forecast. CSWs get a rating of four stars for employment outlook, meaning there is good growth expected in this occupation over the next several years.
3. Select a Quality Community Services Worker Program
This is your most important step. The training you choose will directly impact your success as a CSW and your ability to build a meaningful career in this field.
This part is also key for understanding the skills and theory you'll learn in class—and making sure these topics spark interest for you. This is your chance to explore the curriculum, understand how long training will take, and learn what you'll get out of the diploma.
Here are a few things to consider when comparing CSW programs:
1. Graduate employment rates: This reflects the quality of the training and your chances of getting hired straight out of college.
2. College reputation: Does the school have good reviews? Are the CSW students happy with the training? How long has the college been in operation?
3. Instructors: Who teaches the CSW program and how much professional experience do they have in the field of social services?
4. Admissions: How helpful is the admissions team in answering your questions and helping you learn about the CSW program?
5. Campus: Are the facilities in good shape? Is the atmosphere welcoming? Do you feel comfortable on campus?
4. Book a Meeting with Admissions at Your Chosen CSW College
You should talk to admissions at every school you're seriously considering. This is how you'll get specific information about each CSW program so you can narrow down your top choices.
Once you have a short list of potential schools, book meetings with their admissions advisors. This is a really important step. It's your chance to talk one-on-one with an expert who will confirm that this program and career path is right for you.
Admissions will also help you with:
- Scheduling a campus tour
- Possibly sitting in on a CSW class and meeting the instructor
- Financial aid options, including available grants and scholarships (free money)
- Program length and class schedule
- How to fill out an application
- Where you'll do your internship
- Any other questions you have about training and careers
You'll probably do an admissions test, to ensure you meet program requirements. The advisor will explain what to expect on the test, how long you'll have to write it, etc.
Getting an advisor to walk you through everything makes the entire process easier and much less intimidating. Plus, it's an excellent way to learn more about the college and CSW program and feel confident in your decision.
Once you've selected a quality program and enrolled, you'll be on your way to making a real difference in your local community.
And there you have it. Your first four steps to starting a community services worker career in Ottawa.
Still have questions? Want to learn more about Herzing's Community Services Worker diploma?
We'd love to hear from you. Click below to connect with an admissions advisor, browse the program online, and request free information.