What Do Social Workers, CSWs, and PSWs Do?

Updated December 2023

If you’re looking for a meaningful role that lets you help people who are struggling, a career as a social worker, community services worker (CSW), or personal support worker (PSW) could be the answer.

All three positions are about making sure vulnerable individuals get the support they need and the respect they deserve.

But what exactly do social workers, CSWs, and PSWS each do? How are the roles different, and how can you know which one would suit you best?

In this post, we explain how all three careers compare in terms of tasks, salaries, outlook, and training requirements.

Here are the facts you need to make an informed decision about your future.


Social workers seek to help people overcome personal and social challenges.

They focus on removing barriers and putting resources in place to improve the well-being of both individuals and communities.

In this role, you could be responsible for:

  • Interviewing clients to diagnose their condition and determine a course of action
  • Helping people access support services and resources
  • Planning and evaluating programs related to housing, employment, legal aid, food insecurity, and other issues
  • Advocating for clients and pushing for solutions
  • Providing counselling and psychotherapy


According to the Government of Canada Job Bank, the median salary for social workers in Canada is about $80,000.

The highest-paid social workers in the country earn over $99,000.

Career Outlook

The Job Bank says social workers should be in moderate to good demand right across Canada through 2025.

Training Requirements 

You must have a Bachelor of Social Work degree to get started in this career. That requires completing a four-year university program.

Some roles call for a Master of Social Work, which takes one to two years of training beyond the bachelor’s level.

Hoping for a shorter path to entry-level employment? Becoming a CSW or PSW might be a better fit (see below).



Community service workers play a hands-on part in helping at-risk people get their lives back on track.

Like social workers, CSWs interview clients, arrange treatment programs, and provide counselling.

A key difference is that CSWs don’t make diagnoses or provide psychotherapy. However, their training takes much less time.

Here are some typical tasks for a CSW:

  • Conducting intake assessments and writing reports
  • Connecting clients with appropriate community services (subsidized housing, addiction treatment, job coaching, foster care, etc.)
  • Monitoring client progress throughout treatment
  • Providing crisis intervention services


Community service workers in Canada have a median salary of about $50,000, according to the Job Bank.

At the high end, salaries can exceed $72,000.

Career Outlook

The Job Bank says community service workers should enjoy good demand in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and the Yukon.

Training Requirements 

Unlike social workers, community service workers do not need a university degree. A college diploma is all that’s required.

CSW training can be completed in just one year.



Personal support workers assist clients who struggle with essential tasks of daily living. That includes things like bathing, dressing, preparing meals, and taking medications.

PSWs play an invaluable part in helping elderly clients stay in their own homes as long as possible. They also support people of any age who have challenges due to disease, injury, or disability.

Common tasks for personal support workers include:

  • Lifting clients and helping them move around
  • Assisting with personal hygiene
  • Giving medication reminders
  • Performing basic housekeeping (sweeping floors, washing dishes, doing laundry)
  • Offering companionship and emotional support


In Canada, personal support workers have a median salary of roughly $40,000. That’s based on Job Bank data.

The top earners make about $52,000.

Career Outlook 

The Job Bank gives this occupation a full five stars for growth and outlook in Ontario, Nova Scotia, and PEI. In fact, the demand for PSWs is so high in Ontario that the provincial government is spending tens of millions of dollars to train and hire thousands more of them.

Training Requirements

You can qualify for a PSW role by completing a short college-level program. The PSW training from Herzing College takes less than a year to complete.

Graduate Pauline Hughes-Derome says Herzing’s program covers a lot of ground. “We studied different illnesses and diseases, special care techniques, and what to expect from patients who have different conditions," she told us.

"We learned how to move people who are paralyzed, how to make beds, bathe clients, and the importance of hygiene. I learned so many skills in this program!”



Want to make a real impact on the lives of vulnerable people in your community? Hoping to get job-ready as soon as possible?

Herzing College offers two diploma programs that may meet your needs: community services worker (available at our campus in Ottawa as well as online) and personal support worker (available at our Ottawa and Toronto campuses).

The CSW and PSW programs are led by expert instructors, take a year or less to complete, and include an internship for hands-on work experience.

Click below to get complete details on each program and chat live with an admissions advisor. We’re here to help!

Learn More About Community Services Worker Training at Herzing College

Explore the Personal Support Worker Program

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