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.
THE ROLE OF A SOCIAL WORKER
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
☑️ Salaries: According to the Government of Canada Job Bank, the median salary for social workers in Ontario is about $70,000.
The highest paid social workers in the province earn over $95,000.
☑️ Career outlook: Up to 6,000 jobs for social workers are expected to become available throughout Ontario between 2019 and 2025, according to provincial government estimates.
The outlook in Ottawa is particularly favourable. The Job Bank gives the social work profession in the city a 3-star rating for demand and growth—its highest possible score.
☑️ 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).
THE ROLE OF A COMMUNITY SERVICES WORKER (CSW)
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
☑️ Salaries: Community service workers in Ontario 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 steady demand both Ontario-wide and in Ottawa specifically.
And projections from the Ontario government show that CSWs could see as many as 15,000 job openings between 2019 and 2025.
☑️ 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.
Herzing instructor Sabrina Bellefeuille says the training gives students the tools and expertise to launch their CSW careers.
“The CSW program covers a lot of really good practical knowledge: counselling ethics, communication skills, networking skills, community referrals, etc.
The most valuable skills are definitely case management as well as identifying the stages of a helping relationship and how to approach clients at each stage.”
THE ROLE OF A PERSONAL SUPPORT WORKER (PSW)
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
☑️ Salaries: In Ontario, personal support workers have a median salary of roughly $37,000. That’s based on Job Bank data.
The top earners make about $52,000.
☑️ Career outlook: The demand for PSWs across Ontario is so high that the 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 diploma at Herzing College Ottawa takes only 8 months.
Recent grad 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.
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!”
TAKE A SHORT PATH TO A MEANINGFUL CAREER
Want to make a real impact on the lives of vulnerable people in your community? Hoping to get job-ready as soon as possible?
Both 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!