Alberta College of Social Workers


1. What is Social Work? See more.

Under the Health Professions Act (HPA), Schedule 27, the practice of social work is defined as follows: In their practice, social workers do one or more of the following: (a) enhance or restore the social functioning of individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities by improving developmental, problem-solving and coping capacities of people and systems, (b) promote effective and humane systems that provide resources, opportunities and services to people and link people to those systems, (c) contribute to the development and improvement of social policy, and (d) provide restricted activities authorized by the regulations. If your practice involves any of the above, you are active in social work. Hide

2. Who has to be a Registered Social Worker? See more.

Registration is required if you qualify for registration as a social worker, you are working in a position that falls within the scope of social work as defined above, and (a) you work with the public; or (b) you supervise people who work with the public; or (c) you teach in a social work education program. Hide

3. What if I don't call myself a social worker? See more.

It does not matter what title you use: if your position fits within the scope of practice defined above you must be registered to practice. You are encouraged to use the title "Social Worker" in all professional practice, but this is not a requirement. The title "Social Worker" may only be used by qualified social workers. Hide

4. What if my employer says I don't have to be registered to do my job? See more.

An employer is free to set any job requirements for hiring. The employer cannot, however, decide that a qualified social worker does not have to be registered. This may mean that you are doing exactly the same job as another person who is not required to be a registered social worker because that other person does not qualify for registration. That person is not a social worker. Hide

5. I do a job that is in the scope of social work, but I am in a management/research/policy position and don't work directly with the public. Does this mean the legislation does not apply to me? See more.

If your position is in management, research, policy development, or any other area in which you do not work directly with the public, supervise social workers working with the public, or teach social work, you do not have to be a registered social worker. You need to be aware that if you choose not to be a registered social worker in these circumstances you may not call yourself a social worker or imply that you are a social worker. If you qualify, you may of course choose to become a registered social worker even if you are not required by law to be registered. People at all levels of practice are encouraged to take pride in being professional social workers. Hide

6. How do I know if I qualify for registration? See more.

You qualify to apply for registration if: (a) you have a degree in social work from any university in North America that is accredited by the Canadian Association of Schools of Social Work or the Council on Social Work Education; or (b) you have graduated from an approved social work diploma program in Alberta; or (c) you have, within the last five years, been a registered, certified or licensed social worker in another province or with a member of the Association of Social Work Boards. Hide

7. What if I have a social work education from another country? See more.

If you are a graduate of an advanced education program in social work that does not fit these criteria, you may apply to have your credentials assessed for equivalence. This is not done directly by the Alberta College of Social Workers. You will need to complete an application for assessment with the Canadian Association of Social Workers (preferred) or the International Qualifications Assessment Service (Government of Alberta). An assessment by a Canadian university with an accredited social work program is also acceptable. The original assessment must be submitted to the ACSW office. Hide

8. Why are other people allowed to do the same job as me without being registered? See more.

The Health Professions Act does not grant any profession an exclusive scope of practice. There are restricted activities that may only be performed by regulated professionals, but many activities may be performed by others who have gained the skills and knowledge through other routes. An employer may hire any person who meets the needs of the organization for any position. If that position is specifically a social work position, the person must be a registered social worker. Otherwise, there are no restrictions on hiring. Hide

9. What do I need to do to become a Registered Social Worker? See more.

Complete the application package and provide all the documents and fees required. As soon as the paperwork is complete, if there are no problems with your application, you will receive your social work practice permit. Please note: It is your responsibility to ensure that all documentation is received at the ACSW office. We will not notify you if information is not supplied by your university, referees, etc. If you have not received your practice permit within a reasonable time of submitting your documents (normally three to four weeks) please check to see if something is missing from your application package. Hide

10. Will I automatically become a Registered Social Worker once all the documents are received? See more.

Not necessarily. All first time registrants are required to demonstrate that they have completed 1500 hours of social work practice under the supervision of a qualified social worker prior to becoming fully registered. During the qualifying period, if you have completed your social work education, you must apply for provisional registration. Once you have completed the 1500 practice hours (which may include practicum hours), a qualified social worker who supervised at least 350 out of your last 500 hours of practice is required to complete a supervision reference form on your behalf in order for you to become fully registered.Please note: ACSW does require verification for the full 1500 practice hours. Hide

11. To certify my supervised practice, who is a qualified social worker? See more.

A qualified social worker is registered, licensed, or certified in the jurisdiction in which she/he practices. The social worker will be considered qualified if she/he is registered when the supervised reference form is submitted, or was registered during the period of supervision (eg RSW then and now retired). A qualified social worker does not have provisional status. Hide

12. What if I have never worked under the supervision of a registered social worker? See more.

You can still get registered as a provisional registered social worker. Over the next year, you would need to make arrangements with a social worker to discuss your practice and let her or him get to know you and your work. Your employer may be able to help you make these arrangements through a partnering organization or elsewhere within your own organization. Hide

13. Do I list all my employment on Appendix C, even if it wasn’t supervised by a social worker? See more.
Not all jobs need to be listed, as you are required to submit a resume as well. Only list on the form those jobs that will count toward your supervised practice hours for purposes of getting registered. Hide
14. Are there any other qualifications I must meet to get registered? See more.

There is provision in the legislation for assessing each applicant's character and reputation. This is done through a combination of things, including a Criminal Record Check, references, and a personal declaration. If the information on any of these documents suggests that there may be questions with regard to your suitability for the profession, you will be asked to provide additional details. The Registrar or Registration Committee will determine whether to proceed with the registration process. Hide

15. I had to get a Criminal Record Check for my employer last month. Can I send you a copy of that rather than get a new one? See more.

The ACSW will accept a copy, certified by your human resources manager to be true, if it was produced within the last 90 days. If it is older than that you must get a new one.Note: I’ve been using 6 months. Hide

16. I have just graduated and can't get official transcripts yet. What else may I use to provide evidence of qualification for registration? See more.

For the purpose of issuing a Provisional Practice Permit, the ACSW requires something that shows you have completed a degree or diploma from an approved social work program. We will accept a photocopy of your degree/diploma, an unofficial copy of your transcripts, or a letter issued by the university or college that states that you have completed your social work education program. However, official transcripts must be submitted before you will qualify for full registration. Hide

17. Can I call myself a Registered Social Worker if my registration is provisional? See more.

Yes. You will receive a provisional practice permit and are entitled to use the titles and abbreviations associated with registration: Registered Social Worker, Social Worker, RSW, SW, Soc. Wkr. Only social workers who are approved for membership on the Clinical Specialty Registry may use the title "Clinical Social Worker". Hide

18. Do I have to tell my clients that I am registered? See more.

Yes. If any person asks whether you are a registered social worker you must provide them with the information. You are encouraged to use your RSW designation and indicate your educational qualifications on all professional documents. Hide

19. Why do I need to provide evidence of having liability insurance? See more.

The basic purpose of professional regulation is protection of the public we serve. Part of ensuring the public is protected is through liability insurance. If your employer provides coverage that covers staff, documentation of that coverage will be accepted. However, all social workers are strongly encouraged to carry their own insurance. Details regarding the group plan through the Canadian Association of Social Workers are available from the ACSW office. Hide

20. If I am working in an unpaid (volunteer) position, do I have to have liability insurance? See more.

Yes. All practicing RSW’s must show evidence of having liability coverage. Most voluntary agencies have insurance coverage for volunteers. If your position is not covered, you must carry your own liability insurance. Hide

21. What happens if I take a leave from social work practice? See more.

There are two options available to people taking a leave from practice. You may retain your registration status as "inactive" for half the full cost of registration, which keeps your name on the mail list and your file current. You may also cancel your registration while you are inactive and reinstate your registration when you resume practice in the future. Hide

22. If I cancel my registration while I'm on leave, do I have to go through the whole application process again? See more.

No. Your file will be retained for ten years following cancellation so things like transcripts will not have to be replaced. You will need to provide details of your continuing competence activities during your leave (if any). Depending on the purpose of your leave, you may be asked to provide additional information. If the leave was three years or longer, you may be required to work for a period of time under the supervision of a social worker. You will be required to take an entry-to-practice exam based on your highest level of social work education. Hide

23. What will happen if I don't get registered? See more.

If you qualify for registration, the bottom line is that you are not eligible to practice within the scope of social work without being registered and a fine may be imposed if the regulations are not adhered to. As well, the Health Professions Act states that an employer may not knowingly employ a person within the scope of practice who is required to be registered if that person does not apply for registration. Hide

24. What if I get registered now but don't renew my registration in the future? See more.

The Health Professions Act requires that the ACSW notify your employer if your registration gets cancelled. Hide

25. Do employers normally pay social work registration fees? See more.

No. Most Registered Social Workers pay their own fees. The full cost of registration can be claimed on your Income Tax as Professional Dues if you pay it yourself. Hide

26. Are there other requirements for maintaining my status as a Registered Social Worker? See more.

Yes. Go to the ACSW web site, , for additional information about ongoing registration requirements. Hide