Alberta College of Social Workers


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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Health Professions Act requires that the ACSW notify your employer if your registration gets cancelled.
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.
Yes. Go to the ACSW web site, , for additional information about ongoing registration requirements.