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Change is coming to the social work profession in B.C.

New rules take effect September, 1, 2015. Find out how to get registered.

Photo courtesy B.C. College of Social Workers

Starting September 1, 2015, all social workers applying to the BC College of Social Workers must pass a comprehensive exam to be registered with the College. The exam will formalize a core set of competencies required for new social workers entering the field. An exam will ensure that when social workers become registered, they have the minimum level of knowledge and abilities to work with clients without causing harm. The changes will dramatically improve the social work landscape in this province.

Of 26 regulated health professions in B.C., social work is the only one without a competency-based examination as a requirement for registration. Nurses, doctors, dentists, chiropractors, pharmacists and 20 other health professionals must pass an exam to practice.  

Presently, many B.C. social workers voluntarily apply to be registered with the B.C. College of Social Workers. The College is required to set standards of practice and determine if applicants are qualified to enter the field. If someone has an academic credential, such as a Bachelors, Masters or Doctorate in Social work or a degree in a related field combined with social work knowledge and experience as approved by the College, they may become registered and subject to the standards and code of conduct of the profession.

While social work has a long history in BC, not all people performing that role have been trained as social workers. Even if someone’s education has exposed them to the broad spectrum of human development and anti-oppression theories, they may be unprepared to apply that theory to your practice with clients. 

Governments in every state and province and around the world have said there is a risk of harm to the public from poor social work practice and therefore should be regulated. 

For those who are working in the field or are preparing to graduate with a degree in social work, registration with the College is not currently mandatory, but it is in a social worker's best interests.  Registration gives professional credibility and provides clients with the confidence that their social worker will conduct themselves professionally. When dealing with a registered social worker, clients know that the credentials are valid and that registrants have proven to a regulatory body that they are competent and knowledgeable. Clients will also know that if there is a problem, someone will get involved to make sure that standards of practice and care are maintained. 

While people doing social work for a government agency or First Nation are not required to register, it is mandatory for all other social work positions.

In preparing for this exam, the College has been working with educational institutions to alert them to the coming changes and some are adapting their curricula so that students are prepared for this type of exam. Learning never really stops for social workers. 

The College’s legal mandate is to protect the public. The exam is an entry-to-practice, competency-based examination that covers the spectrum of practice in which there is a risk of harm to the public. It’s in everyone’s best interest.

Find out more on the college website

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