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Army Air Force Navy

Social Work Officer

OFFICER | Full Time

In Demand

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Social Work Officers deliver professional social work services in a military setting to support the morale, efficiency and mental health of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members and their families. Social Work Officers offer clinical social work services similar to community mental health and social services agencies.

As well as the full range of challenges common to Canadian society, CAF members and their families cope with additional stresses associated with frequent moves and separations. These stresses can give rise to social and family circumstances that involve complex social work interventions.

The primary responsibilities of a Social Work Officer are to:

  • Provide clinical intervention services
  • Assist in the resolution of compassionate situations
  • Consult with and advise leaders on the social circumstances encountered by personnel in their units
  • Investigate and report compassionate situations
  • Deliver preventive and rehabilitative programs in the areas of:
    • Pre- and post-deployment stress
    • Suicide prevention
    • Family violence

Work environment

Social Work Officers work in an office at a base, wing or garrison, and deploy overseas on operational missions. They may be required to collaborate with civilian social agencies to develop appropriate referral contacts and to remain abreast of current professional development and social legislation.

Career Overview




LIEUTENANT KRISTA ERICKSON: I’m Lieutenant Krista Erickson from Ottawa – I’m a Social Work Officer currently serving at Garrison Petawawa.

Social Work Officers in the Canadian Armed Forces provide frontline clinical services to support the morale and mental health of members, as well as administrative services that contribute to the operational readiness of the Forces.

They’re part of the Canadian Forces Medical Services, where they work as part of a team of psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health nurses, addiction counsellors, clinical chaplains and medical officers to deliver care to military personnel.

ERICKSON: A lot of the work that we do here actually is quite similar to work that’s happening in mental health facilities in civilian agencies. However, we do also have the complexity of working with members who have had trauma from experiences in the military. So we do trauma therapy, and we also do general psychosocial counselling with members who are going through things that may not be as long-term. And our goal is essentially to help the member get back to their operational capability.

A typical day can include direct client care providing short-term counselling or psychotherapy, conducting pre- or post-deployment screenings, or completing psychosocial assessments that may lead to a social work report advocating on behalf of a military member – by addressing social inequalities, empowering clients to access resources, and recommending changes to policy or practice that could benefit military personnel and their families. Social Work Officers also work with military units to offer guidance, support, and education on psychosocial and mental health matters.

ERICKSON: I liked the idea that a position with the Canadian Armed Forces would have a lot of variety. I liked the idea that I could potentially deploy – I wanted to be able to work with a variety of different populations, so I liked the fact that I could work not only with members but also with families, and potentially with children. I knew that we could also have a team of other professionals involved.

ERICKSON: I would say that what I like the best is, honestly, the variety that I have with this job. I like the fact that, some days I show up and I am seeing my patients from 8 to 4, and some days there are other activities that I take part in. I enjoy going out into the field, I enjoy learning new skills that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn if I was in my civilian job that I had before. I appreciate the fact that I get to do a number of different things that are outside of the realm of social work.

Most Social Work Officers begin their military career with a four-year posting at an Army base, an Air Force wing or with the Navy on the east or west coast. They start off with six months to one year of on-the-job training. This is an opportunity to learn the inner workings of a mental health department in the Canadian Armed Forces and the role of a Social Work Officer within the organization. Officers work with other healthcare professionals and develop relationships with civilian social agencies in the area where they work.  

Once they’re fully trained and qualified in the occupation, Social Work Officers have the opportunity to become a psychosocial team lead where they are in charge of a multidisciplinary group of clinicians delivering clinical care.

ERICKSON: There’s a lot of opportunity for professional development. There is funding that’s available from your trade, also from the base that we can access courses. I’ve been able to do a couple of online courses, I’ve been able to register for different courses in different places. This definitely is a position where we’re encouraged to continue learning.

Social Work Officers can also deploy on domestic and international operations.

ERICKSON: I’ve been a member of the Canadian Armed Forces for two years. My career is very new here – despite being a social worker previously, I’m still learning a lot every day from my colleagues. I’m looking forward to being posted in different places, being able to see a lot of the country, and I am looking forward to potentially deploying someday.




Related Civilian Occupations

  • Social Worker


After enrolment, Social Work Officers attend Basic Military Officer Qualification training at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, for 12 weeks. Topics covered include general military knowledge, the principles of leadership, regulations and customs of the CAF, basic weapons handling, and first aid. Opportunities will also be provided to apply such newly acquired military skills in training exercises involving force protection, field training, navigation and leadership. A rigorous physical fitness program is also a vital part of basic training. Basic officer training is provided in English or French and successful completion is a prerequisite for further training.

Following Basic Military Officer Qualification training, official second language training will be offered to you. Training could take from two to nine months to complete depending on your ability in your second language.

Learn more about Basic Training here.

Social Work Officers must complete the Common Health Services Officer (CHSO) course which is an eight-day e-learning course available on the Defence Learning Network (DLN).  The CHSO course introduces Social Work Officers to Canadian Armed Forces policies and procedures as well as HR management of military members and civilian personnel.

Social Work Officers are posted to a base to complete 12 months of on-the-job training, where they expand and broaden clinical social work practice approaches under the supervision of a more senior Social Work Officer.

Social Work Officers may be offered the opportunity to develop specialized skills through formal courses and on-the-job training, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Training
  • Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
  • Emotional Focused Therapy for Couples

Entry plans

The minimum required education to apply for this position is a Master of Social Work degree from an accredited Canadian Social Work Program, a current unrestricted license (active status) to practice as a social worker from a provincial or territorial regulatory authority/association and a letter of 'good standing' from that authority. You will also require two years of clinical experience within the last five years. The minimum requirements for Social Work Officers are fixed and equivalencies are not accepted.

The ideal candidate will already have a Master of Social Work degree from a recognized Canadian university, are registered with the professional social work association of a Canadian province or territory, and meet the required clinical experience outlined above, the Canadian Armed Forces may place you directly into the required on-the-job training program following basic training.

Foreign education may be accepted.

Subsidized Education for Entry Level Masters (SEELM)

If you have a Bachelor of Social Work degree from a recognized Canadian university, the CAF will pay successful recruits to complete a Master of Social Work (MSW) program at a Canadian university (the program must be on campus; distance learning programs are not subsidized). They receive a full-time salary including medical and dental care, as well as vacation time with full pay in exchange for working with the CAF for a period of time. If you apply to this program, you must have proof that you have been accepted without condition in an accredited Master of Social Work (MSW) program, having a focus on clinical practice, at a Canadian University.

For further information, please contact a Canadian Forces Health Services Recruiter:

Learn more about our Paid Education programs here.