The Standards of Practice state that social workers shall ensure that their skills are in keeping with current knowledge and practices in the field of social work.

Members of the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers are required to report their professional development activities (PD) during their annual registration renewal. The number of PD hours a member must complete depends on their member status (i.e. how much of the year they spend as an active or associate member).

There are three main categories of PD – mandated, formal, and informal – and information about each of these and their subcategories is listed below.

NSCSW’s professional development standards were updated in 2022. Handouts with a summary of changes are available for download:

Overview of requirements

The PD hours a member needs to complete each year will depend on their member status.

Active members

A member who is an active registrant of the College from January to December must complete at least 40 hours of PD annually:

  • Mandated topics: 6 hours (see below)
  • Discretionary topics: 34 hours

Associate members

Associate members have informed the College that they are not currently practicing social work. They retain the right to switch back to active status to resume practicing, as long as they remain in good standing with the College; all associates must still submit a PD inventory along with their annual renewal forms and fees.

Reasons for associate membership may include, and are not limited to:

  • Parental leave
  • Sick leave
  • Education
  • Unemployment
  • Retirement

A member who is an associate of the College from January to December must complete at least 20 hours of PD annually:

  • Mandated topics: 6 hours (see below)
  • Discretionary topics: 14 hours

Changes in member status

Members may switch between active and associate status during the calendar year. In these cases, professional development requirements are pro-rated quarterly, to reflect the portion of the year the member was an associate member.

  • for 10-12 months associate you need 20 hours total PD (6 on mandated topics)
  • for 7-9 months associate you need 25 hours total PD (5 formal, 6 mandated topics)
  • for 4-6 months associate you need 30 hours total PD (10 formal, 6 mandated topics)
  • for 1-3 months associate you need 35 hours total PD (15 formal, 6 mandated topics)

First-time registrants

The first time a new member renews their NSCSW registration, their required PD hours may be pro-rated on a quarterly basis, to reflect the portion of the year in which they were registered. Half of those hours should be formal (unless that would exceed the total required).

For example:

  • an active member granted registration in April-June will have to record 30 PD hours when renewing at the end of the year
    • 6 hours on mandated topics
    • 15 hours of formal activities
    • 9 remaining may be any combination of formal and informal activities
  • an active member granted registration in July-September will have to record 20 PD hours
    • 6 hours on mandated topics
    • 10 hours of formal activities
    • 4 remaining may be any combination of formal and informal activities
  • an active member granted registration in October-December will have to record 10 PD hours
    • 6 hours on mandated topics
    • 4 hours of formal activities

This only applies to a member’s first renewal; for example, hours are not pro-rated when seeking reinstatement.

Electronic practice only

Members with residence and primary registration in other Canadian jurisdictions may apply for telepractice authorization to work remotely with clients in Nova Scotia. NSCSW requires annual verification that they remain in good standing with the regulatory body in their home jurisdiction (including that organization’s professional development requirements).

Current students

RSW and SWC members who are enrolled in social work education can include their coursework as formal PD.

Students who are not yet registered to practice social work are eligible for a special class of membership that is valid until graduation; these student members do not need to renew annually or submit professional development records.

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PD categories

Mandated topics

All social workers in Nova Scotia, whether active or associate, must complete at least six hours of PD each year on five mandated topics. The College has deemed training and activities regarding these topics to be essential for ensuring professional competency and to protect the public.

Both CASW and NSCSW offer new training on these topics every year, and recordings of past webinars are available for viewing on demand.

While the topics are mandated, members are not limited to specific training provided or preapproved by the College and may select opportunities suited to their interests and relevant to their practice.

Social work ethics

1 hour of training

Ethical behaviour is at the core of social work practice. It is a part of our everyday decision making, and paramount to guiding our actions. Training in this category should be specific to social work ethics.

Anti-racist and anti-discriminatory practice

1 hour of training

The goal of this requirement is to support anti-oppressive practice, and to ensure that every social worker is able to provide person-centered services with diverse communities that are culturally safe, competent, responsive and appropriate

Approved topics include:

  • antiracist practice
  • ableism
  • antisemitism
  • islamophobia
  • trauma-informed practice
  • training regarding inter-generational trauma
  • other related content to ensure culturally responsive and appropriate practice with diverse communities

Members should make an effort to vary topic areas each year in order to ensure broader cultural competence and increase cultural safety.

Truth & reconciliation

1 hour training and/or activities

The social work profession has been complicit in multiple colonial undertakings designed to displace, dispossess and disempower Indigenous communities, such as the 60’s scoop and the residential school system. While apologies have been offered, there is still much work to be done.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s reports outlined TRC education that is necessary for all those working in public service, education, health care and child welfare. Members may pursue formal training related to these TRC recommendations, or informal activities designed to build resilience, reconciliation, healing and understanding.

Vicarious trauma & secondary stress

2 hours training and/or activities

Many of the complaints made to the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers can be traced back to a social worker’s burnout that led them to a boundary violation, lack of empathy, or other form of professional misconduct.

As part of the College’s mandate to protect the public and support social workers, this annual requirement ensures that all social workers are able to receive support in preventing or managing vicarious trauma and secondary stress arising from their work. Approved activities reflect current research in this area:

  • education regarding compassion fatigue, burnout, vicarious trauma or compassion satisfaction
  • personal therapy
  • engagement in the NSCSW Peer Accountability Process
  • Indigenous healing rituals
  • group practices such as sharing circles

Informal self-care activities are not eligible to meet this requirement, but can be tracked under a different category (for details see informal professional development, scroll to section on self-care).

Social justice

1 hour training and/or activities

This requirement is in addition to a social worker’s employment duties and can take a number of different forms.

Our Code of Ethics calls on us to promote social fairness and the equitable distribution of resources, and act to reduce barriers and expand choice for all persons, with special regard for those who are marginalized, disadvantaged, vulnerable and/or have exceptional needs. We are tasked to promote social justice in a number of areas.

Social workers can fulfill this mandatory requirement by pursuing training related to social justice advocacy, or by choosing a social justice activity (e.g. participating in advocacy, volunteer community service, or serving on a board or committee) related to one of the following, as delineated in our profession’s Code of Ethics:

  • Fair and equitable access to public services.
  • Equal treatment and protection under the law and challenge injustices, especially injustices that effect the vulnerable and disadvantaged.
  • The client, when services in the best interest of that client are not available or accessible.
  • The elimination of all forms of discrimination and make reasonable efforts to promote conditions that respect the diversity of people.
  • The elimination of poverty.
  • The equitable distribution of society’s resources to all persons, by bringing to the attention of employers, policy makers, politicians and the general public situations where resources are inadequate or where distribution of resources, policies and practices are oppressive, unfair or harmful.
  • Universal entitlement and access to the services and opportunities to meet basic human needs in the areas of housing, health care, child care, education and old age security.
  • A clean and healthy environment and the development of sustainable environmental strategies.

Formal professional development

Formal professional development is expected to orient social workers to current research and peer reviewed materials in a structured format. This can take multiple forms.

Continuing education

  • University courses related to the field of social work
  • Seminars related to the field of social work
  • Continuing education workshops related to the field of social work
  • In-service education sessions related to the field of social work
  • Online course work related to the field of social work
  • Professional conferences related to the field of social work
  • Webinars related to the field of social work

Knowledge transfer, knowledge creation & contributions to the profession

  • Teaching or presenting continuing education activities related to the field of social work
  • Engaging in research, including interdisciplinary collaboration, or writing articles for peer reviewed publication related to the field of social work

Social workers bring valuable experience and expertise to their practice. The College encourages members to reflect on that experience and find ways to forward their expertise to the profession.


In case of an audit (see below) verification of formal professional development may include:

  • A syllabus or general outline of the course provided at the beginning
  • A continuing education certificate
  • An educational program with written educational goals and specific, measurable learning objectives
  • Website documentation of registration, payment, or certification from an online course or conference
  • Other formal documentation of the event or activity
  • Evidence of formal professional development activities, such as published research

Members should keep such records for at least three years.

Informal professional development

The Nova Scotia College of Social Workers recognizes the broad scope of the social work profession and that there are many ways to acquire new skills and knowledge. When planning annual professional development, members may include informal activities and independent learning related to furthering social work competencies.

NSCSW encourages social workers to seek opportunities that combine PD with contributing to the field of social work and the quality of life for the residents of Nova Scotia.

Critical review of published materials

Up to 5 hours annually

For example:

  • Reading (books, peer reviewed journals, etc.)
  • Watching documentaries on social work-related content


Up to 12 hours annually

Members can track and submit supervision and consultation activities. To include this category of activity in the professional development inventory, these must not include job-related duties, and the member must not receive payment.

  • Providing clinical supervision
  • Mentoring a Social Worker Candidate
  • Supervising a social work student
  • Receiving clinical supervision (this can be paid or unpaid, must be in addition to job-related duties)

Volunteer work

Members can track and submit volunteer contributions related to social work.

  • Member of NSCSW committee (12 hours maximum per committee)
  • Committee support / consultation (12 hours maximum)
  • Attendance at NSCSW Annual General Meeting
  • Direct volunteer service in a social service agency (12 hours maximum)
  • Board and/or committee work in a social service agency (12 hours maximum)
  • International volunteer social service projects (12 hours maximum)
  • Social justice activism (12 hours maximum)

Personal growth

Up to 12 hours annually

Social workers can track and submit activities that contribute to their growth and/or promote practitioner resilience against vicarious trauma and secondary stress.

  • Engaging in one’s own therapy (individual or group)


Up to 5 hours annually

Social workers can track and submit personal activities that contribute to their self-care and promote practitioner resilience against vicarious trauma and secondary stress. For example:

  • Engaging in mindfulness training, yoga or meditation classes
  • Engaging in arts-based activities or classes
  • Participating in organized activities at one’s personal community (faith or cultural) in order to strengthen one’s values and enhance coping skills
  • Participating in a community of practice or other peer support group

Professional & technical knowledge

Up to 5 hours annually

Social workers can track and submit activities that contribute to their career development and skills that will enhance their social work practice. For example:

  • Participating in classes to improve digital skills (Zoom, website design and maintenance, how to set up a LinkedIn profile, advanced use of spreadsheets, etc.)
  • Participating in classes to improve their understanding of the law as it relates to their field of practice
  • Participating in classes to improve their ability to work with diverse populations, such as learning a new language
  • Participating in classes to develop other knowledge and skills complementary to social work practice (writing, first aid, CPR, etc.)
  • Developing and maintaining a professional portfolio

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Recording requirements

Recording requirements help the College ensure that all social workers are receiving current professional development to improve practice and outcomes for clients.

Online tracking

Members of NSCSW are required to record and submit a professional development inventory to the College yearly. Records must be entered via the online member profile, and the completed inventory is submitted to the College during the annual registration renewal process.

For formal PD, members are strongly encouraged to upload copies of verification documents such as a syllabus or a certificate of completion. Informal PD simply needs the details to be clearly provided (e.g. date, hours, book or article title and author, workshop facilitator, etc.), along with a brief reflection on how the experience will support the member’s practice.

Registration approval/renewal cannot be granted until the College receives a complete and valid PD inventory. If the College does not receive records that appear to meet the minimum requirements, the renewal cannot be completed; in these cases the member will not be registered and licensed as a social worker for the upcoming year.

It is each individual member’s responsibility to ensure their own professional development is completed, recorded, and submitted to the College on time each year. To make record-keeping easier and increase accuracy, we strongly recommend tracking professional development shortly after completion, while memories are still fresh, rather than waiting to enter the information all at once near the end of the year.

Quality assurance

The College may, at any time, conduct a quality assurance process to ensure the validity of the PD information submitted by members to the College.

Members should keep records of their professional development, including verification of formal activities as described above, for the previous three years. During this time, members should be prepared to answer questions regarding their selected activities (e.g. purpose, relevance, impact).

This process exists to ensure that the membership understands and is able to fulfil regulated requirements for PD, and that members are accountable to their regulatory professional body whose mandate is to the protect the public. It also serves to help the College identify trends and interests of our members, to facilitate development of future PD programming.

The outcomes of quality assurance audits will be reported to our members and the public.

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