An introduction to our College
for new members of our
professional community

Welcome to the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers

Congratulations on being granted registration by the NSCSW Board of Examiners! This page will give you an introduction to interacting with your new regulatory body.

Consider this your orientation package. Whether you are a recent graduate who is early in your career, or are an experienced social worker who has recently moved to our province, you will find this page helpful during your first year of membership.

Land Acknowledgement

The Nova Scotia College of Social Workers is located in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq. We are all Treaty people.

Table of contents

  • The privilege of self-regulation

  • Registration & renewal

    • How long does my registration last?
    • What titles can I use?
    • How do I renew my registration at the end of the year?
    • Why is my registration renewed annually?
    • Can I renew my registration early?
  • Candidacy

    • What does it mean to be a Social Worker Candidate?
    • What are the requirements for completing the Candidacy Mentorship Program?
    • Where can I learn more about candidacy?
  • Professional development

    • What does the College require?
    • How can I find professional development opportunities?
  • Accessing the registration database online

    • Applicant portal
    • Member portal
    • Public register
  • Changing member status

    • Should I keep my registration if I’m not practicing social work?
    • What if I leave Nova Scotia?
    • What if I’m working in a different field?
  • Communicating with the College

    • Why should I sign up for the newsletter?
    • What’s Connection magazine?
    • What information can I find online?
    • How do I contact the College?

The privilege of self-regulation

The Nova Scotia College of Social Workers exists to serve and protect Nova Scotians by effectively regulating the profession of social work. Our profession is granted this privilege of self-regulation by the Social Workers Act. The Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics that each member is required to uphold were created by social workers; these documents reflect our values and how we enact them in praxis, and are living documents that will be updated in consultation with our members as the profession continues to develop.

While our primary mandate is to protect the public, we are also a professional association. We provide membership services to support social workers like you in maintaining the highest standards of professional competency, and enable participation in a broader provincial social work community.

We also speak for our profession in Nova Scotia, encouraging decision-makers to value the perspectives and expertise of social workers. We work in solidarity with Nova Scotians to advocate for policies that improve social conditions, challenge injustice and value diversity.

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Registration & renewal

How long does my registration last?

Your status as a new registrant is finalized once you inform the Regulatory and Applications Administrator that you have paid the balance of your registration fees for this year; she will then update your member class in the registry to reflect your new status.

Our registration year runs from January 1 – December 31 and members must renew registration annually. This means that your registration will expire at the end of this year.

What titles can I use?

Once you are approved by the Board of Examiners, they will indicate whether you are able to practice as a Registered Social Worker (RSW) immediately, or are a Social Worker Candidate (SWC) until you complete the Candidacy Mentorship Program.

You can abbreviate your designation to its initials, but you cannot modify it further. For example, there is no such thing as a Registered Social Worker Candidate or Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the province of Nova Scotia.

The Registered Social Worker and Social Worker Candidate designations are specifically granted to our profession by legislation (Social Workers Act).  This legislation also grants our profession protected title; people who are not registered as members of our College must not represent themselves in any way that might lead Nova Scotians to infer that they are social workers. This is meant to offer protection to the public.

How do I renew my registration at the end of the year?

To renew your registration you must:

  1. submit sufficient hours of professional development to meet the regulatory requirements,
  2. complete your renewal form in the member portal, and
  3. pay the registration fee for next year.

The renewal period begins the first week of October, and all of these steps must be completed by midnight on December 31. You need to renew your registration to continue practicing social work in the new year.

Why is my registration renewed annually?

The annual renewal process is a core NSCSW regulatory function. It confirms to the public that our members have the ethical foundation, skills and good character to practice social work in Nova Scotia.

Renewal is also an opportunity to reflect on your professional growth and development, and to bring to life the core social work value of integrity in professional practice. You’re recommitting to the values and standards of our profession and reflecting on your goals and commitment to lifelong learning.

Professional social work registration is a privilege our members can take pride in.

Can I renew my registration early?

Yes, please do! You have until midnight on December 31, but registration renewal opens the first week of October, and we recommend early renewal whenever possible. It is each individual member’s responsibility to ensure their own registration is renewed on time.

If you wait to register at the very end of the year, you may run into obstacles with little time to resolve them. December is a busy month for many, and it can be difficult to find time for completing professional development, gathering documents and submitting forms.

Planning for early renewal can also alleviate the impact of registration fees on your personal budget.

Please consider renewing early in the fall, as a gift to your future self.

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Candidacy

What does it mean to be a Social Worker Candidate?

If you are a Social Worker Candidate (SWC), you are registered through the College to practice social work within the scope of practice as defined by the Social Workers Act. You are also required to complete the Candidacy Mentorship Program (CMP) before you can become a Registered Social Worker.

The Board of Examiners may require any member to complete all or part of the CMP, but they will always require it for new and returning social workers.

Candidacy is based on mentorship, not supervision. This mentorship process is designed to decrease professional stress and provide you with nurturing conditions that complement your success and encourage self-efficacy. Mentorship is underscored by a climate of safety and trust, where candidates can further develop a sense of professional identity.

What are the requirements for completing candidacy?

To complete the CMP you must:

  • start the candidacy process within six months after registering with the College
  • complete 2500 hours of social work practice experience
    • up to 500 hours from volunteer experience within the scope of practice can be included
  • complete at least 32 hours of meetings with your mentor
    • mentors must be approved by the College
    • you are expected to meet with your mentor for two hours per month if you are working full-time
    • for part-time employment, the expectation is a one-hour meeting each month.
    • no more than two meeting hours each month can count towards the total for this mentorship requirement
  • complete three reports– a learning agreement, a midterm report, and a final report
  • complete your candidacy hours within a five-year period

Once your SWC registration is finalized, you will track your progress through the CMP entirely online. Sign in to the member portal to search for a mentor, track activities, and submit your reports.

Where can I learn more about candidacy?

Our candidacy website (candidacy.nscsw.org) offers detailed information and resources for both candidates and mentors.

As great as it is, we know sometimes a website isn’t enough. If you have any questions about the CMP, or are struggling to find a suitable mentor, please contact our Candidacy Consultant Valerie Shapiro at valerie.shapiro@nscsw.org or 902-429-7799 ext 222.

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Professional development

Note: Temporary changes to PD

As part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the College has temporarily changed the professional development requirements for 2020. The total number of hours is the same, but the allotments for formal/informal learning have been adjusted to accommodate and encourage self-care and reflection.

Read more about these temporary changes to professional development guidelines.

What does the College require?

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. SWCs are required to complete and report to the College the same amount of professional development (PD) as RSWs.

If you are an active registrant of the College for the entire year, you need 40 hours of professional development; of these, at least 20 hours must be formal learning, and up to five hours can be for personal activities such as self care and developing a professional portfolio. Check our website for more information about how professional development activities are categorized by the College.

You may need fewer than 40 hours if you are an associate member for any part of the year, or joined the College after the first quarter of the year. (See sections 22-25 of the Social Worker Regulations.)

You also need to complete an additional five hours of professional development in social work ethics within your first five years of registration, and again every five years thereafter.

You will provide documentation of your professional development activities to the College via the member portal.

  1. Sign in and click the menu option for professional development
  2. Select activities.
  3. Use the add activity button to enter details about each of your professional development activities during the year.

We recommend tracking your activities as you complete them, while they are still fresh in your memory, rather than waiting to enter the information all at once later in the year.

Annual PD and the CMP are separate regulatory requirements, and are tracked in different sections of the member portal. The PD activities you complete to fulfil your membership renewal obligations should not be counted as CMP activities, and vice versa. However, SWCs may choose to include discussions of PD activities in conversations with their mentor.

How can I find professional development opportunities?

Check our website regularly, follow our accounts on social media, and/or subscribe to the biweekly member newsletter to receive information about upcoming events.

The College creates in-person professional development opportunities in locations across the province every year, including an annual conference in Halifax every spring before our annual general meeting. Most of our events have a registration fee that is subsidized for members, and some are entirely free.

Our College is also affiliated with the Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW). This means that as a registrant of our College you are automatically a member of their organization. CASW member benefits include many free learning resources, including an online journal, live and recorded webinars, and a full-text journal database. Visit the CASW website to claim your free national membership.

There are many ways to acquire new skills and knowledge, and you are not limited to a list of professional development options offered or pre-approved by the College. If you are not sure whether an activity can be counted towards your professional development activities, please contact the College for guidance.

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Accessing the registration database online

There are three ways to access the College register online.

  1. The applicant portal, for prospective members to submit, update, and monitor the status of their application while they seek registration. Invoices for applicants and first-time registrants are paid here.
    • Once your registration is approved by the Board of Examiners, you will visit the applicant portal a final time to pay the balance of your registration fees. After that, switch to the member portal.
  2. The member portal, for registered members of the College. This is where current members update contact information, pay invoices, print licenses and receipts, switch member class between active and associate, track candidacy activities, document professional development, and complete annual registration renewal.
  3. The public register allows employers and the general public to verify the registration of any social worker in Nova Scotia at any time. This search tool lists every member’s registration number, first name, last name and common first name. Private practitioners can choose to include contact information for their practice as well, but this is optional.

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Changing member status

Should I keep my registration if I’m not practicing social work?

If you are not practicing because you are on sick leave, on parental leave, or unemployed (and not volunteering within the scope of practice), you should switch your member class from active to associate.

While you are an associate member:

  • you cannot use the protected titles of Registered Social Worker or Social Worker Candidate
  • you cannot practice social work within the scope of practice
  • you will have all other rights and privileges of membership (i.e. access to member services and resources, member rates for College conferences and events)
  • you may reduce your professional development hours you need to complete before annual renewal (pro-rated to reflect the portion of the year you spend as an associate)
  • if you are an associate at the time of annual renewal, you will pay a lower registration renewal fee – however, when you switch back to active you will need to pay the remainder (these fees are not pro-rated and must be paid in full) unless you have been on parental leave for 12-18 months.

Be sure to switch back to active status before you resume practicing.

To change your member class:

  1. make sure all invoices have been paid and there are no fees outstanding
  2. sign into the member portal and click the member classoption in the menu.
  3. select the appropriate class from the drop-down list and complete the online form.

What if I leave Nova Scotia?

You are required to keep the College informed of your status and contact information until you stop being a member.

Please write to nscsw@nscsw.org to let the College know you’re leaving the province and will no longer be practicing here. Check that the email address in your member profile is one you’ll still have access to, so you can keep access to your online records (e.g. professional development activities, invoices for your taxes).

Get in touch with us if you move back! Depending on how long you’ve been gone (and whether you’ve been registered to practice in another jurisdiction) you may be able to reinstate your registration without having to complete a new application from scratch.

What if I’m working in a different field?

If you have changed positions and believe you are no longer practicing within the Scope of Practice as defined by the Social Workers Act, you may apply for resignation by submitting a request and current job description to the College’s Executive Director/Registrar for review in accordance with Social Worker Regulation 26 (a).

Please send requests for resignation to our Executive Director/Registrar Alec Stratford at Alec.Stratford@NSCSW.org.

Note that employers may decide to open a position to non-social workers, but if your role is within the Scope of Practice they cannot declare that you don’t need to maintain your registration; please contact the College if you have questions about how this applies to you.

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Communicating with the College

The primary way the College will reach out to you is by email. Please be sure to keep your contact information in the member portal up to date.

If you wish to be on our mailing list for the biweekly newsletter, Connection magazine, event invitations, and other industry mailouts, please contact the College’s Communication Coordinator, Rebecca Faria, at rebecca.faria@nscsw.org. To stay on the mailing list from year-to-year, please indicate your continued consent during your annual renewal (i.e. select I would like to have my email included on an industry mailout when completing the online form).

Why should I sign up for the newsletter?

The biweekly newsletter is an exclusive benefit for members of the College. It gives you updates on our activities, including our advocacy efforts. It also shares opportunities we learn about in the community that we think will interest social workers, including job listings, professional development, calls for proposals, and so on.

What’s Connection magazine about?

Connection is a full-colour digital magazine that we produce three times during a calendar year in the fall, winter & spring. It illustrates the realities and challenges that social workers face, promotes the profession’s passionate work and bring stories from our community to life. Connection is distributed to social workers, government, community & advocacy groups.

Read the latest issue of Connection and browse our back issues online.

What information can I find online?

Our website (www.nscsw.org) offers information about our by-laws, regulations, standards and ethics, committee activities, upcoming events, and the renewal process. We regularly publish blog posts about current events and concerns in our communities, and news about the College’s advocacy efforts.

Specialized information about the Candidacy Mentorship Program is at candidacy.nscsw.org.

How do I contact the College?

You can reach the staff team directly by phone or email. For contact information for all our staff members, and a list of what each staff person is responsible for, visit nscsw.org/contact-us. You can also visit our office in person, though we recommend making an appointment ahead of time to be sure that the office is open and that the person you need to speak with is available that day.

If you have a message for your regional representatives on the NSCSW Council, or for one of the College’s committees, please send it to nscsw@nscsw.org; our staff will forward your message and your contact information to them. You can also contact the President of the College at president@nscsw.org.

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