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International & Community Development

Information for applicants with a Bachelor of Social Work

Using a social work lens you'll examine and engage with policies, practices and ethical approaches to working with diverse populations in global and local contexts. You'll analyze the social forces, structures, systems and international institutions that give rise to different models of social development. You'll explore and build skills to apply alternative intervention strategies and methods. Our grads have gone on to work in international and Canadian settings with international organizations, NGOs, Canadian development agencies, and working with immigrant populations.

Two students working at our Calgary campus

Course- or Thesis-Based MSW?

The course-based MSW program is designed to enhance the practical knowledge of social workers. Courses mirror real-life situations. The goal of this program is to graduate independent professionals to the social work profession.


The thesis-based MSW program is designed for students who intend to pursue doctoral studies and/or anticipate a career requiring advanced program evaluation and research skills.

Course-based MSW

The MSW degree consists of 12 courses (36 units), including 500 hours of field practicum (equivalent to 2 courses):

  • 4 courses of Advanced Social Work Practice (12 units),
  • 4 Specialization courses in International Social Development (12 units), and
  • 4 courses of Field Education, Integrative Seminar, Research Applications and Exit Requirement (12 units).

The four specialization courses build your knowledge sequentially, so you need to follow the curriculum plan.

Expected completion time is 24 months.

As established by the Faculty of Graduate Studies, the maximum completion time is 6 years for a course-based master's.

Thesis-based MSW

The MSW degree consists of 10 courses (30 units) followed by thesis research and oral examination.

  • 4 courses of Advanced Social Work Practice (12 units),
  • 4 Specialization courses in International Social Development (12 units), and
  • 2 Thesis research courses (6 units).

The four specialization courses build your knowledge sequentially, so you need to follow the curriculum plan.

Thesis students may complete a field practicum (SOWK 660), but, this isn't a requirement. Thinking of completing a practicum? You must consult with the MSW Thesis Coordinator after you're admitted.

Expected completion time is 36 months.

As established by the Faculty of Graduate Studies, the maximum completion time is 4 years for a thesis-based master's.

If you are considering the thesis route, take a look at our Faculty Directory for potential thesis supervisors whose area(s) of expertise match your own research interests. If offered admission, the MSW Thesis Coordinator will help you select a supervisor.

Note: You're initially assigned an interim supervisor.

The final examination involves an oral defence of your thesis conducted by your examining committee consisting of:

  • your thesis supervisor,
  • a faculty member from the Faculty of Social Work,
  • an approved faculty member from a faculty outside of Social Work at UCalgary, and
  • a neutral chair.

International Social Development: Courses

International Social Development: Theories and Interventions

A comprehensive overview of the scope and nature of international social development that combines theoretical approaches with policy and practice focused frameworks. You'll analyze social development theories and practice models from a historical and critical perspective, focusing on their socio-political-economic dimensions. Alternative ideologies and alternative development approaches will be explored. We'll also evaluate the role of social work in the field of international social development.

International Social Work in Canada

This course focuses on the ethics, knowledge and skills required for international social work practice in the Canadian context. Key concepts include colonialism and nation-building; power, privilege, systemic disadvantage and intersectionality; migration, forced migration, trafficking and (re)settlement. Popular education and experiential learning will be used to promote critical self-reflection and solidarity practices. You'll develop and enhance skills that can be employed in the contexts of community, organization and policy work.

Advanced Practice in Sustainable Development

We'll focus on sustainable development processes to identify interlinkages between the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. A social-ecological and ‘green social work’ approach will be used to explore key concepts such as resilience, eco-social policies, and Sustainable Development Goals. The role of practitioners, activists, civil society organizations, and policy innovations will be considered in advancing transformative change towards environmentally sustainable and socially equitable solutions. 

Social Work & International Development Projects

This course will prepare you to critically engage with international development projects. You'll also develop necessary skills relevant to various aspects of project design, development, implementation and evaluation. This course also provides the knowledge and skills needed to critically examine global neoliberal realities that promote market-oriented ideologies and their impacts on transnational experiences of marginalization. You'll learn the practical skills and theory needed to work in Canada or internationally in community development, in a variety of settings.

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