A high school diploma is the minimum requirement, but some employers prefer to hire workers who have relevant work experience or education beyond high school. Certificates or associate’s degrees in subjects such as human services, gerontology (working with older adults), or a social or behavioural science are common for workers entering this occupation. Some jobs may require a bachelor's or master's degree in human services or a related field, such as counselling, rehabilitation, or social work.
Human services degree programs train students to observe and interview patients, carry out treatment plans, and handle crises. These programs train students to work with people in difficult situations. Many programs include fieldwork to give students hands-on experience.
The level of education that family social workers have completed often determines the responsibilities they are given. Those with a high school diploma are likely to do lower level work, such as helping clients fill out paperwork. However, assistants with some university education may coordinate program activities or manage a group home.
Many family social workers, particularly those without any postsecondary education, undergo a period of on-the-job training. Training prepares them to work with clients from a wide variety of backgrounds and respond to crisis situations.