Human Service Work

Human Service WorkerBuilding Relationships, Building Communities

In this two-year diploma program students will develop a theoretical knowledge base, a foundation of professional ethics and values, critical thinking ability, essential support skills, and a process for integrating all their learning into a functional practice framework.

Career Opportunities include but are not limited to: Support workers in child and youth care services, a variety of services to people with developmental disabilities, people with brain injuries, people who experience a mental illness, residential treatment centres for addictions, women's emergency shelters, and schools.

Program Description

The curriculum for the Human Service Work Diploma program reflects the expanding responsibilities and evolving practice standards for graduates from non-degree social service programs.

Graduates of the two year Diploma in Human Service Work will be prepared to work with individuals who are vulnerable or disadvantaged in some way. They will provide support to individuals experiencing personal and social barriers due to compromised mental health, addictions, homelessness, abuse, poverty, disabilities, and unemployment. Students will develop a theoretical knowledge base, a foundation of professional ethics and values, critical thinking skills, essential support skills, and a process for integrating all of their learning into a functional practice framework. Students will apply this practice framework to develop empowering, purposeful relationships that promote increased levels of health and well being in individuals, families and groups. Students will learn theoretical knowledge, practice skills, and professional values that are designed to enhance their effectiveness as human service workers. Specifically, skills and theoretical concepts will include emotional support, positive behavioural change, group theory and facilitation, interpersonal relationships, systems theory and community building. In addition, students will learn to integrate and operationalize such professional values as non-judgement, boundary setting, confidentiality, respect, individualization, objectivity, self determination, and valuing diversity.

Orientation Sessions - 2020

The Human Service Work Diploma Program provides 2 in-person sessions per year for applicants to attend a Mandatory Program Orientation as one of their required pre-admissions criteria.

In 2020, the HSW Program will hold its Mandatory Orientation Sessions on the following dates:

Friday, February 21
Friday, June 19

Vernon/Salmon Arm

Important Things to Think About Before Applying to HSW

The Human Service Work Diploma Program is highly regarded among our community partners and employers. Our reputation reflects, in large part, our dedication to developing highly-skilled Human Service Workers that hold excellent service to vulnerable populations as a primary value driving their approach. Developing the skills required to practice ethically and effectively in the field requires students to demonstrate the kind of character that reflects the values of our profession. In addition, developing highly-skilled HSW professionals requires students to undergo a personal transformation as they cultivate the personal resources that will become the tools of their trade.

The transformation from HSW student to HSW professional requires intensive work and we recognize that applicants who are adequately prepared to undergo such a transformation gain deep and meaningful, personal and professional benefits from their experience as students in the Program. On the other hand, we also recognize that applicants who are unprepared often experience personal barriers that impact their ability to succeed in the program. Therefore, we also wish to issue a caution to applicants who may need to do further personal work before they apply to the program, in order to prepare themselves adequately for the transformation they will undergo.

Considering the intensity of the Program, we highly recommend applicants take advantage of the following resources to help them make the most informed decision they can about whether the HSW Program is right for them.

First, applicants are encouraged to view the videos below. The videos contain a range of important things to consider before applying including:

*An introduction to our HSW Instructional team
*A sample of a Semester I class schedule
*Some information about what to expect in practicum
*Some information about what it takes to succeed in the Program, based on an applicant's Fit and Readiness, to prepare themselves adequately for the professional role they will assume on graduation.

Please keep in mind that although these videos may be somewhat dated, the basic issues we discuss still apply.

Kelowna Orientation Session - 2018


Vernon/Salmon Arm Orientation Session - 2018

Second, applicants are encouraged to review and complete this self-assessment tool to help them understand what will be required of them before applying to the program. Please keep in mind that applicants should be able to say that, by and large, they meet the expectations captured in the Fit and Readiness Self-Assessment before they are admitted into the program. In other words, the skills and characteristics identified in the Fit and Readiness Self-Assessment will greatly enhance a student's capacity to experience success once in the program.

Third, we highly recommend applicants take the time to volunteer with a local Human Service agency. There really is no better way to experience fully the intensity of the field other than to the field. We also encourage applicants to seek feedback actively from their volunteer experiences to help them identify the areas they may need to develop before applying.  

Fourth, we strongly recommend that applicants develop their English writing skills beyond the basic pre-admissions requirement, particularly since HSW students are required to perform at a high level in both their vocational and academic studies.

Fifth, we recommend that, due to the intensity of the Program, applicants complete as many of their grad-required University Transfer courses prior to enrolling. In particular, due to the intensity of the first semester, we recommend applicants complete SOCW 200A and their English requirement prior to coming into the program.

Sixth, we welcome individuals into the program who come with a broad range of personal experiences. However, we also recognize that since the Program, and indeed the professional duties of an HSW, is very intensive work, we highly recommend that applicants recruit active personal supports for their general wellness (physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual) before enrolling.

Admission Requirements

For official admission requirements and other program information, please see the Okanagan College calendar.

How to Apply

Applicants who satisfy the entrance requirements will be granted admission in chronological order, based on the date of application.

Applications for the 2020-2021 School year open on October 1, 2019. Apply online.

This program is offered every year in Kelowna and on a rotating basis in Vernon and Salmon Arm.

Individuals who have questions about applying to the Vernon/Salmon Arm campus should contact the HSW North Campus Program Chair, Mark Nishihara at:

Individuals who have questions about applying to the Kelowna campus should contact the HSW Kelowna Campus Program Chair, Nick Deagnon at:

For more information on this program, Financial Assistance or Student Residence call toll free: 1-877-755-2266