Social Service Diploma

Gain insight into social justice to support and empower individuals, families and communities. Community-based partnerships and research opportunities support you to develop an understanding of current and emerging areas of best-practice. You will also take part in workplace practicums to gain hands-on experience in the social service field while also building your professional network.


Applications for Fall 2021 start will open Thurs, Oct 1, 2020

Where: Comox Valley
Starts: September
Length: 2 years
Delivery: On-campus and Digital (Blended)

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The program was fun but also very challenging. You’re learning how to walk alongside and support people who are experiencing different issues and situations that affect their lives. The instructors were very supportive and the practicums were rewarding and helpful in developing my skills and applying the theory and knowledge I was learning in class.

Rudi-Lee Canil, NIC Social Service diploma alumna

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Program Requirements

Year 1

  • ENG-115 Essay Writing and Critical Analysis or ENG-116 Essay Writing and Indigenous Perspective
  • SSW-120 Foundations of Social Service Practice
  • SSW-121 Interpersonal Communications
  • SSW-122 Social Welfare in Canada
  • SSW-123 Advanced Interpersonal Skills
  • PSY-250 Human Development from Conception through Childhood
  • PSY-251 Human Development from Adolescence through Adulthood
  • SSW-150 Social Services Practice Experience I
Plus 3 Electives totaling 9 credits*

Year 2

8 courses chosen from:
  • SSW-201 Family Relationships
  • SSW-203 Conflict Management
  • SSW-204 Program Planning, Development and Implementation
  • SSW-205 Introduction to Group Work Practice
  • SSW-206 Self Care in Human Services
  • SSW-207 Law and Social Services
  • SSW-208 Social Work Practice in Mental Health and Addictions
  • SSW-209 Contemporary Perspectives on Substance Abuse
  • SSW-210 Community Development
  • or any 200 level SSW courses


  • SSW-250 Advanced Practice Experience: Social Services

Plus 2 Electives totaling 6 credits*

*Note: Electives to be chosen from English, humanities, or social science courses that transfer to BC degree granting institutions. 


Practice Experience

Practicum opportunities are an important component of the program, allowing you to integrate theory with practical experience in the community. You will connect with industry leaders and receive mentorship and guidance as you work directly with vulnerable populations. This could include local community organizations or international opportunities, depending on availability.

Weekly seminars provide additional learning and connection of theory to practice. You will be placed in a variety of settings, including but not limited to, agencies that support families or individuals who are struggling with financial or family challenges, violence, addiction or mental health. This allows you to learn exactly what the job entains and what skills are required.

This is a holistic approach to learning and many students report that gaining related work experience while pursuing their education is helpful in obtaining employment afterward.

Completion Requirements

  1. A letter grade of C (60%) or better in all classes.
  2. A letter grade of P (Pass) in all Practicum courses.
  3. Students must receive a letter grade of C (60%) or better in all core (SSW and PSY-250 and PSY-251) courses to be promoted from one term to the next term. A student who fails any core course in the program cannot progress until the course is passed. University Transfer and ENG-115 or ENG-116 courses are not a requirement of progression but must be completed with a grade of C (60%) or better in order to obtain the credential.

    In order to repeat a core course, you must reapply to the program in a subsequent offering of the same term in which the failure occurred providing there is an available seat. If in repeating the course, you fail again, you will be removed entirely from the program and can only re-enter by going through the admission process. Please note that you may be required to begin at term one.
    If you fail a core course, re-entered the program and successfully repeated the failed core course, and then fail another core course, you will be removed entirely from the program and can only re-enter by through the admission process. Please note that you may be required to begin at term one.
    Re-entering the program under any circumstance is dependent on an available seat and at the discretion of the human services department and in consultation with the Dean. If you fail a core course you may be asked to complete a learning assessment prior to being reconsidered for re-admission. These regulations are important to the profession to ensure that graduates have the required skills and knowledge, and are therefore deemed safe to practice. 
  4. All students are required to adhere to the program expectations document and the Canadian Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Ethical Practice. Failure to adhere to these standards may result in your being required to leave the program.

Admission Requirements

  1. C+ in one of Provincial English 12, English Studies 12, English First Peoples 12, NIC ENG-060, ENG-096, ENG-098, ESL-090, or equivalent; or English assessment.
  2. Completed 20 hours volunteer work and HSW Professional Reference Form.
  3. Signed Human Services Requisite Skills and Abilities document.
  4. 300 word HSW Letter of Intent for coming into the program and career goals. 


International Language Requirements

If you are applying as an international student, you must meet NIC international admission requirements.

Before Classes Begin

Attend a group information session. This mandatory session is designed to assist you in making an informed decision about pursuing a human services career. The admissions department will send you an invitation with details regarding the date and time of the information session.

Once accepted to the program but before classes begin, you will be required to: 

  • hold a Standard First Aid Certification with CPR Level C that will remain valid through to the end of the program.
  • complete a Personal Immunization form which will be sent to your by the admissions office when you have a seat in the program. It must be validated by the public health nurse at your local health unit.
  • submit a Criminal Record Check permission form which will be sent to you by Admissions once you are offered a seat in the program.
Note: Social Service diploma students are not required to meet the PSY-130 and PSY-131 prerequisites for registering in PSY-250 and PSY-251. If you choose to work toward a degree, you may be required to complete PSY-130 and PSY-131.

Transfer Credit & Credit For Prior Learning

Students with previous course work from another accredited institution may apply to transfer course credits to NIC. For more information refer to Steps to University Transfer or contact Student Services.

Your previous life, work or study experience, unassociated with formal education, may qualify for Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR). Your knowledge and skills will be evaluated to determine if you meet the objectives for selected courses up to a maximum of 50 percent of the program. To qualify for PLAR, you must apply to the program, meet all the program requirements, and complete the PLAR before entering the program or one term before the scheduled course(s). The fee for each PLAR course is 75 per cent of the regular course fee. Refer to NIC policy #4-10: Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition. For information about which courses qualify for PLAR please contact the program department chair.

When you meet some learning objectives in a course(s) the assessment process may result in an exemption from some portion of the course(s). You will be required to register in the course and pay full tuition but yourworkload would be reduced. Note that eligibility for this process will be granted on an individual basis by the department. You must apply one semester in advance of the course start date. For more information please contact the program department chair.

To Be Successful

  • All students are required to adhere to the program expectations document. Standards are outlined in individual human service course guides (ie: attendance, confidentiality, professional conduct, etc.), and the Canadian Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Ethical Practice. You are encouraged to review these documents to determine if you are able to meet the standards outlined. If you have concerns about meeting program expectations, human services faculty members or college counsellors are available for guidance.
  • Strong essay writing and computer skills are important as you will be required to submit well-written, word-processed assignments and access online resources.
  • If you are planning to continue on to a university degree program in social work or child and youth care, consult with an educational advisor to ensure your elective choices are university transferable.


Accessible Learning

Making education accessible for those with a documented disability is a key priority for NIC. We offer a wide range of services, supports and resources for students. For more information visit: Accessible Learning Services.

Susan Shantz

Susan Shantz


Human Services

Susan holds a Masters of Social Work from the University of BC.  Her undergraduate in the Bachelor of Social Work comes from the University of Calgary.

Subjects: Human Service Worker, Social Services
Comox Valley Campus 250-334-5084 | Location PNT - 124

Kerri Lowey Mackenzie

Kerri Lowey Mackenzie
Comox Valley Campus 250-334-5000 ext. 4229 | Location PNT - 124

Georgette Whitehead

Georgette Whitehead


Human Services

Master of Social Work, Dalhousie University

Subjects: Human Service Worker, Social Services
Comox Valley Campus 250-334-5000 | Location PNT - 129

Sally Wisden

Sally Wisden
Comox Valley Campus 250-334-5053 | Location PNT - 129

Program Highlights

NIC’s Human Services department and its programs are part of the Vancouver Island Collaborative Agreement which ensures high quality instruction, programming and transferability throughout BC. NIC's Social Services diploma links with Vancouver Island University, Camosun College and the University of Victoria. You are able to earn transfer credits toward social work or child and youth care degree programs. NIC's Human Services department also works closely with community agencies to ensure course content is current, relevant and valued by employers in the field.
Social service students at NIC will be exposed to a variety of community agencies that help children, youth and adults access services such as financial assistance, parenting resources, employment support, life skill acquisition or youth justice, as well as services to prevent family violence and/or substance abuse. You will examine issues relating to inequality, social policy, human rights, multiculturalism, conflict management, program development and community development.
Using an anti-oppressive feminist framework, the first year includes a number of specific courses in interpersonal communications, social work practice, social policy and advanced interpersonal communications. It also includes university studies classes which can be chosen from a variety of different areas, including but not limited to, sociology, psychology, criminology, history, women's studies, First Nations' studies, and equity and social justice to name a few. 
In the second year, you can choose specialized courses in social services including family relationships; group practice; addictions; conflict resolution; community development; mental health and addictions; program planning and implementation; law; and social services. 

Career Opportunities

As a graduate, you will be qualified to work with individuals accessing services from agencies in areas such as financial assistance, family support, employment, life-skills acquisition, services to women, youth justice, mental health, substance abuse and a variety of other community-based programs.

Job titles may include, but would not be limited to, family support worker, outreach worker, transition house counsellor, employment counsellor, addictions support worker, youth worker, community development worker, crisis intervention counsellor and mental health worker.

Note: Prior experience or further training may be necessary to work in upper level social service positions.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What type of volunteer hours do I need to qualify for the program?
    You will require 20 completed hours before entering the program. Volunteer hours must be carried out in a human service agency where you have direct contact with clients. You must have a supervisor verify the number of hours completed and confirm acceptable performance.
  2. Will I have to go to class-related activities in the evenings or on weekends?
    There are some classes in the evening, although most are scheduled during the day. You may be required to work evenings or weekends for your practicum placement.
  3. Can I work while taking the program?
    The diploma is a full-time commitment. Working in addition to study is not recommended.
  4. What kinds of assignments will I do?
    You will write several research papers, take part in group projects, complete video assignments, write tests and participate in a number of other classroom activities. There are many essays, research papers, and written assignments; therefore, strong writing and computer literacy skills are important.
  5. How much homework can I expect?
    You should expect to spend at least one hour on homework for every hour of class.
  6. What kinds of practicums are available?
    Practicums are available in alternative school-based programs, women’s shelters, drug and alcohol recovery centers, mental health drop in centres, First Nations' community organizations, preventative family-based programs, employment agencies and a variety of other human service or community-based agencies.
  7. Do I need a car?
    It is an asset to have a vehicle. If you do not, you will need to find alternate transportation to practicum placements or accept practicum placements which are located close to public transit or within walking distance.
  8. Can classes be transferred?
    Most classes in the Social Service diploma transfer to other universities and colleges. If you plan to pursue a degree after the program, a few bridging classes may be necessary. For more information, meet with an educational advisor.
  9. Can I use this qualification in other provinces or countries?
    You should check with the province or country in which you want to work. Graduates have used their qualifications to work in other jurisdictions; however, it is important to confirm transferability with agencies ahead of time.
  10. What if I have a lot of experience in human services already?
    If you have worked or volunteered extensively in the human services field, you may be able to receive credit for your work. Prior learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) options exist for courses and practicums, but you will still have to pay a fee and carry out some work to demonstrate your knowledge and/or skill level in the course for which you are trying to receive credit. For more information on PLAR, visit Assessment Services.

Tuition & Costs Estimate

Costs indicated are estimates for a 100% course load per year, unless otherwise noted. Additional fees may also include necessary equipment, supplies, NIC appointed uniforms, or field trips not included in these estimates.

While we do our best to share accurate and timely fee information, changes may occur. For more information, visit our tuition page.

Domestic Fees

Year 1 Year 2 Grand Total
Tuition $3,599 $3,599
NISU Fees $175 $175
Books $1,630 $1,630
Learner Resource $189 $189
Health and Dental $275 $275
Total $5,868 $5,868 $11,736

Full-time students are automatically enrolled in the mandatory Health and Dental Benefit plan ($275).

Book costs noted are estimates for planning purposes.  Accurate book costs are available by course through the NIC book search.

Find out if this program is eligible for Student Aid BC funding.

This program is tuition refund Category 1.

International Fees

Year 1 Year 2 Grand Total
Tuition $16,065 $16,065
NISU Fees $175 $175
Student Services Fees $1,071 $1,071
Books $1,630 $1,630
Learner Resource $189 $189
Health and Dental $275 $275
Total $19,405 $19,405 $38,810

Additional costs for International students include the $100 application fee (required).

Full-time students are automatically enrolled in the mandatory Health and Dental Benefit plan ($275).

For more information on tuition costs and refunds refer to International Tuition and Costs.

Books costs noted are estimates for planning purposes.  Accurate book costs are available by course through the NIC book search.