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Transcripts of Selected Group Discussions on CYC-Net

Since it's founding in 1997, the CYC-Net discussion group has been asked thousands of questions. These questions often generate many replies from people in all spheres of the Child and Youth Care profession and contain personal experiences, viewpoints, as well as recommended resources.

Below are some of the threads of discussions on varying Child and Youth Care related topics.

Questions and Responses have been reproduced verbatim.

ListenListen to this

CYW: degree or advanced diploma?

Hello Everyone.

I have applied to two colleges for the Child & Youth Worker program for September 2016. One is a three year advanced diploma program while the other is a four year degree level program. I have been accepted to both (yay!).

Now, I have the hardest decision to make as to which offer to accept and which will be better for me in the long term too. I can enroll in the three year diploma program and once completing that I can do a direct entry and earn the degree in two years so five years all together...or I can just go straight into the degree program. My goal is to just find a great job in this field. I don't want to go apply for a job and see that the qualifications says "degree". People often say a degree is worth much more but is it really? I think it depends on your character and hard work too.

I would love to work in a school setting as a CYW then maybe move my way up to being a counsellor, then maybe even principal one day but that's just a thinking. To be honest, I know it’s a tough field but very rewarding. I just want to be successful. I am a hard working guy!!

What do you guys think? Is a degree worth it in the end? I was also maybe thinking of doing the 3 year diploma in CYW then doing the Bachelor’s in Social Work jjust in case I apply to a job that requires one...although my main goal is to work with kids/youth.

So everyone please share your knowledge and experiences, and feedback. Either way I am so ready for this exciting adventure!!!

Much appreciated.


Thank you for your questions. I believe that they are ones that many of us have asked ourselves, I know for me, that I have flipped and flopped and made decisions and changed them many, many times in regards to diploma/degree, timing, $ etc.

In my opinion, it’s really too bad that the word “degree” is used as if it literally is the hardworking, ethical, passionate, motivated visionary that the Child and Youth, and entire social services field needs....because it’s not....however......

There’s no doubt about it, and we were even told in first year that should we go on to earn a degree, we’d make at least $30,000 more a

Did we enter this field for the money?

In taking a step back and looking at all factors, of which there are many.....glaring red flags pop up. A person can in fact enter into a degree program and complete, if successful in 4 years.

4 years at Humber, earning an honours degree in Child and Youth Care-tuition only approximately $30,000 (tuition $7500 per 2 semesters x 4), this is approximately the same if one were to enter Ryerson’s 4 year Child and Youth Care degree program.

This compared to 3 years of college, in which one can obtain their advanced diploma and pay roughly $3600 in tuition per year, resulting in a rough total of $11,000.00, and ready to work in 3 years.

Hmmmmm, quite a gap! That makes the 4th year worth $19,000 all on it’s own! But we have to take 2 years, which alone costs $14,000. Let’s do the math again....

4 years, in and out $30,000 (roughly, for just tuition) and you have your degree

3 years, in and out $11,000 job ready....
+ $14,000 if you want the degree = $25,000, but 1 extra year of school......

Flip, flop....

I had it in mind, applied to, and was accepted to Wilfred Laurier’s Honours Criminology bachelors program, as I have a keen interest in the field, youth justice, probation/parole, policing, forensics, all of that....that, with the Child and Youth Care diploma I thought, would be an excellent combination, opening up many possibilities.

I should get the degree.

Then......I did the math again.....already $11,000 in (JUST for tuition) plus approximately $8500.00 per year for 2 years =$17,000+11,000=$28,000 again, for 5 years......

Keeping in mind, full time university = part time job = scraping for another 2 years......

To summarize, taking a 4 year degree program costs roughly $19,000 MORE for the ONE extra year it takes compared to the $11,000 3 year diploma.....and it costs roughly the same $30,000 to take the 3 year, and get the degree in an extra 2 it really boils down to “do I want the “degree” or not? .....and......$$$$$$$$ for a whole lot of people, but not us....

Flip, flop......

In looking at job postings, there seem to be many more full time and much better paying jobs which require a degree, but for me, it’s not necessarily where I want to be, and want to be doing. I decided to go on to pursue another goal, which was to be a nurse. I spent a lot of time flip flopping between idealistic and realistic me, and opted to stay in child and youth on a part-time, and more of a preventative basis. By working with troubled, traumatized or mentally ill youth on a part time basis, while caring for patients of all ages and circumstances as a nurse, I believe that self-care will be easier to uphold. The difference between supporting someone emotionally/mentally and physically is a vast one, and one that will help me to personally keep a nice balance. I’ll be taking practical nursing and paying roughly $10,000 total tuition only, for the 2 year program. In the end, I will have been in school for 5 years, and paid roughly $21, 000 in tuition.....of the 2 years in nursing school, I’ll be able to easily work part-time (after school and Saturdays) which are typical Child and Youth Care hours, (depending on where you want to be, and what you want to do) which works well for me.

This turned into a lot about me, but I wanted to use these examples to make the point that it’s really up to you, as an individual. It sounds like you have already been on the right track in contemplating and weighing all of the different factors. For what it’s worth, I think your idea of going on to complete your degree in SW is a great one, and also another option that I considered.

In the end, the people who hand out the degrees and design the programs and this and that just want our money....plain and simple. It’s up to us to be the change, the heart and soul and the compassionate and authentic people that the kids and families need....and that in and of itself is enough. More than any piece of paper, or title.

All the best to you!


Congrats! I have both the diploma and the BA. I loved both experiences. For me, the difference between the two settings is that college is more practical in nature and university is more theoretical and case management.

Although I have a counsellor role right now, I feel that when I am one to one with a student, my CYW hat is on. When I am planning and meeting with staff, my Child and Youth Care hat is on.

Whichever you choose you are entering an incredible area of work. Working with children and youth is such an amazingly rewarding job. It is also tough and draining and stressful ... but maybe that's what makes it so rewarding.

Good luck!




A bachelor's degree is always preferable. Do the bachelor’s; it will open up more employment opportunities. Otherwise, do the CYW diploma and then do the bachelor's of social work (probably the best option). Sadly, social work degrees are still much preferred for a lot of positions.

Hope this helps.


Go for the degree especially if you want to work in schools.



Do the 4 year degree program absolutely!! There are many reasons why:

Any job that hires Child and Youth Workers with a diploma, will also hire CYW's with a degree. In fact, many jobs will say "BA Degree an asset"

At the School Board where I work, full-time permanent CYW positions are very competitive. Having my degree helped me secure that position over others without the degree. There are also promotion jobs in schools that require you to have the degree such as Child and Youth Counsellor and Attendance Counsellor. I am now eligible to apply to those positions where diploma graduates are not.

Why are you thinking Social Work? If you know you want to work with children and youth, please, please stay in our field! CYC's are so much better trained and prepared for working with vulnerable young people than Social Workers are. Social Work is very broad and Child and Youth Care work is focused way more effective. Please read through CYC-net articles to get a full feel of our values and approaches as CYC's. That should help motivate you. We need more passionate and engaged CYC's in our field, please don't leave us!

I am doing my Master's degree in Child and Youth Care come September at Ryerson University. This is a new program and proves that we are emerging as a recognized and important profession. This is the perfect time to get your degree in CYC!!! So many exciting things happening in our field :)

Congrats on your acceptance and good luck!


Hi again,

I would like to just pipe in here again if I may and respectfully disagree with Delphine that a degree in Social Work is more preferred for many positions. When it comes to schools, hospitals, and other agencies where you want to work with children and youth, a degree in Child and Youth Care will be viewed on the same level as a degree in Social Work. In fact, a BA in Social Work gets you very little at the Toronto district School Board where I work. You need a Master's degree in Social Work and over 5 years experience to apply for one of those very competitive positions. With a BA in CYC, you can work as a CYW right away and apply for Attendance Counsellor and Child and Youth Counsellor at very good pay- over $70,000/ year at top of the scale.

Ally has done a very good job of breaking down the costs of school for you. However, please keep in mind a CYW Diploma will get you a job with limited pay scale. I personally wouldn't worry about tuition costs too much, apply for scholarships and do well in school and you will reap the rewards with a good paying job later.

Just my two-cents, again :)




I certainly don't disagree with any of the other messages in response to the questions posed, as there are definitely many, many factors to be considered in weighing the options.

I think that one thing that really needs to be considered, is location. In Toronto for instance, there are CYW jobs in most every school, most every hospital and within CAMH, to name a few different sectors. Anything west of Hamilton, these positions are few and far between. I have appealed to hospitals, CAMH and school boards in the Brant/Cambridge area, and heard back more than once that they are only hiring BSW or MSW educated workers. My last internship was at a hospital in a Child and Adolescent Inpatient Psychiatric unit which housed up to 14 patients at a time, and where there was only 1 full time CYW on staff....I won't get into how some patients missed out on programming due to lack of qualified staff to run programming, assess behaviours etc....Many F&CS jobs also require the SW degree. In talking to a Child Life Specialist student at the hospital I was in, we literally rolled our eyes and tried to laugh out our frustration as we compared scopes-of-practice, education requirements and pay scale.....ugh.

I have searched job boards high and low and inside and out, and believe me....have covered a lot of ground in doing so. I have seen the majority of qualifications needed as being either a bachelor or masters of social work. I truly believe, to broaden and diversify a skill-set, that a 3 year CYW diploma, paired with a BSW would be a very valuable credential. The CYW in us all would know how to balance, and highlight our specific child and youth skills, and give us a leg up.

However, in saying that, I am tirelessly working to advocate for not only the youth but the CYW profession itself, writing to school boards, police departments, CAMH in this area, hospitals and more. A 3 year diploma in Child and Youth Work alone, paired with the vision, insight, hope and compassion that so many of us bring to the profession, I believe, is worth so much. More than we are given credit for, because we just don't have that "degree"

All the best in whatever you decide. As we work individually, and together, doing what we do....things will change for the better. We have to just keep moving forward!


Hi Nancy,

I am writing from the perspective of someone who lives in Ottawa. If you live in Toronto; I agree, a Child and Youth degree is most probably better. Sadly, Ottawa is a different issue altogether. Hopefully you live in Toronto!

Thanks Nancy for highlighting the differences not only from province to province but even from city to city re. education of service providers and services for children and youth!

All the best,

It is my understanding that here at the TDSB only those with. CYW diploma can hold a CYW position which means that if you have a BA only you cannot apply for a CYW position.



Hi everyone,

Just to respond to Peter's statement, our union reps stated at our last meeting that:

CYW Diploma holder can apply for CYW positions
CYW Diploma AND B.A. Child and Youth Care holders can apply for both CYW and Child and Youth Care positions (if they make it onto the Child and Youth Care short-list)
B.A. Child and Youth Care holders can only apply for Child and Youth Care positions

This is only what our reps at the TDSB stated and I cannot speak for other boards, but I did write this down when it was said at our last meeting because I found this information surprising. Having your B.A. (along with your CYW diploma) is absolutely an asset at this board, and I know it has helped in my career.

From my experience, I loved how I did my CYW diploma and then my B.A. CYC. I found that I received a thorough understanding of the practical and theoretical sides of our field and I would never change my decision to study this way. I know the time frames and financial aspects of education can be stressful, but at the end of the day you need to do what you feel is right for you. As Nancy stressed, I highly recommend staying in the Child and Youth Care field with your studies. Our field is unique and amazing and always needs new leaders and innovators!


Yvonne Bristow

I completed my CYW at George Brown College and am currently working on my Child and Youth Care degree. Some of my profs I have at Ryerson were also my profs at GBC. I feel the years I worked in residential capacities prepared me to build my skills. I have been in TDSB for nine years working with the autistic population and I love it, but the degree program is preparing me with the theory behind who I need to be as a professional, how I should intervene with clients, jargon to avoid in the field, and self care etc. I think the way the field is ever evolving one must always strive for more education.

Keisha Martin

Thank you Yvonne for clarifying that. I did not know and did not even imagine that a candidate with a BA degree in Child and Youth Care could not apply to be a CYW. I emailed our Union to clarify further just to be sure because that is certainly not clear from the job postings.

When I get a written response for them I will reply again to let everyone know.

In this case, I would have to agree with Yvonne that a CYW diploma is best to get first before going into the BA program. I believe the OP is planning to do the degree at Humber. It is hard to believe the TDSB would not recognize that as an appropriate qualification, especially since they note in the job posting that a BA degree is an asset.

I did the same as Yvonne and did my BA part-time while working and really enjoyed that experience. I would recommend that to anyone who has the time and money. It took me 7 years to complete my degree at Ryerson part-time. I know that is not ideal for many people. To complete it any sooner would have been much too stressful for me.

Anyway, best of luck with your choice!



Hello again,

Yvonne and Peter are indeed correct and I apologize for sounding so sure about being able to apply as a CYW with only a BA degree. You need to have a CYW diploma in order to get a position at the TDSB as a CYW. Other school boards have other rules.

Thanks Yvonne and Peter! That was surprising info!


Just looking through this thread I thought I would also let anyone who doesn’t know that you can also complete your BCYC through the University of Victoria’s Distant program. They offer the entire program online with the acceptation of 1 course that you need to be on campus for 2 weeks in your 4th year. I just completed mine this way and lived in the lower mainland. I loved doing the course online as I work full time and have 2 children.

Danielle Jimeno

Hi Danielle,

I am looking into doing my BA eventually but I have a little girl too which has kept me from considering it. But because I'm just still doing my diploma at Algonquin right now, do I need my degree first?



I can share my personal experience in the field which may assist you in decision making. Hope the many perspectives shared by others lends way to what will best fit you and your dreams in the field. It is interesting to note that many factors can impact one's career such as: time, geographical location, and circumstances.

I graduated with a CYW diploma in 1994. The college I attended heightened our education in both theory and practice to prepare us for the eventual prospect of the field heading into degree level work. Thus, our program included art and play therapy, individual/group/family counselling, life skills coach, programming, etc. Wisely, our college also told us to keep an eye on the future of this field. Though our program was challenging, it was also very rewarding. About 33% of our class graduated. I attribute my hire with my placement agency after second year to college training and support. I felt they advanced me as a competent and confident professional in this field. Thus, I feel investigating post-secondary options as important to reveal what kind of experiences you want to come out with, as well as obtaining your professional goals.

After graduation, my career launched like a rocket to the moon. Back at that time, where I lived, child and youth work was in its pioneering stages, regardless of sector. In addition, utilizing personal ideologies, skills, and passion within the context of an ecological approach lent way to many opportunities. I've worked in agencies/community service, residential, custody and school systems. The last opportunity was working out of H.O. for a school system after years of successful creative programming (i.e, individual, group, and community-wide). Interestingly, I was approached and accepted to engage the latest method of our practice: evidence-basing such programs and ideologies. Irony had such opportunity occur just before circumstance moved me to another city. Investigating the workplace and being used to your potential is also just as important.

It was my move that resulted in pursing further post-secondary (degree level). With an extensive resume, I perceived I was hired to continue the utilization of my skill set, etc., but in reality it was not the case. Ongoing advocation and other efforts did not make a real difference. Yet, despite circumstance, we make caring connections and support youth as best we can. Thus, professional decision making is important at any time during your career.

You raised a desire to work in the school system. As Carey Denholm shared in a number of his literary works from past to near present, positions and roles for a child and youth worker vary greatly and is not standard across the Canadian educational system.

This can be a challenge. Having worked in this particular sector for about 20 plus years, I can attest to this type of journey. While some enjoy working in an other-directed classroom assistant type role, I enjoy a collaborative effort with young people, staff, families, and the community. Even when I was partially classroom-based (as assessed due to need) in past school systems, I was able to engage a mix of roles to foster a healthy environment via an ecological approach, which in turn greatly benefit the lives of children and youth. It is worth noting school systems operate differently. Furthermore, there are differences from school to school. Such contrasts can be based on many factors. It is the hope that one day all Child and Youth Care Practitioners will encounter satisfying work experiences in this sector as a recognized profession.

I am a soon to be graduate of a Child and Youth Care degree with a minor in Family Support and Community Practice. The latter appeals to my continual interest in the health and well being of children and youth. While juggling work and life, I have enjoyed the academic journey as a part-time direct entry student at Ryerson University. It has validated past career experiences and added a wealth of knowledge for the journey yet to come. They also have distance education. Based on personal experiences, and what has been indicated by my colleagues, it is in my opinion that a degree can open one to more possibilities. It all really depends on what you are seeking.

Wishing you all the best,

Mary Anne

Hi everyone!

I hope all is well. I just got a written response from HR at TDSB.

To a few people who said you cannot apply for a CYW position with a Child and Youth Care Degree are wrong.

Also, the language for schools and colleges are different. Child and Youth Care can also mean Child Youth Counsellor. So with that being said I am happy to let everyone know that you may indeed qualify to apply for a CYW position with the Degree(even if you go straight to the Degree program without doing the Diploma program)

Here is their response below!


Who was telling you that you do not qualify with the 4 year degree?

One of the qualifications for the CYW position are: Child and Youth Care or Child and Youth Worker Diploma with one year’s experience working with hard to serve youth/adolescents in a school setting or equivalent combination of education and experience.

One of the Assets: B.A. or equivalent in Child and Youth Care

Ok, so I would say you proceed and apply for the CYW position. The colleges have moved to the language of Child and Youth Care and given how our board has structured the positions, we cannot change the language from Child and Youth Worker to Child and Youth Care…we’re not there yet.

So, proceed and apply for Child and Youth Worker positions, clarifying that you are a Child and Youth Worker (Child and Youth Care). If you simply say Child and Youth Care position – our Board staff will think you are trying to apply for Child and Youth Counsellor position.

That will confuse the issue.

Does that clarify?

This should help clarify and answer your question.

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