Starting a private practice can be an exciting time for a social worker looking to branch out and become their own boss. But how much do private practice social workers make in Canada? This article will discuss what you can expect to make as a social worker in private practice.

Types of Practice Income

It’s common for private practitioners to have multiple sources of income in their practice whether it be full pay clients, sliding scale clients, independent contract work or all of the above. Typically, when you work with a full pay client, you’ll make more per session than when providing a sliding scale or working as an independent contractor. However, many practice owners accept independent contract work, especially when first starting out, because it helps supplement vacancies in their calendar. Depending on how many clients you receive through an independent contract gig you may actually make more income overall, especially if the flow of full pay client referrals are slow. 

Private Practice Pay

How much private practice social workers make in Canada will ultimately depend on how much you charge per session. Unlike, when you’re an employee in an agency, you get to set your own rate of pay. In most provinces and territories there isn’t a required dollar amount to charge per session. However, social work is regulated provincially so you may want to review your regulatory body’s standard of practice or code of ethics before setting your fees. Sometimes, regulatory body’s will have recommendations or guidelines with respect to fee setting.

Full Pay Clients

According the Canadian Association of Social Workers how much you charge per session is influenced by “your target clientele, the services you offer, fees other counsellors charge, and the fees identified by extended health care providers as ‘reasonable’ for your jurisdiction” (n.d) Furthermore, the Canadian Association of Social Workers (n.d.) reports a range for how much private practice social workers make in Canada: from $70 to $130 for hourly consultations and “non-clinical engagements” being $300 and up. 

Although, the amount charged varies provincially, from my research of searching private practice social workers on therapist directories online, the average social worker in private practice charges about $150 for a 50-minute session, with social workers average fee per session lower in some provinces and higher in others. So, how much you make in private practice ultimately depends on how much you charge. And if you offer a sliding scale rate you can expect to make less per session.

Independent Contractor Gigs

In addition, if you accept an independent contractor role with a group practice or employment assistant program, you can expect to be paid on a pay-split basis where you and the company each receive a percentage of the total cost per session with a client. Common pay-split structures include 60/40%, 70/30% and 80/20% with the higher percentage of pay going to the social worker. Although, a company can offer any pay-split amount, prior to accepting a contract you should consider the viability, financially and emotionally, of the role. For example, if you feel you are being underpaid for your work and contribution, you may have difficulty covering your expenses, hold resentment towards the company, and increase your chance of burnout. 

Expenses and Unpaid Time

As a private practice owner, you’re responsible for paying your own business expenses. Business expenses may include anything from office equipment, supplies, office rentals, regulatory and association fees, liability insurance payments and telephone and internet plans and so on. In addition, social workers in private practice also spend unpaid time marketing their services, scheduling appointments, writing case notes, and some even provide free 15-minute consultations to prospective clients. For these reasons, what you charge per session does not translate to your profit. So even if you have a full caseload of full paying clients your expenses and unpaid time should be considered when setting a private practice fee. 


So, to loosely answer the question of how much do private practice social workers make in Canada, it varies depending on where you obtain your income, the amount of business expenses you have and the number of unpaid hours you spend doing administrative and marketing tasks. For example, if you charge $150 per session, you have a caseload of 25 clients per week, and your expenses are $1000 a month you’ll make a profit of $14,000 a month. However, if you receive $80 per session and due to administrative commitments, you can only work with 15 clients per week and your expenses are $3000 per month, your profit will be $1800 per month. So essentially, how much a private practice social worker makes in Canada depends on several factors but the more you charge per session and the more clients you see per week will have a positive correlation on your profit and income.

Want help deciding on how much to charge in your private practice? 

Check out 9 Simple Steps for Setting Your Private Practice Fee that gives you a formula to set your private practice fee so you get it right the first time.


Please be advised that this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be professional advice.


Canadian Association of Social Workers. (n.d). 1.3.1-2 Getting paid. Retrieved from

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