PSW Course Ontario: Cost, Duration, Pros, Cons & More

The current Ontario PSW course evolved from a three level training program that previously existed.

It amalgamates Health Care Aide and Home Support Worker training programs previously offered in Ontario.

Currently, there are two ways for PSWs to obtain the skills and knowledge required to work in the field:

  • one is through on-the-job training, and
  • the other is provided via classroom instruction.

On July 1st, 2010 the Government of Ontario enacted the Long Term Care Homes Act which stipulates that under section 47(2), the PSW program provided through educational institutions must meet three standards.

The current PSW course curriculum provides in depth theoretical and clinical knowledge base.

The standards have been established under the following regulating bodies:

As a result, PSWs who choose to pursue formal PSW training must obtain instruction in programs that meet the requirements outlined within the above mentioned Act.

The institutions that provide them are:

  • Community Colleges,
  • Private Colleges,
  • District School Boards, and
  • Adult Learning Centers

Educational Institution

Program Length

Program Hours

Provincial Exam Required

In Class



Community College

Eight months





Private Career College

Six to eight months





District School Board






Community Colleges that offer PSW diplomaCommunity Colleges are required to meet the Vocational Standards outlined by the MTCU.

There are 23 community colleges offering PSW courses at 118 campuses across Ontario.

On an average, Personal Support Worker Certificate course at these institutions is approximately eight months in length and is usually split into two semesters.

There are two essential components of this program:

  • In class, theoretical component, and
  • Community based practicum


Approximately $4000 in tuition for residents and $12 000 to $14 000 for non-residents.


Some of the most common pre-requisites to enroll in a community college are:

  • Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD)
  • Grade 12 English
  • English proficiency proof for non-native speakers
  • Admission testing
  • Immunization record
  • Standard police clearance


Completing your studies at a community college has many advantages:

  • Offer comprehensive, theory-based programming and curriculum
  • Not solely for profit and thus place emphasis on learning as opposed to financial gain
  • Graduates report that employers are more likely to hire individuals with a certificate from a recognized community college
  • Graduates of the PSW course can continue with their education to becoming RPNs later in their careers


Completing your program at a community college also has some disadvantages:

  • Programs take longer to complete as they primarily only offer full 8 month curriculum
  • Because it takes longer to graduate, students spend more time in the classroom as opposed to entering the workforce and thus paying off debts incurred while attending school
  • Classes are not as flexible as those in other types of educational institutions


No educational institution, including community colleges, can provide students with “certification”.

Successful graduates of the program are only issued a certificate indicating that they have met the requirements of the course.

PSW Course at Private career collleges

There are 55 private career colleges that offer PSW course at 103 campuses.

These colleges must be registered with the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU).

Additionally, the National Association of Career Colleges (NACC) provide curriculum which is at par with the community college standards.

The length of PSW course at a private career college varies. Programs are offered on a part time and full time basis.

Two components of a PSW program at a Private career college are:

  • In class, theoretical component
  • Community based practicum


The average cost of tuition for the entire course varies and can typically range from $3000 to as high as $14000.


Some of the common admission requirements for private colleges are:

  • Vulnerable Police Screening
  • First Aid course completion
  • CPR course completion
  • Immunization Record


  • Courses are condensed and therefore short in length
  • Programs are catered to trends in industries within the workforce
  • Classes are flexible and can therefore allow students to work while attending school
  • There are less criteria required for applicants to meet making it easier to be admitted


  • The courses are more expensive than in other educational institutions
  • The schools are less reputable than other educational institutions
  • Because of the cost and intensity of the program, it is difficult to change courses in the event that students do not wish to continue 


Private colleges often use marketing strategies that are misleading in order to increase enrolment.

They claim to have a “national exam” and provide students with a “provincial certification examination”.

While there is an exam administered in the program, it is not official or recognized since a PSW certificate is all that is needed to work as a PSW in Ontario.

Additionally, some of the private career colleges are notoriously expensive and charge significant tuition fees to students.

According to a Globe and Mail article published in May of 2010:

“Students at private colleges are twice as likely to miss student loan payments as students in community college and university. The total cost to taxpayers has amounted to over $227 million dollars in only 3 years.”

PSW certificate at District school boards

PSW course is offered at 24 district school boards across Ontario. It is offered through adult continuing education program.

These programs are offered through the province’s secondary school health curriculum and all programs are mandated to meet Ontario Community Support standards.

These boards from both catholic and public schools work in concert with the Ontario Association of Continuing Education of School Board Administrators.


The fees are approximately $1200 and financial assistance is available at several locations.


  • Students who are under 19 must have their OSSD
  • Volunteer sector clearance required
  • Proficiency in English


  • The cost of obtaining the PSW certificate is lower than in other institutions
  • Students can use credits towards obtaining a diploma in other health care-related fields such as the RPN program


  • The length of time required to complete the program is a full school year


The goal of programs provided through this initiative is to encourage skill development employment in addition to ensuring that individuals are given the opportunity to continue their general education.

PSW diploma at Adult Learning Centres

These centers offer (typically) mature students with the opportunity to obtain a PSW certificate in addition to their OSSD.

They target individuals who are 21 years of age and older providing the option to obtain equivalency credits through co-operative placements and various other PSW program  initiatives.


  • Over 625 hours of classroom and practicum hours
  • 27 weeks in length


Fees are approximately $500 to $ 1500 with some centers waiving tuition requirements and only charging students for inherent costs associated with the course including criminal background checks conducted, uniforms and CPR training.


  • Basic literacy assessment
  • Mandatory attendance of information session
  • 19 years of age or older
  • High school transcript
  • Hep B, Flu Shot, 2 step Mantoux (TB) test


  • Students can obtain both a PSW certificate and OSSD through the same educational institution
  • Co-op placements are available
  • There are several intakes throughout the year
  • Inexpensive in comparison to other schools that offer similar programming


The PSW course being provided at adult learning centers is relatively new hence there are only a small number of sites offering the course at this time.


The National Association of Career Colleges (NACC) is a non-profit organization that offers certification (not registration) for graduates of Personal Support Worker courses from Ontario private colleges.

Although this certification exam is meant to benchmark candidate’s knowledge base against the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) curriculum however, is not required to start working as a PSW in Ontario.

A Personal Support Worker Certificate is all that is necessary.

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Avlin is passionate about helping aspirants become better personal support workers. He is an entrepreneur and runs a clinic in Toronto.

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  1. I am foreign trained dentist by qualification but not eligble to practice in canada without candian dental exams so i am looking forward to join psw course so that i can join healthcare

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