Social Work Courses

A degree in social work is one of the most varied degrees to study. As a student, you will learn how to look after a wide variety of people in our society, both young and old – many of whom are vulnerable and in need of help.

Studying Social Work

Such a degree equips you with the necessary skills required to work in the social work sector at private businesses, clinics, public agencies, nursing homes, schools, hospitals and more.

The degree lasts for three years if studied full-time. It’s flexible and can also be studied part-time, and specialist degrees include:

  • Social Welfare and Advice
  • Sport Rehabilitation
  • Applied Social Work
  • Learning Disabilities Nursing and Social Work

Topics Covered

A social work degree combines practical work experience (such as in care homes) with rigorous academic study. As such, it equips you with the practical skills, knowledge and understanding needed to deal with the many issues that social workers face on a daily basis. The topics and modules are designed with this in mind, but exactly what you will study depends on the university. However, some modules you can expect to study include:

  • Social Exclusion and Discrimination
  • Social Work with Adults
  • Practice Learning in the Community
  • Law and Social Policy
  • Values, Ideology and Ethics
  • Family Intervention
  • Mental Health and Substance Use

It is likely that you will also be asked to undertake an intellectually challenging critical literature review, and you will also be assessed on your performance during placement(s). A final year dissertation, meanwhile, forms a core part of the program.

Postgraduate

A Masters in Social Work (Sometimes abbreviated as MSW) is a postgraduate degree in social work. Professional courses, they have a specific vocational focus that offers you the chance to focus on your preferred aspect of social work. For example, you might wish to specialise on the problems surrounding domestic abuse or homelessness, or you might find that you want to work with different groups, such as children and the elderly. Generally, an MSW is undertaken by students with existing experience relevant to the course, but there are a number of students who have taken a very different undergraduate degree path that apply for the course.

Types of Social Work Degree

A masters in Social Work can be awarded in a variety of ways including:
  • MA Social Work
  • MSc Social Work
  • MRes Social Work

A Master of Arts and a Master of Science in Social Work tend to cover very similar content. MSc’s will differ by covering the scientific sides of social work such as medicine, social sciences and mathematics. Both course types are ideal for those students looking to qualify as professional social workers upon completion of their degree. The MRes in Social Work is not suitable for students looking to become a social work practitioner and is instead ideal for those students looking to become an evaluator or researcher of social care. This type of degree is also a good course to be taken by prospective PhD students of social work.

In addition to standard social work degrees there are also a variety of specialist Masters in Social Work programs that you might choose to apply for. These include:

The MSc in Social Work combines university-based learning with two extended periods of supervised practice as a student social worker in a social work agency. Completion of the degree will make you eligible to register with the Health and Care Professions Council and practise as a qualified professional social worker in a range of areas including statutory, voluntary, private and independent sectors. Read more >>

Masters in Social Work at the University of DundeeThe MSc in Advanced Social Work Studies will allow you to engage with advanced level social work theory and develop the knowledge base and enquiry skills required to understand and contribute to 21st century social work. The course will require you to develop and apply research skills and methods to social work issues in order to produce a Master’s level dissertation. Read more >>

Masters in Social Work at the University of SheffieldWe're working in collaboration with the four local authorities in South Yorkshire to lead the way for social work education and are part of one of only four early-adopter national teaching partnerships. This means that you'll benefit from a social work curriculum that is enhanced by increased collaboration with placement providers and employment agencies. Read more >>

Masters in Social Work at Anglia Ruskin University This course offers candidates a theoretical and practical understanding of the core activities involved in managing and leading in today's social work and social care arena. It is aimed at managers and senior practitioners who are in positions within their organisation which determine that they lead and/or manage people and resources in order to create change. Read more >>

Masters in Social Work at the University of GreenwichThe MA Social Work programme reflects changes in government policy and social work practice and is based on current knowledge and research. We have strong partnerships with local employers ensuring high quality practice placements and potential job opportunities on completion of the programme. Read more >>

Entry Requirements to a Social Work Degree

Universities will normally expect applicants to have already achieved at least a 2:2 honours in an undergraduate degree. Whilst some universities will require this degree to have been achieved in a social science subject, some universities may be more flexible on this. Some other basic requirements may see students requiring GCSE Mathematics and English at Grade C or above. In addition, students may be required to provide evidence of relevant experience in the social work sector. Paid and voluntary work experience will be accepted. You may be required to demonstrate various other skills necessary for the course including basic IT skills, email competence and word processors through an admissions interview. To help you understand postgraduate interviews we have put together an article for the top 10 questions that are likely to pop up and the best ways that you can answer them: Top 10 Postgraduate Interview Questions.

Topics Covered Throughout a Social Work Degree

Throughout a master's degree the curriculum will be delivered through a range of learning methods including direct teaching from academic staff, research tasks in groups and individually and practical learning placements in a range of social work settings. The exact modules that make up your course are dependent on the program you choose to take. All MSW’s arm you with the key knowledge, values and skills needed for social work practice. The program you choose will teach you how to effectively work with a variety of vulnerable groups, including children and the elderly, and you will also learn about the ethical and legal frameworks required for social practice. Emphasis is always placed on acquiring skills that are necessary for social work practice, and you will also be placed on at least one work placement during the degree. Potential modules you might study include:
  • Social work with children
  • Human growth and development
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Domestic violence
  • Law
  • Mental health social work
  • Substance misuse
  • Professional values and ethics
Students will usually be required to write a dissertation alongside their modules and professional practice on their preferred area of social work. This can typically be between 10,000-15,000 words.

Entry Requirements

Exact grade requirements are dependent on the university, but generally speaking 280 or more UCAS points is enough to get you an interview at least. This equates to BBB if you are taking A Levels, or DDM if you are taking a BTEC Extended Diploma.

Career Prospects

A degree in social work teaches you a number of transferable skills, such as research, presentation and communication, that help you to understand the concerns of some of society’s most vulnerable people. Jobs you may want to consider upon graduation include:

  • Family support worker
  • Social worker
  • Adult guidance worker
  • Counsellor
  • Careers adviser
  • Youth worker

Alternatively, you could stay in education and study a social work degree at postgraduate level, such as a Masters. This gives you a chance to specialise. For example, possible Masters include Autism Practice and Adult Services Support. It’s also worth remembering that you can look further afield for jobs, as many employers will grant interviews to students who posses any type of degree. To improve your chances of successfully finding a job not long after graduation, you might want to supplement your degree with some relevant work experience.

Postgraduate

It’s typical for anyone applying for a Masters in Social Work to have future plans of entering the field of social work, and this likely to be your plan, too. But it’s important to bear in mind that social work is a rather broad profession, and there are numerous opportunities to apply your new skills in a variety of different areas.

Specialisation is actually what dictates a program in this particular subject. During your course, you might choose to work with certain groups, such as refugees or children, or you might prefer to obtain administration skills which will help you to pursue a career in the health service.

The good news is that over 80% of individuals with a Masters in Social Work find full-time work just six months after graduating. A further 7% go onto pursue an even higher qualification, while the rest find part-time work, or engage in voluntary activities.

If you wish to study directly in the field as a social worker, then you can register with the Health and Care Professions Council as a qualified social worker upon successful completion of the degree.

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