Social Work MA


Fact file

MA Social Work
2 years full-time
Entry requirements
2.1 (or international equivalent) in any discipline, plus GCSE English and Mathematics, C or above
Other requirements
Applicant must also have three months of relevant work experience
7.0 (no less than 6.0 in any element)

If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses are available
Start date
University Park
Tuition fees
You can find fee information on our fees table.
Please note: applications for this course must be made via undergraduate UCAS Apply and Track (course code L508, institution code N84)


This course combines university and practice-based learning and is regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council, with significant contributions by experienced social workers and by service users.
Read full overview

The MA Social Work is delivered through the Centre for Social Work, which works to promote social and personal change and problem-solving in human relationships and communities.

You will be taught by staff who have national and international reputations for the quality of their research and publications, and this knowledge informs their teaching.

We believe that at the heart of social work lies the relationship which social workers develop with individual service users - be they children, young people or adults. Positive relationships enable the social worker to support service users as they negotiate transitions and decisions in their life which may be complex and painful in nature.

We therefore aim to select students for this course who have the potential to develop the qualities that service users want and need from social workers: reliability, understanding, warmth, respect for others, an authoritative approach to difficult issues and an ability to get things done.

The course is regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and you will be expected to work within their standards.

Apply online

Applications for MA Social Work are made through UCAS (institution code N84, course code L508) and therefore will appear to be subject to the 15 January deadline. However applications may still be considered up until the 15 August, depending on places available. This will be after we have assessed, interviewed and made offers to eligible applicants who applied before the deadline.

Assessment and interview days

Assessment and interviewing is a two-stage process. Applicants who meet the minimum entry criteria outlined above, and who submit an appropriate personal statement on their UCAS form, will be invited for an assessment day; this involves a written exercise and an observed group discussion exercise. Applicants who are successful at the assessment day will be invited back for an interview day.

If invited for assessment, applicants are required to make a signed declaration regarding any criminal record, health condition or other matter which may affect suitability for joining a professional programme. All students who register on the course must then complete a Disclosure and Barring Service check. Although a criminal record, health condition, etc is not necessarily a bar to acceptance, failure to disclose relevant information may subsequently result in the offer of a place or registration being withdrawn.


Course details

The majority of academic teaching takes place in the autumn term of each year. A total of 180 credits of modules are required for this course and teaching methods include lectures, seminars, tutorials, case discussions, and experiential exercises designed to encourage the integration of theory and practice.

Assessment includes written assignments, individual and group presentations, research projects, and a seen exam.

Teaching and placement times do not always follow the normal University terms and you will get approximately 10 weeks of vacation during the 22 month course.

Practice curriculum

Through practice-based learning (undertaken in a variety of settings, with a range of service users) students are introduced to a variety of approaches to helping people. A total of 170 days is spent in practice settings across the two years of the course. Each period of practice learning will be assessed against the requirements of the Professional Capabilities Framework and the Key Skills Statements from the Chief Social Workers in England.

We have excellent links with local agencies and an outstanding record in providing high-quality placements. Practice learning is an extremely important part of your educational experience and we work hard to ensure placements are successful in meeting individual learning needs. Students and practice assessors are well supported by the programme throughout the practice learning.

All placements are undertaken on a full-time basis and students are expected to work the same hours as other members of staff in that setting. Placements are normally within the geographical boundaries of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.



Core: year one

Human Growth and Development across the Life Course

The module provides you with an introduction to a range of theories and evidence about human growth and development. You will be enabled to understand the ways in which human growth and development is affected by a range of factors across the life course and how these factors may impact on the development of resilience and well-being. You are encouraged to develop a critical awareness of the various theoretical perspectives alongside an ability to apply this knowledge to social work practice.

The module follows a life course perspective, tracking human growth and development from the cradle to the grave and draws on theoretical material from a range of different disciplines.

Law for Social Work

This module prepares you with an introduction to relevant legislation, policies and guidance for social work practice with a variety of service users. The programme recognises the centrality of the law and its interaction with policy and research in promoting and safeguarding the welfare of children and adults, and the necessity for practitioners to be confident when representing agencies and working with service users in legislative contexts.

To enable a better understanding and application of law to practice, the module includes a general consideration of the English legal system and considers areas around court structure, civil vs. criminal procedures; differing burdens of proof; duties vs. powers; delegated legislation and so on. It focuses on specific legislative frameworks for working with children, including youth justice, older people and people with mental health problems.

Research Methods and Research Management

This module provides a general introduction to a range of key issues in the design and conduct of social research, plus guidance on writing both a dissertation proposal and a dissertation. The module combines more formal taught sessions with practical exercises, some of which are group-based.

By the end of the module you will be equipped with the methodological and practical skills to carry out independent research using a variety of research designs and methods.

Service User Perspectives

This module will introduce you to the unequal power relationships to which service users are subject. It will briefly consider some of the theoretical approaches to understanding how these dynamics emerge and are perpetuated.

You will then receive teaching delivered by a range of different service user group, each of which will provide perspectives on their lived experiences. You will be required to present and reflect on a chosen aspect of your own life experience.

Social Work Theories, Models and Methods

This module prepares you for social work practice. It concentrates on the skills necessary to engage with service users and offers an overview of the social work process of assessment, planning, intervention and evaluation (APIE).

This provides you with a basic theoretical framework for social work practice in which the nature of social work theory is examined in relation to assessment, planning, intervention and evaluation. The module also considers the influence of values on social work practice. 


Core: year two


The module encourages you to critically engage with fundamental questions at the heart of social science research and their impact on social work practice. How, for example, do we seek to 'know' the world?

Research has a new prominence within social work and social care and this module:

  • points to the importance of 'evidenced-based' research for the social work profession
  • develops a critical understanding of the range of research informing social work practice, including practitioner research
  • stresses why social work practice needs to be grounded in social research which is critical of 'official' accounts of social welfare
  • aids student participants in the 'process' of formulating research plans
  • introduces you to the electronic resources which are available at the Hallward Library
  • focuses on the research methods, particularly qualitative methods, which will be central to the writing of the dissertation
  • explores issues related to the ethics of social research
  • highlights how the presentation of research findings is a major component of research activity

This module will introduce you to key theoretical, legal and practice aspects of safeguarding children and vulnerable adults. It will require you to engage in learning from previous situations in which social work intervention has failed to protect children or vulnerable adults from abuse.

Critical Perspectives on Social Work

This module examines the nature of knowledge in social work and some of the main social theories which conceptualise the nature of social work and its relationship to the state, society and the individual. You will be enabled to understand how different theoretical approaches provide different ways of thinking about the nature of social work in advanced modern societies and their implications for social work practice.

The theories and debates covered will include the role of research in social work and evidence-based practice; reflexivity; structure/agency, power and inequalities; psychoanalysis and the place of emotions. At the heart of the module will be a focus on developing knowledge and skills for reflective practice and a grounding of social worker-service user encounters in a relationship based practice.


Optional (second year)

Social Work with Children and Families

This module acts as the bridge between academic learning and professional qualifying practice. It provides you with an insight into topical issues for practice through a series of workshops led by expert practitioners and/or academic staff.

Alongside these issues based teaching sessions will be run that enable and expect you to make the links between the learning and your own professional development.

Social Work with Adults

This module acts as the bridge between academic learning and professional qualifying practice. It provides you with an insight into topical issues for practice through a series of workshops led by expert practitioners and /or academic staff.

Alongside these issues based teaching sessions will be run that enable and expect you to make the links between the learning and your own professional development.



The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. This list is an example of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.



Social work bursaries

The Government is undertaking a review of social work bursary funding and at the time of writing (September 2016) we do not yet know what bursaries will be available for social work students starting their studies in 2017. If bursaries are available for 2017 entry, these will make a contribution towards the tuition fees, but not pay all of them. We will make information about bursaries available as and when the Government makes its intentions clear.

Bursaries which the University receives each year, are allocated to individual students based on the quality of their application and their performance at the assessment day and interview.



Graduates are eligible to register as qualified social workers with the Health and Care Professions Council.

Our postgraduate students move into an extraordinarily wide range of careers following their time in the school. The level of study fosters many vital skills and may give you a head start in the job market, allowing you to develop qualities of self-discipline and self-motivation that are essential to employment in a wide range of different fields.

A postgraduate degree from the University of Nottingham shows potential employers that you are an intelligent, hard-working individual who is bright and flexible enough to undertake any form of specific career training.

Average starting salary and career progression

In 2015, 100% of postgraduates in the School of Sociology and Social Policy who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £27,031 with the highest being £40,800.*

* Known destinations of full-time home higher degree postgraduates 2014/15. Salaries are calculated based on those in full-time paid employment within the UK.

Career prospects and employability

The acquisition of a masters degree demonstrates a high level of knowledge in a specific field. Whether you are using it to enhance your employability, as preparation for further academic research or as a means of vocational training, you may benefit from careers advice as to how you can use your new found skills to their full potential.

Our Careers and Employability Service will help you do this, working with you to explore your options and inviting you to attend recruitment events where you can meet potential employers, as well as suggesting further development opportunities, such as relevant work experience placements and skills workshops.

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