Course overview

Social workers play a vital role in protecting vulnerable people, promoting human rights and helping people to make changes. As a social worker, you could be working with children, older people, carers, and people with disabilities in a role that is challenging but also incredibly rewarding.

Our MA Social Work will give you insights into human life and the world around us. You will consider topics such as social justice, equality and diversity and advocacy.

You will learn how to communicate with people, build effective relationships, and create reports which you may need to present in court. You will develop skills in the classroom, through two placements, and on skills days.

Our course is regulated by Social Work England and prepares you to practice in both adults and children’s services. Successful completion of the course makes you eligible to apply for registration as a social worker with Social Work England.

Why choose this course?

7th for social work

in the UK

Outstanding support

from your personal tutor who can advise on personal and academic matters

D2N2 Partnership

Member of the D2N2 Teaching Partnership which ensures the highest standards of social work education and practice

Close to practice

with staff who have extensive experience in a variety of social care settings

Become fully qualified

Upon graduating, you'll be eligible to apply to register as a qualified social worker

Research-led teaching

Learn from staff who undertake world-leading research across the field of social work

Course content

Our curriculum gives you a broad knowledge base to ensure you are able to tackle a range of social care issues affecting children and adults.

You'll explore the effects of policy, legislation, culture, gender, social class, sexuality and personal experiences on individuals’ lives.


In February of your first year you will begin your first 80-day placement with a local social care employer, where you will be given a caseload appropriate to your level. You will be supported and guided by your Practice Educator - an experienced senior social worker with years of expertise in the sector.

You will also undertake a 90-day placement in your second year, where you can develop your experience, skills and analytical thinking to an even deeper level.

Each placement will be assessed against the requirements of the Professional Capabilities Framework and the Knowledge and Skills Statements from the Chief Social Workers in England. You will also be fully supported throughout by your personal tutor, who will meet with you to monitor your learning development and wellbeing.


Core modules

Human Growth and Development

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.

Mental Distress: Social Contexts

This module invites you to critically explore concepts of mental distress with a focus on social perspectives.

The dominant medically orientated paradigm of mental 'illness', diagnosis, detention and pharmaceutical 'treatment' will be critically explored, with consideration given to contrasting frameworks of meaning and input from 'experts by experience'. An historical overview of societal responses to mental distress; current debates and wider bio-psycho-social contexts will be explored, with an emphasis on power dynamics and the social work role.

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. 

Understanding Research for Social Work

This course will equip you with the necessary research awareness to critically analyse published research which is of relevance to your professional practice. It will provide you with sufficient understanding of research methods, including research ethics, to prepare you to undertake your MA Social Work dissertation - whether this takes the form of an original empirical study or a systematic literature review.

Practice Learning 1 - 80-day placement

This module comprises 80 days of assessed practice learning. It will focus on your ability to satisfy the requirements of the Professional Capabilities Framework at the interim stage of judgement.

The placement will be assessed on a pass/fail basis and must be passed in order to progress on the programme. The written assignment must be passed in order to progress on the programme; students who fail the written assignment may be required to resubmit without having to complete a further placement.

The above is a sample of the typical modules we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Modules (including methods of assessment) may change or be updated, or modules may be cancelled, over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for information on available modules. This content was last updated on Friday 19 January 2024.

Due to timetabling availability, there may be restrictions on some module combinations.

Core modules


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
Social Work with Adults and Families

This module covers the key practice issues in social work with adults, including safeguarding, mental capacity and working within the Care Act. It considers the needs of different service user groups, including people with learning disabilities and older people. Teaching is delivered by academic staff, current social workers and service users.

Social Work with Children and Families

This module looks at key elements of social work with children and families, including children in need, child protection and the ‘Care System’. It also explores the skills needed to work effectively with children and young people. Teaching is delivered by academic staff, practitioners and people with lived experience of social work.

Practice Learning 2 - 90-day placement

This module comprises 90 days of practice learning. It will focus on your ability to satisfy the requirements of the Professional Capabilities Framework at the final stage of your qualification.

To pass this module both the 90-day placement and the practice analysis assignment must be passed. If the 90-day placement is not passed the entire 90-day placement has to be repeated and the assignment has to be submitted as a first sit. If the assignment is failed this can be resubmitted without the placement being repeated.

The above is a sample of the typical modules we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Modules (including methods of assessment) may change or be updated, or modules may be cancelled, over the duration of the course due to a number of reasons such as curriculum developments or staffing changes. Please refer to the module catalogue for information on available modules. This content was last updated on Friday 19 January 2024.

Due to timetabling availability, there may be restrictions on some module combinations.

Learning and assessment

How you will learn

  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Tutorials
  • Placements
  • Case-based learning

The majority of academic teaching takes place in the autumn semester of each year. Teaching methods include lectures, seminars, tutorials, case discussions and experiential exercises, designed to encourage the integration of theory and practice.

How you will be assessed

  • Essay
  • Coursework
  • Examinations
  • Presentation
  • Dissertation

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

Contact time and study hours

A typical week will comprise of around 10 hours of teaching, split between lectures and seminars. In addition, you are expected to undertake 27 hours a week of self-directed study.

When on placement you will work the full-time hours of the placement organisation, usually 37 hours per week over five days.

Because we are a professional programme, all teaching sessions are mandatory. Students must attend at least 80% of teaching sessions and 100% of placement and skills days. 

Entry requirements

All candidates are considered on an individual basis and we accept a broad range of qualifications. The entrance requirements below apply to 2024 entry.

Undergraduate degree2:1 (or international equivalent) in any discipline, plus GCSE English and Maths, 4 (C) or above. The programme considers alternative qualifications such as functional skills in mathematics in place of GSCE mathematics.
Work experience

Applicants must also have three months' full-time equivalent relevant work experience (400 hours minimum).

In exceptional cases, applicants holding a 2:2 may be considered where there is evidence of extensive and relevant work experience.


Applications are made through UCAS (institution N84, course L508) and will therefore appear to be subject to the January 2024 deadline. However applications may still be considered up until June 2024, subject to availability. In your application, please ensure that you include how many hours per week your social care experience amounts to in order for us to assess whether you meet our minimum 400 hours criteria. Learn more.

Interview process

No applicant will be offered a place without an interview. Applicants who meet our initial entry criteria will be invited to complete a written test, which if passed will lead to an interview invite. You will be interviewed by a social work lecturer, practising social worker and someone with lived experience of social work. Interviews normally take place between December and May.

We make reasonable adjustments to our written test and interview process for applicants who have a health condition, disability or learning need. We encourage applicants to make us aware of any health condition, disability or learning need so we can make adjustments and discuss potential support on the course. If you tell us about a health condition, disability or learning need this will not influence our decision-making on whether to offer you a place.

Before being interviewed, applicants are required to make a signed declaration of any criminal convictions or other issues which may affect your suitability to be a social worker. Students complete a Disclosure and Barring Service check once registered on the course. This is paid for by the university. Although a criminal record or other issue 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. 

If you have spent longer than 12 months abroad over the age of 18, you will also need to provide a Criminals Records Check for any country you have lived in for more than 12 months. More details on this will be sent to you once you firmly accept an offer with us. If you firm accept a place with us, you will be contacted by the university's Occupational Health Provider to complete a health needs assessment. You must complete this assessment: you may not be able to start the course until the assessment is completed.

From your application and interview, we look for:

  • evidence of motivation to become a social worker, shown by having a clear rationale for wanting to join the profession
  • understanding of the roles and responsibilities of social workers
  • self-awareness and empathy for others
  • the capacity to succeed academically
Apply via UCAS


Qualification MA
Home / UK £8,600 per year
International £22,600 per year

Additional information for international students

If you are a student from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you may be asked to complete a fee status questionnaire and your answers will be assessed using guidance issued by the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) .

These fees are for full-time study. If you are studying part-time, you will be charged a proportion of this fee each year (subject to inflation).

Additional costs

All students will need at least one device to approve security access requests via Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). We also recommend students have a suitable laptop to work both on and off-campus. For more information, please check the equipment advice.

As a student on this course, you should factor some additional costs into your budget, alongside your tuition fees and living expenses.

You should be able to access most of the books you'll need through our libraries, though you may wish to purchase your own copies or more specific titles.

The school covers the cost of a DBS check. The cost of travelling to placements will be dependent on location of placement and proximity to term-time address.


Social work bursaries

The Government offers a bursary scheme for social work students. These will make a contribution towards your tuition fees, and are allocated based on interview score if there are more students than bursary places.

At the time of writing, a limited number of government bursaries are available on this programme but if government funding is withdrawn this may change in the future. The bursary scheme's eligibility requirements include UK residency for three years prior to study and means that international students are unlikely to be eligible.

There are many ways to fund your postgraduate course, from scholarships to government loans.

We also offer a range of international masters scholarships for high-achieving international scholars who can put their Nottingham degree to great use in their careers.

Check our guide to find out more about funding your postgraduate degree.

Postgraduate funding


We offer individual careers support for all postgraduate students.

Expert staff can help you research career options and job vacancies, build your CV or résumé, develop your interview skills and meet employers.

Each year 1,100 employers advertise graduate jobs and internships through our online vacancy service. We host regular careers fairs, including specialist fairs for different sectors.

International students who complete an eligible degree programme in the UK on a student visa can apply to stay and work in the UK after their course under the Graduate immigration route. Eligible courses at the University of Nottingham include bachelors, masters and research degrees, and PGCE courses.

Graduate destinations

Our graduates move into a wide range of careers following their time in the school. Most obtain employment as qualified professionals in local authority children's or adult services. Some take up positions in the independent sector.

A number of our alumni maintain their links with our learning family by coming back to participate in guest lectures and events, or by mentoring our students in their role as Practice Educator.

Career progression

Newly qualified social workers could expect to earn £25,000 and this could rise up to £40,000 as you take on additional tasks, gain responsibilities and experience.*

* British Association of Social Workers.

89.3% of postgraduates from the School of Sociology and Social Policy secured graduate level employment or further study within 15 months of graduation. The average annual salary for these graduates was £28,886.

HESA Graduate Outcomes 2019/20 data published in 2022. The Graduate Outcomes % is derived using The Guardian University Guide methodology. The average annual salary is based on graduates working full-time within the UK.

Social Work England

This course is regulated by Social Work England which means that once you have successfully completed the course, you will meet the professional standards to register as a qualified social worker.

You can apply for registration to Social Work England and once you are registered, your name and registration number will be listed on their public register of social workers.

Most social work employers also offer an Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) scheme, that gives newly qualified social workers extra support during their first year of employment.

The Centre for Social Work is a partner in the D2N2 Teaching Partnership’s academy for excellence, which is made up of partners from the social work sector, including: Nottinghamshire County Council, Nottingham City Council, Derbyshire County Council, Nottingham City Council, Nottingham Healthcare Trust, Framework, Making Waves and SEA.

Two masters graduates proudly holding their certificates
" You can achieve your goal of becoming a social worker if you put your mind to it – all things are possible. "
Muchaziva Mafuba, MA Social Work

Related courses

This content was last updated on Friday 19 January 2024. Every effort has been made to ensure that this information is accurate, but changes are likely to occur given the interval between the date of publishing and course start date. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply.