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  • UCAS Code:
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    Full time according to Funding Council definitions

This course provides a route to qualified social worker status for those who want to pursue a role in this profession.

The Social Work Task Force and Reform Board promote social work education for a challenging job. The profession demands the application of reflective, critical thinking skills, the ability to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity and use and create best evidence in assisting people and society in a complex world. This course responds to these initiatives providing a course that meets the government, professional body and disciplinary requirements.

As this is a Master's course, you'll be required to develop a sound understanding of the research underpinning social work practice and attendant areas. You'll develop your capacity to act as a research-minded, aware and capable practitioner, undertaking a dissertation and creating knowledge for social work.

As part of the course you will undertake two placements which will provide you with the opportunity to apply the theory you have learnt to practice situations. Your placements will allow you to experience a variety of different social work settings and develop a broad range of practical skills.

Watch a webinar presentation to find out more about this course or attend one of our Undergraduate Open Day events where our MA Social Work course is represented.

Key information

Next start date:

September 2018, September 2019


Bournemouth University, Lansdowne Campus


2 years


Health & Care Professions Council

Entry requirements:

A Bachelors Honours degree with 2:1 or equivalent in any subject. If English is not your first language you'll need IELTS 7.0 (Academic) or above. For more information check out our full entry requirements

Course content

You'll complete core units about the social and behavioural science disciplinary base which are central to understanding people and societies in context. You'll then move on to explore specific areas that deal in-depth with childcare and safeguarding, working with adults made vulnerable by a range of factors. This will prepare you for contemporary social work practice. Ethics and values are central to this preparation and you'll study a unit addressing the dilemmas and tensions of working in complex, uncertain situations.

On this course you will usually be taught by a range of staff with relevant expertise and knowledge appropriate to the content of the unit. This will include senior academic staff, qualified professional practitioners and research students. 

Year 1

Core units

  • Models, Methods & Approaches for Social Work Intervention: You'll gain an understanding of the complex and multi-layered nature of social work, including the challenges of practicing professional social work with a diverse range of social work service users and carers.

  • Use of Self & Other - Theory & Practice: You will develop the ability to develop and sustain relationships with the diverse range of people in our society which is key to excellent social care practice. You will gain a good awareness of self and other in these interactions and the ability to manage social dynamics are vital. In this unit, you'll develop essential personal and interpersonal communication skills and explore theory that will help you apply these skills in professional practice.

  • Law, Social Policy, Values & Ethics: Develop an appreciation of law and social policy, and explore the legal and ethical considerations for social carers practicing in a complex multi-cultural and multi-faith society, nationally and internationally. You'll explore personal and professional values and consider potential ethical dilemmas and conflicting interests in your field of practice.

  • Psychosocial perspectives of the life course: An opportunity to develop an awareness of human growth and behaviour across the lifespan, and different sociological and psychological explanations for this. You'll be encouraged to consider the interplay of psychosocial factors on human lives, exploring a range of influences on human development including gender, ethnicity, sexuality and disability. You'll consider the complex relationships that exist between individual development and the social structures which exist in contemporary society using a biopsychosocial framework.

  • Personal & Professional Development for Social Work Students: You'll be offered a range of practical guidance, support and underpinning knowledge to help you develop your capabilities against the Professional Capabilities Framework and the HCPC codes of practice. You'll also be supported to gain knowledge and skills for studying and developing a deep approach to learning in higher education.

  • Family Intervention: You'll acquire knowledge of social work with children, young people and their families and carers. You'll explore family as a context for socialisation and development, understand and assess children’s behaviour, parenting capacity and family interventions and incorporate the use of child observations.

  • Mental Health & Substance Use: Examine your beliefs on mental health and drug and alcohol use as well as your understanding of current policy and practice issues. This will help you improve your competence in responding to the needs of individuals, families and carers affected by mental health, drug and alcohol use. You'll develop an understanding of the factors that contribute towards the development and maintenance of mental health and substance use problems, the relationship between these, ways these factors can be improved and challenges and dilemmas for social work practice.

  • First Substantive Placement - Part A & B: These two work-based units offer essential practice experiences that you'll need for meeting professional body regulations. You'll be offered a range of practice learning experiences to help develop personally and professionally, and to work towards creating evidence of the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) at the level required for a first substantive placement.

Year 2

Core units

  • Working with Risk & Complexity: Develop your knowledge and comprehension of social work in the context of protection. This includes responsibilities, analytical skills and knowledge, practical skills and professional accountability in all areas of social work practice. This unit will be underpinned by research and evidence-based judgements and you will develop your understanding and competence in assessment and intervention.

  • Final Substantive Placement - Part A & B: A work-based unit offering essential practice experiences you'll need for meeting professional body regulations. The aim is to provide you with a range of practice learning experiences that will help you to develop personally and professionally and to evidence the PCF at the level required for a final substantive placement.

  • Dissertation: Embracing traditional and non-traditional forms of intellectual enquiry and practical management, the Dissertation is the conclusion of your work. It draws on theoretical and practical knowledge developed in other units of the course. You'll show your autonomous ability, within a complex professional context, to create, expand or redefine knowledge by synthesising research literature.

Programme specification

Programme specifications provide definitive records of the University's taught degrees in line with Quality Assurance Agency requirements. Every taught course leading to a BU Award has a programme specification which describes its aims, structure, content and learning outcomes, plus the teaching, learning and assessment methods used.

Download the programme specification for MA Social Work.

Whilst every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the programme specification, the information is liable to change to take advantage of exciting new approaches to teaching and learning as well as developments in industry. If you have been unable to locate the programme specification for the course you are interested in, it will be available as soon as the latest version is ready. Alternatively please contact us for assistance.

Placement opportunities

The Social Work team works in partnership with our local stakeholders, which includes Social Services departments in our neighbouring local authorities and many of the varied local voluntary sector agencies.
You will be supervised in practice by qualified Practice Educators providing you with essential practice experience that will develop your social work knowledge and skills. In year one you will undertake a 70 day placement in a social care setting and in year two you will undertake 100 days within a social work team, undertaking statutory tasks.

A further 30 days is allocated to skills development.
The range of placements includes social work teams delivering services to older people, children and families or people with disabilities; hospital social work teams; residential and day care settings; drug and alcohol services; mental health services; supported housing and homelessness schemes; projects for young people experiencing home and school difficulties.

Selection criteria

Background and experience

For Social Work, we are looking for applicants who:

  • Have an awareness of the role of a Social Worker within society
  • Have a non-judgemental attitude, an appreciation of diversity and self-awareness, flexibility and openness to new ideas
  • Can demonstrate relevant skills such as listening, negotiating and advocacy
  • Have life experiences which may have influenced the applicant to think about a career in social work.

Students are expected to have relevant experience in social work and/or social care and show that they have learnt from this experience. The longer and more varied that experience, the better. Examples of the sort of experience that candidates often have are:

  • Employment as a carer in a residential home
  • Being a volunteer in an agency working with young offenders
  • Paid or voluntary work in a day centre for people with physical disabilities, learning disabilities, or mental health problems
  • Work on summer play schemes and/or after school clubs
  • Personal experience as a service user or carer.

Selection methods

We’ll use the UCAS applications to create a shortlist of candidates that we would like to find out more about. You can find some handy hints about filling in your UCAS form on our how to apply webpages.

Please note that all successfully shortlisted applicants are invited to interview. This will demonstrate whether you show the necessary insight into social work, as well as the motivation and commitment to become a social worker.

What to expect at interview

The interview day will begin with a welcome talk by a member of staff from our Social Work team. There will also be an opportunity for you to speak to current students on the Social Work programmes. You will take part in a group exercise with other candidates led by service users/carers. The service users and carers who lead this session will be considering your ability to express your own views, show appropriate listening skills, demonstrate openness to the views of others, and show curiosity about social problems.

There will a short break followed by a written test (you will be taken to a computer lab for his part of the day, as the test will be typed which will help us to evaluate your IT skills). We will be assessing your ability to express your ideas clearly, demonstrate an insight into the role of the social worker and show empathy. Content, spelling and grammar are all important.

The individual interviews will follow from 1.00pm. The interviews will finish at approximately 3.30pm. If you have a late interview time we recommend you use the time to take the self-guided tour or visit the library at Bournemouth House. Please allow a whole day for the interviews.

You can find further information about interviews with the Faculty of Health & Social Sciences here.

International applicants: if shortlisted for interview you will be notified of the interview arrangements once your application has been processed. 

Full entry requirements

The normal requirements for embarking upon this course are:

  • A Bachelors Honours degree with 2:1 or equivalent in any subject 

International entry requirements

If English is not your first language, you will need to provide evidence that you can understand English to a satisfactory level. English language requirements for this course are normally:

  •  IELTS (Academic) 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component of writing, speaking, listening and reading or equivalent.

View further information about our English language requirements.

A number of pre-sessional English and preparatory programmes are offered through our partner institution, Bournemouth University International College, and will get you ready for study at BU at the appropriate level.

You can also find further details of the international qualifications we accept, and what level of study they apply to, on our postgraduate entry requirements page.

Non-academic requirements

IT skills

IT skills are increasingly important in almost all professions. In the social work sector IT is now a vital tool for accessing and maintaining service user records, accessing literature about social work interventions and conducting practice-related research. As a student you will receive an introduction to IT near the beginning of your course and you will be provided with computer access and your own email address. During the course you will be expected to use your developing IT skills to produce assignments, to conduct literature searches, and to use agency record systems in a practice setting.

Occupational health checks

Social Work is physically and mentally demanding and we need to be sure you are fit and well and able to withstand the rigours of the course and the occupation. We will always make an offer of a place subject to passing an occupational health check, and this will be carried out at the University Hospital Southampton. There are some medical conditions that might cause a problem. Examples are: deafness, blindness, eczema (or other dermatological allergic reactions) on exposed areas, epilepsy, severe back problems and mental health conditions. If you have one of these conditions, or some other condition or disability which you believe may affect your ability to complete the course, you can contact us for more guidance.

You will be required to provide a record of your immunity status or be vaccinated or have the required blood tests. Please see this table for the required immunisations, social work students do not require a Hepatitis B vacination. You may need to ask your GP or current OH department or find your childhood vaccination record  for details of your past immunisation records. You should be aware that there may be charges made (for which you will be liable) relating to your gaining the appropriate immunity required prior to starting your training programme.

Refusing immunisations

Students who refuse immunisations, or who cannot be immunised for medical reasons, will be reviewed on an individual basis by occupational health. Refusal to have immunisations may result in the student not being allowed to attend practice placement and being withdrawn from the course. There is no opportunity to appeal against the requirements of the immunisation policy.

Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) Check (previously known as CRB)

All successful applicants will be subject to an enhanced disclosure & barred list check. This will be a condition of offer and will need to be completed prior to commencing the course. Please see the Government website for the most up-to-date information.


After completing this course, you will possess the practical skills and theoretical knowledge for embarking on a career as a social worker in a variety of posts in statutory, voluntary and independent sectors, in the UK and abroad.

Career progression may lead to you becoming a:

  • Social worker
  • Community care officer
  • Team leader
  • Service manager
  • Academic lecturer.

Should you wish to work as a social worker outside the UK the Social Work Masters qualification is recognised in many countries.

Further study

If you want to continue your studies after achieving your Master's, you can look into our range of doctoral programmes.

No hidden extras

Course specific material(s) included in your tuition fee:

  • Professional body accreditation of the course
  • Disclosure and Barring Service Check
  • Occupational Health Check

As a student at BU we will provide many things to support you and there will also be additional costs you may encounter whilst studying at BU. The information below will help you understand our provision and what you need to budget for.

What you can expect from us

All of your teaching and assessments are included in your tuition fees, including, lectures/guest lectures and tutorials, seminars, laboratory sessions and specialist teaching facilities. You will also have access to a wide range of support and services, many of these are included on the Next Steps insert enclosed with your offer letter.

  • One set of study-related consumables such as a memory stick/ DVD
  • Materials for laboratory and field-based teaching activity
  • Support for placements (UK or abroad) and fieldwork, and non-financial support whilst on placement
  • A range of student services – advisors, help desks, counsellors, placement support and careers service
  • The Library – access to a wide range of electronic resources (databases, e-journals and e-books), print and multimedia collections, subject librarians and study spaces
  • IT labs (some open 24/7), wireless network, AV equipment to borrow
  • Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) scheme
  • Disability and additional learning support
  • The BU Language Centre to help you develop/improve foreign or English language skills
  • 24 hours a day, 365 days a year security team.

Costs of living and other expenses you need to consider

  • Accommodation and living costs: find our price guide
  • Text books: remember that our award-winning library is stocked with a large range of text books for all courses, as well as online resources such as industry journals, free of charge
  • General stationery and other supplies such as print and presentation materials: the Students’ Union shops stock a wide range of stationery supplies on both campuses
  • Travel to, from and between BU campuses: our bus service operates in the local areas offering a subsidised travel rate; we also have a large number of secure bike storage compounds
  • SportBU membership: check out our student membership packages, sports events, varsity teams, information about our new facilities and more on the SportBU webpages 
  • Optional fieldwork travel, outdoor wear and footwear (where applicable)
  • Telephone and travel costs incurred when undertaking interviews for coursework/securing placements.
  • A fee will be payable towards the cost of an Educational Psychology Assessment if this is required in connection with additional learning support. BU pays for approximately two-thirds of the cost of this assessment for UK students. For more details and current pricing please visit the Students section of the website.

Repeat units

If you need to repeat one or more units during the course of your studies (with or without attendance), you may be required to pay additional fees equivalent to one ninth of the tuition fee per 20 credit unit.

Financial help available from BU

We offer a range of scholarships and bursaries to students who are beginning their studies at BU. Our website also provides details on living costs, budgeting and paying your tuition fees.

Your lecturers

Our staff are actively engaged in research and professional practice in the nutrition sector which is integrated into the teaching of this course. Find out more about some of the staff and their research activities who will be teaching on this course below. 

Dr Richard Williams

Richard's passion for 'making a difference' to children, young people and families, is central to his academic work.

Having joined BU as a Senior Lecturer after his years in practice, he continued to focus his teaching, writing and research on outcomes in general and the positive impact of social work in particular.

Working at BU has allowed Richard to extend his interest in managing hostility and mediation and to apply this to teaching across different disciplinary groups.

Richard currently project manages a research project 'The Heart of the Matter' commissioned by the Bournemouth & Poole LSCB into the child protection processes and procedures. This work has successfully engaged with professional groups as well as parents, significant other adults and children and young people.

Jill Davey

Prior to joining Bournemouth University (BU) in May 2003, Jill held both strategic and managerial positions in relation to social work. Jill’s last post in practice was that of a Principle Education Officer within Bournemouth Local Authority.

Jill’s currently undertaking a PhD, which has drawn on research from the UK and South Africa, where she undertook a five week field work study in Zululand, South Africa. In October 2014, Jill was awarded a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in recognition of my success as a high quality educator.

During Jill’s time in practice, she held specialist posts including managing a social work service to all Bournemouth Local Authority and Independent Schools. Jill retained responsibility for ensuring all children, living within the Bournemouth local area, were effectively achieving their optimal educational outcome and effectively safeguarded from harm or abuse. Jill also took the Education lead for the Local Authority on Serious Case Reviews.

Dr Mel Hughes

Mel is a Senior Lecturer in social work and a practice educator with specific interests in the student experience, practice learning, mental health and substance use.

Mel’s research includes articles on:

  • The impact of service user and carer involvement on students' subsequent social work practice: a follow up study
  • Developing standards of care in residential homes: A participatory Action Research project in collaboration with The Patient Association
  • Gaining insight into what works to minimise loneliness and isolation. A participatory action research project in collaboration with the Poole Wellbeing Collaborative
  • Principal investigator: evidencing the impact of service user involvement in professional health and social work programmes
  • Principal investigator: Parents Story Project: Gaining insight into parental substance use

Dr Margarete Parrish

Margarete Parrish’s career in social work began with her MSW from the University of Georgia in the US, where she specialised in Mental Health Social Work. Her PhD in Social Work is from Rutgers University, where she also specialised in Mental Health. Her practice background has been in both medical and mental health settings. Her practice specialities include adaptation following trauma, adolescents, mental health and substance misuse.

Margarete has taught in the UK since 2004, and joined the social work team at BU in January 2013. The second edition of her book “Social Work Perspectives on Human Behaviour” was published in 2014.


What our students say

Pennie Pinder

All the academics have been very supportive throughout my course and provide detailed feedback on assignments so that you can always improve.

Hear from our staff

Richard Williams

Social Work is not a discipline for the faint-hearted and our students develop personally and professionally; they embrace the learning opportunities and the challenges these opportunities provide and the outcome is high quality practitioners.

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