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    Social Work

    Department of Sociological Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences

    Develop your understanding of the theories surrounding social work, as well as their practical implications, to become a professionally competent, reflective and analytical social work practitioner.
    Student in seminar typing on laptop

    Course description

    Our Social Work MA is a two-year course which will equip you with a masters degree and a professional qualification recognised by Social Work England.

    You'll learn through a variety of methods, taught by enthusiastic, committed and research active academics, experienced in the field of social work. You’ll also learn from current practitioners, peers, service users and other highly-specialised professionals from a variety of backgrounds and organisations. You’ll develop a clear understanding of the use and application of theory in social work practice.

    In addition to your University-based studies, you'll undertake two one-hundred day statutory placements in South Yorkshire. Our collaborative relationship with the South Yorkshire Teaching Partnership (SYTP) opens the door to practice learning experiences within five different local authorities, in areas such as children and families social work, adult social work and mental health teams. You can read more about placements below.

    Your practice learning is enhanced with University recall days and weekly personal study time, enabling you to reflect deeply on your placement experiences, discuss pertinent issues with your peers and be supported by your personal and placement tutor. 

    Upon completion of this programme you'll have obtained the skills and knowledge to tackle the real challenges that face social workers of today's world. You'll be part of a workforce making a positive impact on the lives of many vulnerable individuals, families and communities.


    Our MA in Social Work is part of the SYTP, offering two 100-day placements in either childcare or adult care statutory settings. These placements are carefully chosen to offer contrasting experiences in contemporary social work practice, enhancing your overall learning and experience.

    Both placements are 100 consecutive days long, in order to meet the Social Work England 200 days of practice learning requirement, an initiative unique to the SYTP and University. 

    You'll develop strong relationships with local authorities whilst on placement, helping you gain employment within the SYTP and beyond following your graduation.

    The quality of the placement experience is reflected in the 100% employability of our graduates (Graduate Outcomes Data, 2020-21), showing that you will finish this programme highly qualified and ready to begin your career in social work/social care. 

    If you have additional caring responsibilities, health issues and/or a disability, we’ll seek to place you as close to your home as possible. There is some flexibility regarding working patterns in most placements. 

    However, when applying for this course, you should consider the demands of your caring responsibilities given that this is a full-time programme with two continuous 100-day placements in both years of study.

    If you would like to discuss the demands of the programme with our Admissions Officer before you apply, please contact us.

    Advice, information and support for students with caring responsibilities

    Disability and Dyslexia Support Service


    Throughout your journey to completing your Social Work MA and becoming a qualified social worker, you'll be offered a variety of support, not only from the department but from the wider university and our local authority partners within the South Yorkshire Teaching Partnership. 

    Whether you’re in the classroom or on placement, there will always be someone there, dedicated to supporting you. Here are some examples:

    • Your Academic Tutor will be your consistent contact within the department who will take the time to understand your individual circumstances and support you in progressing in your studies and personal development.
    • Your Dissertation Supervisor will support you throughout your second year as you complete a dissertation relating to an area of academic interest.
    • On each of your placements in a social work setting, you will be allocated a Practice Educator who is there to support your learning in the workplace. 
    • Your Placement Tutor will be on hand to provide a supportive link between local authorities and the university, while you are on placement. 
    • It’s not just staff who will be supporting you along the way, you’ll have your fellow Social Work students to chat to in group teaching sessions and support each other as you complete your journey to becoming a qualified social worker.

    Support from the Department of Sociological Studies


    This degree makes you eligible to apply for registration with Social Work England as a qualified social worker.

    Why study social work at Sheffield?


    A selection of modules is available each year - some examples are below. There may be changes before you start your course. From May of the year of entry, formal programme regulations will be available in our Programme Regulations Finder.

    Over the two years you will take 180 credits. You'll take 60 credits each year plus a dissertation worth 60 credits, spread over both years.

    Law and Social Policy for Social Work

    This unit forms part of Year One of the MA in Social Work. It examines key areas of the law and social policy relevant to social work. The unit introduces key concepts in the legal system and social policy. It then critically examines law and policy relating to human rights, youth justice, mental health, community care, the family and child protection. Material from public enquiries and actual cases reported in the courts and the media will be used to supplement learning and students will also consider social policy from comparative perspectives, using examples from other countries.

    30 credits
    Social Work Practice - Contexts, Values and Skills

    This unit forms part of Year One of the MA in Social Work. This unit enables students to develop a range of literature search skills and skills for social work practice. Students will be introduced to a range of key principles and values underpinning professional activity and be provided with an introduction to core professional skills which will enable them to prepare for and progress to their first practice placement. Final assessment will utilise case material drawn from work undertaken on the student's first practice placement. Classroom exercises will focus on identifying service user perspectives and the skills and strategies required to practice in a safe, responsible and ethical way.

    15 credits
    Human Growth and development through the Life Course for Social Workers

    Students will critically evaluate theories and literature in the areas of child and adult development and consider ways in which these relate to social work practice across the human life course and at the end of life. They will also consider the research evidence and theoretical perspectives which underpin a range of approaches to social work practice interventions based on these differing perspectives. A variety of taught sessions and seminars incorporating service user and practitioner perspectives will focus on helping students to make age-appropriate assessments across the life course, to understand the importance of cultural context, to explore aspects of parenting and influence of family structures on child and adult experiences with the aim of helping students to acquire the skills and strategies necessary to practice in a safe, sensitive, responsible and ethical way.

    15 credits
    Readiness for Practice Placement One

    All students following a qualifying level social work programme are expected to undertake a minimum of 200 practice learning days across two 100-day placements, including approved independent study time. Under new professional arrangements, no student can be allowed to commence their first period of practice placement (SCS6058) without the University having satisfied itself that the safety of vulnerable service users will not be compromised. The module, together with the relevant assessment elements of other academic modules (see SCS6059 and SCS6061), will provide an assessment of a student's readiness for practice and their capability and entitlement to progress onto their first practice placement. The Portfolio assessment will comprise of: a Profile, 1,000 word Reflection - CVS1, CSV Workbook, Presentation slides from SCS6059, OH and DBS checks.

    Practice Placement One

    All students following a qualifying level social work programmes are expected to undertake a total of 200 practice learning days, including approved independent study time. The first practice placement is for 78 days, including 4 preparatory skills days prior to placement commencement which will contribute to the assessment of a student's readiness to undertake direct practice and 4 further (a total of 8) skills development days, as set out in the new national curriculum proposals, designed to enhance student learning on more specialist skills. It consolidates and builds students' skills relating social work theories and approaches, life course development, legislation, policy and guidance informing practice. It provides opportunities to apply this knowledge to direct work with service users in a diverse range of settings; and to develop skills in working in organisations and increase their understanding of, and skills in, multi-disciplinary practice.

    Continuing across years one and two:


    Students undertaking the MA should begin working for their dissertation as early as possible in the course and no later than the summer period between Year 1 and Year 2 (ideally during semester 2 of year 1). Students are expected to define their own topic in consultation with tutors. This topic must be related to practice issues in social work.

    60 credits

    The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

    Open days

    An open day gives you the best opportunity to hear first-hand from our current students and staff about our courses.

    You may also be able to pre-book a department visit as part of a campus tour.Open days and campus tours


    2 years full-time


    You’ll learn through lectures, small-group work, individual and group projects, supervised dissertation.


    You will be assessed on essays, group project work, peer assessment, group and individual presentations, examination and dissertation.

    Your career

    100% of our graduates are in work or further study fifteen months after graduating (Graduate Outcomes Data, 2020/21).

    Throughout the Social Work programme, you will add valuable transferable skills to your CV from your studies and placements. In addition to this, you can take advantage of the faculty employability hub and access careers support and various opportunities to make you stand out from the crowd.

    Upon completion of the course, graduates are guaranteed an interview with local authority partners.

    Find out more about graduate careers on our PGT Careers and employability page.

    Entry requirements

    Minimum 2:1 undergraduate honours degree with at least 3 months of relevant work experience/volunteering in a caring role. We will also consider your application if you have a 2:2 undergraduate honours degree with 12 months of relevant work experience/volunteering in a caring role.

    Relevant experience can be gained from a voluntary or employed capacity and can include work with social welfare and community groups, children or young people, older people, disabled people, or those with mental health problems. It will require the candidate to provide evidence that they are able to call upon formative experience or from school or college placements, in a relevant health and/or social care setting.

    You must have GCSE English and Mathematics at grade 4/C or above. Please make this clear on your application as we are unable to proceed with your application without confirmation.

    We accept alternatives to this, including: a minimum 12 credits for Mathematics or English GCSE equivalent unit, providing these are approved university and Access Validating Agency units. We also accept level 2 adult numeracy and literacy as valid substitutes, but not Application of Number.

    Before joining the course, you will be expected to have basic IT skills, including being able to use the internet, word processing software and email.

    As part of the admissions process you will be required to complete an online interview and test should your application be successful.

    To help you prepare for the interview, we've put together a guide on what to expect and how you can prepare.

    We also consider a wide range of international qualifications:

    Entry requirements for international students

    Overall IELTS score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component, or equivalent.

    If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.

    Fees and funding

    The fees below are per year. This is a two-year course.

    Financial considerations, associated costs and the Social Work Bursary

    This is a full-time programme of study. We understand that studying during the current cost of living crisis can be difficult financially. Therefore, for the period September to December in both years, we have condensed the module teaching to two days per week following induction. This is in recognition that you may have to work part-time during your studies.

    The MA in Social Work is part funded by the Social Work Bursary provided by the NHS. There is a means-tested component to the bursary. 

    If you are offered a place on the programme, we strongly advise that you consider the funding available and to check if the bursary is sufficient to enable you to take up the offer of a place on the programme.

    Accommodation and costs

    There are some associated costs that you should consider before applying:

    • If you are requiring accommodation during your studies, the University’s Accommodation pages cover everything you need to know, such as how to apply, costs and other FAQs.
    • Upon registration, all Social Work students must complete an Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check (£38 - this can be subject to change)
    • Driving to your placement is optional, however if you do, you will need to upgrade your insurance to business usage. Many of our local authority partners provide a mileage allocation or reimbursement of travel costs for those travelling on public transport. There is also a travel component within the Social Work Bursary.

    Second year home student George and international student Nina both discuss how they manage their finances throughout the programme in their student profiles.

    Financial information for postgraduate taught courses


    Applications for 2024 entry are open.

    Although the 31 January 2024 UCAS deadline has passed, we are currently still welcoming applications.

    Apply now via UCAS

    Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.

    Our student protection plan

    Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.