MA Social Work

Start date
2 years full-time
UCAS code
Course Type
Postgraduate, Taught

£8,820  (UK students)
£23,310 (International)

NHS Bursaries
Find out about the NHSBA bursaries 

The University of Birmingham Social Work MA degree will provide you with a practice-focussed and eye-opening learning experience. Learn from expert academics and gain first-hand experience from service users, carers and practitioners, and graduate prepared to start an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling career.

Build your career and lead social change

In these recent challenging times, social workers have had a vital role to play. They engage with vulnerable individuals, families and communities on a daily basis to promote human rights and make a meaningful difference in people’s life outcomes.

Our course will prepare you for the profession through research-informed teaching, value-based learning and practice placements. The modules of the course incorporate the key skills, expertise and values for contemporary social work practice, complimented by two placements providing the opportunity to put your knowledge into practice. Located within Muirhead Tower, you will benefit from modern, hi-tech teaching facilities.

Graduating with a social work degree offers a variety of opportunities for practising social work and other humanitarian work in the UK and overseas. Our degrees are recognised globally in countries such as Australia, Canada and Hong Kong amongst others, where social workers are also in demand.

Please note that you will be required to complete an Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check and Declaration of Suitability for Social Work form, before registration onto the programme.

Why Study Social Work at Birmingham?

  • The Department of Social Work and Social Care produces world leading research in both children's and adult's social work. Alongside generating knowledge and educating future and current practitioners, the department has direct engagement with providers, commissioners and policy makers regarding their work to design and deliver new models of support. 
  • The University of Birmingham is embedded within a diverse, multicultural and thriving city and region, with strong civic connections, providing a range of experiences for our students to gain hands-on experience. 
  • Our course places lived experience at the forefront of our teaching, research and impact and we collaborate with a wide range of service users, carers and practitioners to provide students with a broad range of experiences.
  • We are a multi-disciplinary university, with a clear focus on collaborations which includes learning with students from other health and care related areas. 

What I enjoyed about the course is that it had two aspects: teaching and the practical side. It was nice to be able to learn about the theory and how the theory can put into practice through the placements experience

Victoria O Laniba, MA Social Work, 2019


These modules are for 2024 entry unless stated otherwise.

Year one

In Year one you will have the opportunity to develop core academic knowledge and skills and will study five academic modules:

  • Social work in practice: context, values and skills
  • Journeys through the life course
  • Law and social policy for social work
  • Critical social work practice with children, families and adults
  • Placement One for professional practice

The current social work regulatory body, Social Work England, requires that before our students go out onto placement they have the basic skills needed to work with a wide variety of people and talk to service users with understanding and respect. As part of this skills development you will be required to undertake a Practice Orientation period with a local organisation. During this period you will be oriented to core processes of referral, assessment, multi disciplinary working - including engagement with service users and you will be assessed on your professional behaviour.

You will also carry out an assessed role play interview with a service user or carer and also spend time in a local social care organisation.

The University of Birmingham is a member of one of the regional social work teaching partnerships. The West Midlands Teaching Partnership bring together employers and universities from across the region to work together on enduring that students have access to practice learning in these Local Authorities and to promote employment opportunities. Professional Practice Learning placements are at the heart of the University of Birmingham’s Social Work Programmes. The aims of the programmes are to produce reflective social workers with capacity to work in a changing and diverse society and who are competent, honest and reliable. To this end, the Programmes works with a wide range of statutory and independent organisations, in order to provide good quality placements. We ask all students to specify their first, second and third choice of local authority, so all students will be potentially offered a placement in one of their top three areas.

The placements on offer are challenging and also very rewarding. Some of the areas of social work covered on placement are:

  • Family support and prevention
  • Domestic violence
  • Refugee and asylum
  • Special educational needs
  • Fostering
  • Child Protection
  • Disabilities
  • Substance misuse
  • Mental Health

The placement in year one is for 70 days. All students will have a practice tutor and practice educator who is a qualified registered social worker and they might also have a day-to-day supervisor called a practice supervisor.

Students should be aware that placements in particular areas of interest are not guaranteed. However, all placements are quality assured, meet required Social Work England standards and provide a wide range of learning opportunities which are transferable to any setting, and have international relevance.

Year two

In Year two you will undertake a further 100 days of professional practice learning which, in line with Social Work England requirements, will be with a different service user group in a different agency setting. All students will have the opportunity during at least one of their practice placements to undertake some statutory duties. As part of this you will also complete an academic assignment analysing a piece of practice based work undertaken on this placement.

In conjunction with this you will have the opportunity to reflect upon your learning in preparation for and within practice. Students will undertake learning in relation to work with both children and families and adults and communities and this will be incorporated within a framework which encourages students to adopt a ‘think family’ approach to social work. Teaching and learning will concentrate on cross-cutting issues for practice around risk and protection, whole-family approaches, collaborative working, and strengths based approaches.

Also in this final year you will develop, conduct and write-up in the form of a dissertation, an individual piece of literature and/or empirical based research in an area of social work you are particularly interested in.

  • Research in social work: Dissertation
  • Placement Two for professional practice
  • Managing staff and leading others in professional social work


Fees for 2024 - 2025

Code: 5934 £8,820  f/t (UK)
Code: 5934 £23,310  f/t (International)

When you apply for this course, it is important that you also take into account living costs and should ensure that you will have sufficient funds to finance the full duration of your studies. Our Social Work programmes include a significant amount of time spent on placements in a variety of settings, and so when budgeting to study you should also allow for travel to and from placements, as well as textbooks, printing, photocopying and stationery that you may need.


At the University of Birmingham, we ensure that fears about finance do not constrain prospective students from considering university and that hard work and academic excellence are rewarded.

We offer a range of additional financial support for students studying at Birmingham in the form of bursaries, grants and scholarships.

Learn more about our scholarships and awards.

The Social Work Bursary is available to home students, subject to eligibility and capping. More information can be found on the NHS Business Services Authority website.

How To Apply

All applications to our MA Social Work programmes are completed through UCAS. The University of Birmingham's UCAS code number is B32. The UCAS code for the MA Social Work is L502 

Further details on how to apply


Our Standard Requirements

This course is designed for those with an undergraduate degree in a non-social work subject that are:

  • considering a career in social work or other humanitarian work in the UK or overseas
  • looking towards a career in social work and social care research or leadership 

The entry requirement is an upper second-class (2.1) honours degree classification or higher. Applicants with a 2:2 degree classification may be considered, on a case-by-case basis, if they have further related postgraduate study or extensive professional experience. Normally, this would be a minimum of 2 years of significant and relevant social work or social care experience. 

We also require GCSE Mathematics and English at grade C/4 or certificated equivalent level two numeracy and literacy qualification.  

minimum of 30 days related practice-based experience. This can be in a variety of fields and does not have to be in a social work setting. Personal experience may count towards your practice-based experience but it is important that you are able to evidence some practice-based experience alongside this. This must show a sustained commitment, evidenced by a practice-based reference. If you do not fulfil these requirements or want further advice, please contact us directly.  

Please note that work experience is not considered in lieu of meeting the academic entry requirements. You will be required to meet the practice element in addition to meeting the academic criteria.

If your qualifications differ from those listed here, please contact the central Admissions team for guidance.

Find out more about the University of Birmingham's Code of Practice on Admissions.

Learn more about entry requirements.

International Requirements

  1. Applicants must show, in the appropriate section of the application form, that they meet or will meet, all of the academic criteria.
  2. Their ability to meet the academic criteria should be confirmed in their academic reference.
  3. In addition to this applicants must provide details, within their personal statement, of their related personal or social care experience and the influence this has had on their commitment to and understanding of, social work. A subsequent practice reference will be required if an offer is made.
  4. Their personal statement should provide evidence of their ability to write in a clear, coherent and accessible style.
  5. Shortlisted applicants will be required to read a short academic text and complete a written test on their understanding of general issues related to social work.
  6. Applicants will then complete an interview with a member of academic staff.
  7. Selected applicants will be required to complete an Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check and Declaration of Suitability for Social Work form before registration on the programme.
  8. Where an applicant has disclosed a criminal offence, they will be asked to provide further details on this offence in a letter to the department.
  9. A satisfactory social care practice reference will also be required.
  10. All students will be required to sign the Fitness to Practise Code of Conduct on entry.
  11. Please note that work experience is not considered in lieu of meeting the academic entry requirements. You will be required to meet the practice element in addition to meeting the academic criteria. 

International Students

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

  • IELTS 7.0 with no less than 6.5 in any band
  • TOEFL: 95 overall with no less than 22 in any band
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE) including online: PTE Academic 76 with no less than 67 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced or Proficiency – minimum overall score of 185, with no less than 176 in any component

From the outset of our Social Work degree, you will be encouraged to become an independent and self-motivated learner. We want you to be challenged and will encourage you to think critically.

Our MA Social Work degree is underpinned by research-informed teaching and practice, and you will be supported by academics who are engaged in current research. The course will equip you with an understanding of social work values, evidence-informed practice, making professional judgements, and the ability to apply a range of interventions in practice. Our aim is for our students to graduate as confident and competent professionals. Our degree programme has a strong commitment to human rights, social justice, equality, diversity and inclusion.

We offer a range of teaching methods, including lectures, small group seminars, group work, role play and self-directed learning and online tasks. As part of the programme, you will also undertake two practice placements in a social care setting, totalling 170 days. These placements will be supervised by the University. As part of the West Midlands Social Work Teaching Partnership, we work collaboratively with 15 local authorities, 2 children’s trusts, 1 foundation trust and 7 Higher Education Institutions within our region. This collaboration allows us to offer a large variety of practice learning opportunities. As part of your practice learning, you will be required to work with children, their families, adults and communities.

We use a range of assessment methods throughout the programme, including written essays, examinations, portfolios, presentations and live practice scenarios. At the beginning of each module you will be given information on how and when you will be assessed for that particular module. You will receive feedback on each assessment so that you can learn from and build on your previous work and use this to develop your future assessments.


Each student will be assigned an academic tutor, who will meet with you for a face to face tutorial a minimum of three times per academic year. A Well;being Officer is also offered by the College; they provide support around any difficult personal circumstances you may experiencing at any given time during your studies.  As a Department, we pride ourselves on the high level and quality of support we offer our students across the board.

Service user and carer involvement

Involving service users and carers in all aspects of admissions and the development and delivery of our social work qualifying programmes is a priority for us. It offers students the opportunity to have a thorough grounding in service users’ and carers’ experiences and expectations from the very start of their social work training and careers.

There is a clear progression from the social work programme to professional practice in a range of settings such as statutory social work, voluntary organisations and the private sector. Studying with us will help you build a competitive advantage by gaining a qualification from a nationally and internationally acclaimed university, opening up employment opportunities both in the UK and overseas. 

Upon graduation, our students take up positions such as:

  • Social Worker (children and families, adults, mental health)
  • Social Work and Social Care Leadership
  • Social Researcher
  • Advanced Mental Health Practitioner (AMHP)
  • Education Welfare Officer
  • Youth Offending Team
  • Community Development Worker
  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Officer
  • Advocate 

This degree leads to an MA with the Professional Qualification in Social Work which provides eligibility to apply to register with Social Work England. This qualification is required to practice as a professional social worker.

As well as equipping you with a professional qualification, gaining the MA allows you to progress on to post qualifying courses or to apply to continue with your academic studies at PhD level.