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MA Social Work

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

£8,505  (UK students)
£21,150 (International)

NHS Bursaries
Find out about the NHSBA bursaries 

The MA Social Work programme offers professional training that will make you eligible to register with the Social Work England as a professional social worker.

The MA in Social Work is an exciting course which will enable you to obtain a professional qualification as well as a Masters degree. The programme is committed to social justice, anti-oppressive practice and relationship-based social work and draws upon a number of disciplines informing social work practice. It includes the study of social work values, knowledge, law, theories, methods and skills. 

Funding opportunities

When you study at the University of Birmingham, there are a number of different scholarships available for both UK and International students to support you with your postgraduate studies.

Find out more

The social work programme at the University of Birmingham is the oldest in the country and we are proud of our history. It offers a stimulating and dynamic learning environment where you will learn not only from academics, but also current and former service users, carers and practitioners. The involvement of service users and carers is an integral aspect of the programme. This allows you to gain a greater insight into the role Social Work can play in people’s lives, so you can develop an understanding of lived experiences and expectations from the very start of your training.

A social work degree from our university can offer you a variety of opportunities for practising social work overseas. Social workers are in demand in a number of countries and our degrees are recognised in places such as Australia, Canada and Hong Kong. 

Social workers play a vital role in society, working with vulnerable people in their times of greatest need.  As such, Social Work is an incredibly rewarding career, which makes a real difference in peoples’ lives.

Since graduating from University of Birmingham, I’ve worked in 4 different local authorities with children and adults. I’ve worked with children with complex needs, adults and children with disabilities, child protection and court work. I have been able to work within many specialties and statutory positions and have gathered lots of transferable skills.

Victoria O Laniba, Graduate, now Children's Complex Needs Social Worker


Year one

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

  • Law for Professional Practice
  • Social Identity, Citizenship and Social Work Practice
  • Social Work Skills, Values and Approaches
  • Theory, Methods and Practice (academic assignment linked to Placement 1)
  • Placement 1

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.

  • Advanced Practice: Individuals, Families, Communities
  • Placement 2
  • Dissertation


Fees for entry 2023 - 2024

Code: 5934 £8,505  f/t (UK students)
Code: 5934 £21,150  f/t (International students)

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.

NHS Bursaries

View the latest bursary information.

Postgraduate Loans for Masters students

You may be able to apply for a postgraduate loans system for Masters degrees in the UK which provides up to £11,836 (after August 2022) for taught and research Masters courses. More information may be found on the UK government website.

Learn more about fees and funding.

For further information, and to browse our range of opportunities, please visit the Postgraduate Funding Database.

How To Apply

Find out more about the application process for social work at Birmingham


Our Standard Requirements

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.

This degree leads to an MA in Social Work with the Professional Qualification in Social Work which provides eligibility to apply to register with Social Work England. This is the qualification 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.

On successful completion of the MA Social Work, you will be equipped to work in a wide range of areas. The specialist options built in to the Masters will allow you to direct your knowledge and expertise to the area you would like to work in once you have completed the programme, giving you a competitive advantage in the voluntary, private and statutory sectors.

 Alumnus Jamie McEwan discusses his experience of the MA Social Work at the University of Birmingham.

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