Julie Jones describes her experience of studying the MA Social Work at the University of Birmingham.
My name’s Julie Jones. I’m currently a qualified social worker. I work for Birmingham City Council in an Adults Team, and I’m based in South Birmingham. I did a Maters in Social Work at the University of Birmingham in the Institute of Applied Social Studies. The course kind of has two strands, the first is the academic strand which teaches you the theories, the psychology around becoming a social worker and the theories that you’ll need to be able to work with people, both children and adults, and there’s also a placement element of the course. The Maters that I did was 200 days in placement, a 100 days in your first year, 100 days in your second year, and that’s within a social care setting to give you the skills to be able to actually go out on the job and work as a social worker.
I chose the University of Birmingham first of all because it’s got an excellent reputation. I think that if you can put on your CV that you’ve got a degree from the University of Birmingham it could potentially stand you out from other people that haven’t been to such a prestigious institution. It’s got excellent facilities in terms of library, the book choices are excellent. They’ve got great access to online journal articles which obviously greatly help in your research – things like your essays and your dissertations. The lecturers are fantastic. Very knowledgeable, very approachable, and a lot of them are actively engaged in current research projects. And last but not least, the campus is beautiful. I fell in love with the campus at Birmingham as soon as I saw it. It is a beautiful place to study, and the surroundings are lovely to be around.
For me, I had 200 day placement; one in my first year and one in my second year. Both of them are in a social care setting. For me the first one was in a non-statutory setting in children’s. The second one was in a statutory setting in adults. Adults was the pathway that I chose, that’s what I wanted to specialise in. So both of those placements together give you real on the job experience to really equip you with the practical skills that you’re going to need on a daily basis to be able to function effectively as a social worker.
I think anybody looking to apply for the Masters in Social Work at the University of Birmingham, I would advise them to do a little bit of research into the degree, and maybe just try and get a little bit of shadowing experience in a social care setting just so that you’ve got a vague idea of the kind of thing that you’re going into – just that will equip you better for when you start the degree so that you’re more prepared as for, you know, what it is you’re going to be embarking upon.
It’s been excellent actually. The two strands of the course – the theoretical side has been really useful in the sense that it provides you with theories for understanding why human beings behave the way they do, so things like attachment theory for working with children. When I worked in children’s services, it was very very clear to see the theory translating into children’s lives and how it gave them everyday problems that we could try and deal with. And then in terms of the practical side, again as I said previously, it gives you the skills and the experience on the job working with social workers, shadowing other social workers so that when you then go out and start working as a practising social worker yourself, you’ve had some of that experience which will give you the confidence to then be able to go off and do it a little bit more independently.
The course has prepared me for the job that I’m doing now with the two elements. In terms of the theory side the theories teach you an understanding as to how or why people may behave as they do which can then help you try and work with them to address their issues. In terms of the practical side, the practice that you do on the Masters gives you real hands on experience in the job with social workers, with service users, which you can then take forward when you’re working independently as a qualified social worker. It gives you the confidence and the skills to be able to go out there and do the job yourself. The course also teaches you your value and ethics base. It’s done in a lot of detail on the course. It’s something that you will come back to again and again in all strands of the course that you study which is really really valuable because as a social worker, they key foundations really are having that value and that ethics base. So in terms of the course teaching me that it really did equip me to go out there on the job and to hold those values and ethics which I think at the end of the day make me a better social worker.