MA Social Work

‌Our Masters in Social Work provides you with the skills and training to be a reflective practitioner who works in ways that are anti-oppressive and achieve the qualification required to register as a social worker in England.


The educational purpose of the MA in Social Work is to provide an environment in which students can reach their potential in the development of academic ability, professional knowledge and competence to practice. We aim to equip students with the knowledge, skills, values, critical ability as well as general transferable skills to make a high quality contribution to social care and welfare agencies in the UK and beyond. Explore: What it means to be a Social Worker (students' work on the social worker identity as part of our professional development groups).

  • The programme runs for two years, full time. It may also be taken as a Postgraduate Diploma over two years.
  • On completion of the MA or PGDip you become eligible to apply to the HCPC to register as a social worker.

The programme provides:

  • The opportunity to explore the policy and legal frameworks that inform practice; the theories and models that underpin the work; the research skills that inform a research minded practitioner; and the practice skills to carry through the task.
  • Training that aims to produce a high standard of dissertation work that includes work on research methodology, research ethics, literature reviews and library searches.

The two year MA in Social Work comprises two placements in different settings and a range of compulsory modules covering topics such as: social policy, law, theories and models for practice, reflective practice, social work research, communication skills, and a 16,000 word dissertation.

Who is the programme for?

The programme is for people who are willing to step up to the challenge and respond creatively to the pressures of current practice in social work. You may be seeking ways to address injustice and discrimination. You may wish to learn more about the legality and procedures that inform practice. You may be committed to learning more about research methodology in order to place quality research findings at the heart of your practice.

  • Graduates from a range of disciplines who are committed to a career in social work.
  • Enthusiastic people who want to learn skills and knowledge that will enable them to work in partnership with a broad range of services users and with professionals from a range of agencies.
  • Resilient graduates who will be willing to rise to the challenges of current social work in the UK and be a force for change.

Download the Masters Degrees brochure 

Structure and content

Themes and content

As never before, social workers need to be informed, knowledgeable and exercise good judgement. At the end of the two year programme we aim to have equipped you with the skills and knowledge required of a newly qualified worker at beginning practice level. Specifically therefore we have ensured that the underpinning themes and module content link closely to the Professional Capabilities Framework and the HCPC Standards of Proficiency.

Course structure

This is a two year full time programme. Part time study is not available due to placements and teaching schedule.

The programme is based on three overarching strands:

  • Knowledge for Social Work - providing a theoretical and critical approach to understanding social work.
  • Contexts for Social Work - looking at the legal, policy and ethical frameworks that dictate, inform and impact social work practice.
  • Social Work Practice - preparing for practice, practice learning on placement and reflecting on professional practice.

These are studied in parallel in the first six months of the course, before the first placement of 70 days which runs from February to June. During the placement you will return to University occasionally for advanced modules in the 'practice' and 'context' strands.

The second year starts with a 100 day placement from late August to March. During the placement you will return to University occasionally for dissertation teaching and for a specialist option in either: social work with children and families; mental health social work; youth social work; health and disability social work.

The final 16,000 word dissertation is to be seen within the context of the national development of evidence-based and knowledge-based social work practice.

Dissertation examples

The purpose of the social work research module is to enable students at Masters level to complete a dissertation. The following are examples of recent dissertation title:

  • A case study of a community mental health team's experience using cognitive behaviour therapy for the treatment for adult depression.
  • Back to real social work? The implications for the practice of care managers following the introduction of individual budgets.
  • Domestic violence - whose problem is it? An analysis of multi-agency services and responses to domestic violence.
  • Self Harm: The experience of professionals.


Important notes


Application to the MA in Social Work is through UCAS, similar to the undergraduate admissions process. The course code is L508 and the institution code is Y50 The University of York. In addition, please note the specific entry requirements below. Admission to the course is by an interview. Interviews take place from November to April.

Entry requirements

All applicants must demonstrate that they have an understanding of the social work role and that they have the potential to become a social worker. Applicants will normally have an upper second class (2.1) honours degree (or equivalent) or higher grade. You will also need GCSE Maths and English at grade C or equivalent, such as adult numeracy and literacy skills at Level 2 (see Ensure that you clearly indicate if you hold these requirements on your application form.

Candidates will usually have the equivalent of one year’s full time work experience in social care, health care or in related voluntary settings. Having undertaken a caring role in a personal capacity may also be accepted as relevant experience.

Applicants who declare a disability will be offered an interview if they meet the academic criteria. In all cases the offer of a place is subject to a satisfactory disclosure from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and a satisfactory health declaration. Having either a criminal conviction or a health condition is not an automatic bar to entry, but failure to disclose relevant information may result subsequently in termination of training.

International students for whom English is not your first language should also read the English Language Requirements. An IELTS average score of 7, with no individual section below 6.5 is required (equivalents as specified on the English Language Requirements page also accepted).

Postgraduate Diploma

This is an alternative for some students who may feel that they are not able or willing to undertake the 16,000 word dissertation that is the requirement for obtaining a Masters degree. The Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work is also approved by the HCPC.  This means that students with such a qualification are able to apply for registration with the HCPC as social workers in exactly the same way as those with a Masters degree.

Health and Care Professions Council

Social work is a regulated profession and qualified social workers are registered with the HCPC. As a social work student you will be expected to adhere to the standards set out in the HCPC Standards of conduct, performance and ethics. Completion of the MA in Social Work makes you eligible to apply for registration. As well as regulating individual social workers and students, the HCPC also regulate social work courses. For more information visit the HCPC website. For more information visit the HCPC website.


Please take a moment to read the advice from Accommodation Services on choosing accommodation on campus.



Full details of fee arrangements are available on the Postgraduate Fees page.

Those applying for the NHS bursary should note that the bursary does not cover the full fee and you will need to pay the difference to the University. Further details of the bursary are linked below.

Fees quoted are for one year of study only and are subject to increase in subsequent years.  The University reserves the right to alter the level of fee.


The government has not yet announced the NHS bursary arrangements for students starting in 2016.

  1. The NHS Business Authority (NHS BSA) offers bursaries for students studying social work, subject to eligibility* and availability.
  2. The University of York will prioritise students for available NHS bursaries according to our assessment of their application and interview performance.
  3. The NHS BSA pays grants for travel to and from placement for all postgraduate students - regardless of whether or not they receive an NHS bursary.
  4. University of York students are placed with many individual social work agencies. Some agencies reimburse students for travel costs incurred as part of the placement, but others do not.

*For full details on eligibility criteria, the financial value of the bursaries and availability of application packs, you can visit the NHS Social Work Bursaries website. Alternatively, call the Bursaries team on 0300 330 1342 or 0191 279 0569.


SPSW student in seminar
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Contact details

All enquiries:
Rachel McAllister
Admissions Manager

Tel: +44 (0)1904 32 1273

Dr Mark Hardy
Admissions Tutor

Tel: +44 (0)1904 32 1227