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MA Social Work

Start a career where you can make a real difference to people's lives

Year of entry: 2021 (September)


2 years full-time

Start date

September 2021 (term dates)

UCAS code


Institution code


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in the UK for Social Work

Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2021

Develop yourself with a qualification that allows you to apply to register as a social worker. 

Discover a career where you can make a real difference to the quality of people's lives.

This course offers you both a Masters degree and a professional qualification. Our course lasts two years and will equip you with the skills and knowledge you'll need for effective professional practice as a social worker. It is suitable for graduates from a wide range of disciplines who are committed to a career helping people.

You'll focus on professional practice and take part in two placements in different areas of social work.

You will also gain skills and specialist knowledge that would be suitable for a wide range of careers.


After completing this Masters degree you'll be eligible to register as a social worker with Social Work England

Watch video on YouTube
Maddie (MA Social Work) discusses her time at York and her experiences as a newly-qualified Social Worker at the City of York Council. Hear from more graduates of the Yorkshire Urban and Rural Teaching Partnership.

Highly ranked

Equal first in the UK for the impact of our social policy and social work research
Times Higher Education’s ranking of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework

Employment prospects

Current demand for professionally qualified social workers is strong in the statutory and voluntary sectors.

Carers and service users

You'll hear from people with first hand experience to enhance your learning as you prepare for practice.

Course content

The course will introduce you to core areas of social work before you choose a specialist option module exploring an area of social work that's particularly important to you. You'll focus on the practice of social work and undertake two placements in different types of practice. The placements allow you to experience contemporary social work with the guidance of a qualified social worker. 

On placement you will work with a wide range of service user groups, such as vulnerable adults, children and families, young people, people with learning disabilities or people with mental health needs. You may be able to take a placement in a variety of settings, including Local Authorities, and independent organisations such as drug and alcohol services, housing agencies, domestic abuse, advocacy, and other social care and welfare services. You will spend 170 days on placement, and complete 30 skills days which are integrated into modules throughout the course.


Year 1

In the first half of Year 1 you'll prepare for your first statutory placement with a range of core modules which ensure you're ready for practice. You will explore the ethical, legal and policy contexts for social work, which will equip you to manage the competing pressures of social work practice.

The placement begins in the Spring Term and lasts for 70 days, after completion of a module designed to support your professional development.

Autumn Term and Spring Term

Spring Term and Summer Term

This counts towards the 200 days of practice which you must complete before you can register as a social worker. You will spend 70 days at a social work agency as well as Skills Days at the University, developing specialist techniques for working with individuals, families and groups.

You will work with a qualified social work practice educator who will support and assess you throughout the placement. Your placement is a chance to develop and follow your own professional interests, with guidance from our academic staff.

As part of your placement report, you will complete written work which will evidence how you have brought the knowledge gained in the classroom into your professional practice.

Year 2

As part of your second year you'll undertake your final statutory placement. This will take 100 days and will contribute 40 credits toward your course. You'll also choose a module that will allow you to study a particular branch of social work in more depth.

Throughout the year you'll work on your Masters dissertation. This is a 16,000-word extended essay based on your own original research. You'll work with your supervisor to choose a topic which interests you and design an empirical study or systematic literature review to explore your research question in depth.

You'll also choose an option module to focus your studies and practical skills in a specific area of social work; and in the ‘Power, Participation and Practice’ module you will explore how power operates in social work practice, and study methods and tools that will help you develop anti-oppressive practice.

This counts towards the 200 days of practice which you must complete before you can register as a social worker. You will spend 100 days at a social work agency, developing skills for career-long learning, self-care and leadership.

Option modules

Choose one of the following modules:

Our modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff.
Our course structures are changing in September 2023. Find out more about how this course may be affected.


Throughout the year you'll work on your dissertation. This is a 16,000-word extended essay based on your own original research. You will work with your supervisor to choose a topic which interests you and design an empirical study or systematic literature review to explore your research question in depth.

The dissertation will allow you to demonstrate your skills in research as well as applying insights from the taught modules and your placement experience.

Examples of recent dissertation titles include:

  • 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
  • Can the voice of young people act as a pathway to positive outcomes? A critical analysis of emotional wellbeing during the transition from care in the UK

The York approach

Every course at York is built on a distinctive set of learning outcomes. These will give you a clear understanding of what you will be able to accomplish at the end of the course and help you explain what you can offer employers. Our academics identify the knowledge, skills, and experiences you'll need upon graduation and then design the course to get you there.

Students who complete this course will be able to:

  • Make informed decisions concerning complex problems faced by individuals, families and communities in a wide range of social work contexts, by using appropriate assessments and interventions, analysing information from a range of different sources and incorporating stakeholder and service-user perspectives. 
  • Critically apply knowledge from established, cutting-edge and social work focused social science theory and research to the assessment of complex social work situations. 
  • Identify, critically evaluate and synthesise local, national and international social policy and legal frameworks relevant to specific social work issues in order to inform decision-making. 
  • Develop strong working relationships with service users, colleagues and other professionals, and within social work and interdisciplinary teams, based on high level communication and collaboration skills. 
  • Work effectively as a professional in multi-layered organisations and statutory social work contexts by understanding and respecting the roles and tasks of others, including non-statutory professionals, and upholding professional values and ethics. 
  • Reflect systematically on social work practice and engage proactively in supervision processes in order to adapt to new situations, improve practice, build professional resilience and identify professional development opportunities, including the development of leadership skills. 
  • Design, conduct and critically evaluate challenging social work research projects, informed by a critical understanding of research and evaluation methodologies relevant to the social sciences.

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2021/22

Study modeUK (home)International and EU
Full-time (1 year) £7,600£18,700

Students on a Student Visa (formerly Tier 4 Visa) are not currently permitted to study part-time at York.

Fees information

UK (home) or international fees? The level of fee that you will be asked to pay depends on whether you're classed as a UK (home) or international student. Check your fee status

Find out more information about tuition fees and how to pay them.

Additional costs

You will require a DBS check to take part in this course. You will pay £40 at the beginning of your course and a £13 update fee in subsequent years.

You will be responsible for travel costs to placements but can apply for an NHS Bursary to meet these costs (British citizens only).  Some agencies may reimburse travel costs. 

Course books will be available to you from the Library either in print or online format - new copies, if you wish to buy them, usually cost around £30. All other teaching resources will be available online.

Funding information

Discover your funding options to help with tuition fees and living costs.

We'll confirm more funding opportunities for students joining us in 2021/22 throughout the year.

If you've successfully completed an undergraduate degree at York you could be eligible for a 10% Masters fee discount.

Each year the NHS funds a number of students on our Social Work courses. For students on the MA in Social Work this bursary may contribute toward your tuition fees.

Living costs

You can use our living costs guide to help plan your budget. It covers additional costs that are not included in your tuition fee such as expenses for accommodation and study materials.

Teaching and assessment

You’ll work with world‐leading academics who’ll challenge you to think independently and excel in all that you do. Our approach to teaching will provide you with the knowledge, opportunities, and support you need to grow and succeed in a global workplace.

Coronavirus (Covid-19): changes to courses

We've made some changes to the way our courses are delivered to minimise potential disruption from the ongoing global pandemic.

Teaching format

You'll learn through a blend of classroom-based and practice-based activities, including:

  • lectures, seminars and workshops
  • one-to-one tutorial and pastoral support
  • two practice placements of 70 days and 100 days each
  • independent learning.

Your lectures, seminars and tutorials will be delivered by enthusiastic and knowledgeable academic staff who are experienced practitioners. Guest speakers with specialist expertise, including service users from our Service User and Carer Participation Advisory Group, will also contribute to your learning.

You will develop your knowledge and understanding with focused and guided reading and group work. For some modules you'll undertake online activities to support your learning beyond the classroom.

Teaching Partnership

We are part of the Yorkshire Urban Rural Teaching Partnership, working closely with local councils and the University of Huddersfield. The partnership collaborates to develop, inspire and sustain highly-skilled and confident social workers to improve outcomes for children, adults, families and communities. Through our work with the Teaching Partnership, we ensure that our students are well prepared for social work practice, receiving an excellent range of learning opportunities and an understanding of best practice.


Teaching location

You will be based in the Department of Social Policy and Social Work which is based on Campus West. The majority of your teaching will be in Derwent and Alcuin Colleges on Campus West.

About our campus

Our beautiful green campus offers a student-friendly setting in which to live and study, within easy reach of the action in the city centre. It's easy to get around campus - everything is within walking or pedalling distance, or you can always use the fast and frequent bus service.

Assessment and feedback

Types of assessment in this course include:

  • essays
  • practical assessment of communication skills
  • presentations and reports
  • portfolios
  • placement supervision and assessment
  • 16,000 word dissertation.

You'll also submit work that won't contribute to your final grade. This allows you to get feedback on your progress and understanding before you submit assessed work.

Careers and skills

Postgraduate social workers from York are in high demand and you will be very well placed in terms of employment prospects. To find out more about social work, please visit the British Association of Social Workers website, where there is information including from the International Federation of Social Work.

Career opportunities

This course is practice-based and makes an ideal start for a career as a registered social worker. You can go on to roles with local authorities or other organisations such as charities and housing associations.

Transferable skills

You'll develop a range of transferable skills throughout the course, including:

  • communication skills
  • understanding of human behaviour
  • exercising authority in complex social situations
  • enabling others to achieve their goals
  • managing risk to self, service users and colleagues.

Entry requirements

Typical offer
Undergraduate degree 2:1 or equivalent
Other international qualifications Equivalent qualifications from your country

Additional requirements

Grade 4 (C) in GCSE Mathematics and English or an equivalent qualification. An offer of a place will also be subject to a satisfactory Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check and a satisfactory health declaration.

Experience working in social care, health care or related voluntary work would be advantageous.

English language

If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability. We accept the following qualifications:

Minimum requirement
IELTS 7.0, with a minimum 7.0 in each component
C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency 185, with a minimum of 185 in each component
Duolingo 120, minimum 120 in each component
GCSE/IGCSE/O level English Language (as a first or second language) Grade C
PTE Academic 67, with a minimum of 67 in each component
TOEFL 96 overall, with a minimum of 24 in each component
Trinity ISE III 120 overall, with a minimum of 120 in each component

For more information see our postgraduate English language requirements.

If you've not met our English language requirements

You may be eligible for one of our pre-sessional English language courses. These courses will provide you with the level of English needed to meet the conditions of your offer.

The length of course you need to take depends on your current English language test scores and how much you need to improve to reach our English language requirements.

After you've accepted your offer to study at York, we'll confirm which pre-sessional course you should apply to via You@York.


To apply to York, you will need to complete an online application via UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). Use institution code Y50 via the search. The course code is L508

If you declare you have a disability when applying you will be offered an interview if you meet the academic criteria for the course.

If you receive an offer of place it will be 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. However, failure to disclose relevant information may result in the termination of your training.


Before we offer you a place we'll invite you to an interview. You'll have the chance to learn a little more about our Department. We look for applicants who have some understanding of the role of a social worker as well as the motivation to become a social worker.

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Social Policy and Social Work

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