Social Work MA

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Students must apply via one of the following online application forms:-

Part Time - If you are applying for this course from within the UK/EU, click apply now

Course starts: 14 September 2020Apply now

Full Time - If you are applying for this course, click apply now

Course starts: 14 September 2020Apply now

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Make a real difference to some of the most marginalised people in society. Help disadvantaged people access essential social services. Begin an extremely rewarding career in social work.

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As a social worker you will have opportunities to make a real difference to some of the most marginalised and vulnerable people in society. You could take your career in a number of directions such as working in child protection, with young people in care, older people, people with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, mental health difficulties, homeless people, people with drug dependencies, or with any other group of people with specialist needs.

MA Social Work combines classroom learning and practical experience. You'll study the context of social work, legal and policy frameworks, social work theory, psychological and sociological theory, power, discrimination and anti-oppressive practice. You will consolidate this theoretical knowledge with two placements to put your learning into practice.

Why us?

  • MA Social Work achieved a 100% overall satisfaction rating (from 11 respondents) in the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey 2019 (PTES)
  • You'll spend 170 days on practice placements
  • The course is approved by the Health and Care Professions Council

Course structure

A typical week will include lectures, seminars and workshops, with a strong emphasis on individual participation and discussion. During the first semester you will also develop a Practice Skills Portfolio that helps you to reflect and make the best use of supervision. Compared to an undergraduate course, you will find that this Masters course requires a higher level of independent working.

Your progress will be assessed with assignments, written coursework, presentations, professional discussions and workbooks/portfolios.

Throughout the course, you'll have one-to-one support from staff throughout your degree.

A part-time version of this course is also available.

Modules on this course include:

  • The Social Work Context

Explore legal frameworks and policy contexts for social work with adults, children, young people and families.

  • Preparing for Practice

Develop practice skills, explore the role and value base of social work, and understand service user and carer perspectives.

  • Theories and Models for Social Work Practice

Critically examine relevant theories, including social and psychological theories, and explore models of intervention.

  • Practice Placement 1

70-day practice placement, to be arranged by our Practice Learning Coordinator.

  • Critical Perspectives in Social Work Practice

Examine some of the contemporary issues in society, human rights and social justice and consider how these relate to the role of social work. 

  • Practice Placement 2

100-day practice placement, to be arranged by our Practice Learning Coordinator.

You will also look at ethical and moral frameworks underpinning social work and explore critical reflection and analysis and complex decision making in different areas of social work practice. There is an emphasis on the application of theory, policy, research and ethical decision making.

  • Social Work Research

Explore research methodologies and methods and their relevance to social work research.

  • Social Work Dissertation

Through researching and writing up a dissertation you will develop specialist knowledge around a specific issue relevant to social work and develop your understanding of research methodologies and methods.


Some modules have prerequisites. Read more about what this means in our Help and Advice article.

  • You can access free Wi-Fi throughout the University campus, so you can work from anywhere. If you don't want to carry a laptop around, just use one of the University’s PCs or Apple Macs. We have hundreds of computers for you to use in the Murray Library, St Peter's Library, and the David Goldman Informatics Centre. If you ever have any technical problems, just ask the friendly helpdesk team.

    IT provision
  • Map and directions


You'll be based at The Reg Vardy Centre, situated on the award-winning St Peter's riverside campus. The location benefits from dedicated library services and has superb transport links with the city centre and City Campus.





Entry requirements

Our typical offer is

  • 2:1 classification or equivalent from a Canadian bachelor's degree
  • 2:1 classification or equivalent from a USA bachelor's degree

You also need Grade C or above in GCSE Mathematics and English Language, or equivalent qualifications, for example; a minimum of Level 2 Key Skills in Communication and Application of Number. If you have studied for a GCSE which has a numerical grade then you will need to achieve a grade 4 or above.
Applicants whose first language is not English may also be required to achieve a minimum IELTS score of 7 in all four areas.
Supplementary questions for your application
In addition to the application form, you must submit supplementary questions for your application to this course to be considered. Please attach these completed supplementary questions when you apply online, using the apply now button on this page.
Social work experience
To apply for this degree you must have experience (voluntary or paid) in a social care setting. It is important that you describe your experience and reflect on this and how you feel it relates to a future career in social work. Experience could include volunteering during weekends, evenings, or holidays. We also accept any personal experience you might have as a carer.

You should clearly describe your experience in the personal statement section of your application. We interview all applicants, and you should be ready to talk about your voluntary or paid experience in the interview.

Social work involves working with some of the most vulnerable people in society, and social work education is regulated by the Health Care Professionals Council. We must therefore be satisfied that you are 'fit to practice' before we can accept you onto this degree course.

In addition to the academic qualification and work experience, you will need:

Two satisfactory references
A satisfactory health clearance
An Enhanced Disclosure Barring Service (DBS) check
A completed declaration form about previous criminal convictions (either spent or unspent) and any disciplinary hearings or investigations related to vulnerable adults or safeguarding young people
Social work is listed in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975. This means that we must ask you for an enhanced DBS check. Some spent convictions and cautions are ‘protected’, which means that we can't take them into account when deciding on your suitability for this course. You must read the Disclosure and Barring Service Filtering Guide to decide whether or not you need to tell us about your spent convictions or cautions.

If we offer you a place on this course, we will need you to make a written statement about any prior incidents. We’ll need your permission to share this anonymised information with our partner placement agencies, so that we can make a judgement on your fitness to practice.

We may also need your permission to contact the agencies involved in any incidents that you declare. Any offer of a place on the course will be subject to a satisfactory outcome of this process. However, declaring something does not necessarily mean that you will be prevented from attending the course, and we judge each case on its merits.

Fees and finance

The annual, full-time fee for this course is:

  • £3,696 if you are from the UK/EU
  • £6,600 if you are from outside the UK/EU

The part-time fee is £375 per 10 credits.

If you are not sure whether you qualify as a UK, EU or international student, find out more in our Help and Advice article.

You may also be eligible for an NHS social work bursary. Find out more on the NHS website.

Take a look at the Your Finances section to find out about the scholarships and bursaries that may be available to you.


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This information was correct at the time of publication.

The Sir Tom Cowie Campus at St Peter's by night


MA Social Work is a highly practical qualification. After successful completion of the MA Social Work course you will be eligible to apply to register as a newly qualified social worker.

Many Social Work jobs are with local authorities, but you could also work in an NHS trust, a voluntary agency, a charity, the Criminal Justice system or other agencies helping people in need of support.

With an MA in Social Work you also have the option to continue in academia, and study for a PhD.

Centre for Applied Social Sciences

The University of Sunderland’s Centre for Applied Social Studies (CASS) regularly hosts visiting speakers, and it can be an excellent way to learn from the real-life experience of people who already have a strong track record in social work.

CASS is the centre for applied social science research at the University, and you may find opportunities to collaborate with the academic team.

Practice placements

Placements are an essential part of your degree. You will spend a total of 170 days on practice placements, arranged by our Practice Learning Coordinator. There is in-depth preparation before the placements, and you will be supported and supervised by an assigned practice educator.

Placements allow you to apply your learning in a real-life context, and get a sense of what type of social work you might want to specialise in. When you’re ready to start searching for a Social Work job, you will already have a wide network of professional contacts who can help you find the right opportunities.

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