Social work students in conversation
Mode of Study
2 years full-time
Start Date
September 2022


This two-year Master’s degree in Social Work will equip you with the skills and experience you need to become a professional social worker and make a real difference in the lives of children and families, mental health patients, people with disabilities or vulnerable adults.

The course combines theory and practice – you’ll learn about the latest legislation, planning and policy, and put it all into practice in professional settings, with real people.

You’ll undertake two separate work placements – one in your first year and one in your second year, most likely with local NHS social service providers.

The NHS bursary for postgraduate social work students can help with the cost of your fees, your living costs, and includes a contribution towards your placement travel expenses.

When you successfully complete the course, you'll be eligible to apply to register as a social worker with the professional regulatory body, Social Work England. 


This course accepts UK, EU, and international students.

Course highlights

  • Our staff are current and recent social work professionals
  • Take part in skills days – full-day workshops with professional social workers to help prepare you for your placements
  • Practise your skills in our Simulation Centre which features a realistic flat, bedroom and hospital ward where you'll prepare for home visits and care-giving in hospital and care home settings
  • Work closely with our Social Work Inclusion Group – local social services users from a variety of backgrounds that help our students understand the needs of different individuals and communities
  • Develop your critical and analytical skills with a dissertation project on a subject in your own area of interest
  • Undertake two placements in professional practice settings which could be schools, supported living facilites, hospitals or health centres
Social Work England approved course logo

Approved by:

This Master's course is a professional qualification for social work approved by Social Work England. Once you've graduated, you'll be eligible to apply for registration with Social Work England, which means you can work as a professional Social Worker in statutory, voluntary and independent sector agencies.

What you'll study on this MSc Social Work degree course

Year 1
Year 2
All Year 1 modules on this MSc Social Work course are core. 
All Year 1 modules on this MSc Social Work course are core. 

The learning outcomes of this module are:
  • Identify key statutes and policy frameworks for social work practice
  • Critically analyse the relationship between key statutes, social policy and social work practice
  • Critically evaluate the ethical considerations when applying social work legislation to practice

Explore this module

The learning outcomes of this module are:
  • Outline, critically analyse and apply contemporary theories and methods of intervention in social work
  • Demonstrate awareness and critically reflect upon the role of self in social work professional development
  • Describe and critically analyse a range of models of human development

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The learning outcomes of this module are:
  • With reference to current legislative requirements, be able to recognise personal and organisational discrimination and identify ways in which this might be challenged
  • To be able to recognise and, with support, promote the rights of people with lived experience of social work to autonomy and self-determination aiming to reduce service users' experience of discrimination
  • To be able to demonstrate and critically evaluate skills to aid professional practice

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The learning outcomes of this module are:
  • Meet the requirements to be ready for practice placement
  • To describe and critically evaluate the link between social work theory and practice in the practice placement
  • To describe and critically evaluate the link between social work theory and practice in the practice placement
  • To create a portfolio of evidence that demonstrates how the student meets the Professional Capabilities Framework at first / second placement level

Explore this module

All Year 2 modules on this MSc Social Work course are core. 
All Year 2 modules on this MSc Social Work course are core. 

The learning outcomes of this module are:
  • To plan and manage self-directed learning to produce a structured and coherent critical review of published studies on a topic area of relevant to social work
  • To identify, evaluate, and analyse published research in relation to a well-articulated research question
  • To critically examine research findings in relation to social work theory, policy and professional practices in a specific topic area
  • To present and justify the research process, findings and analysis in a dissertation format
Examples of dissertation subjects by recent students include:
  • The challenges of transracial adoption
  • Age assessment of young people seeking asylum
  • Trafficking of young people
  • The relationship between adverse childhood experiences and drug use in adulthood
  • Black men, racism and mental health

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The learning outcomes of this module are:
  • Critically evaluate and make links between relevant professional standards and requirements for social work and professional practice
  • Critically analyse an example of an ethical dilemma evident in practice placement and apply professional codes of conduct
  • Provide an example of reflexivity in own professional development based on a specific practice learning experience
  • Critically evaluate the implications for developing professional resilience in a changing and contemporary social work context

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The learning outcomes of this module are:
  • Identify and critically analyse core concepts in professional safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults; apply research to social work practice and link to professional standards for social work
  • With appropriate support, analyse and synthesise complex information and evidence to articulate professional judgement and decision making in relation to safeguarding and risk
  • Use and critically evaluate social work knowledge, values and skills to address complex care and control dilemmas
  • Be able to problem solve effectively in complex intra-professional, inter-professional and interagency settings

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The learning outcomes of this module are:
  • To describe and critically evaluate the link between social work theory and practice in practice placement 2
  • To critically reflect on the process of planning and collecting service user feedback appropriate to practice placement 2
  • To create a portfolio of evidence that demonstrates how the student meets the Professional Capabilities Framework (at end of second placement level)

Explore this module

Changes to course content

We use the best and most current research and professional practice alongside feedback from our students to make sure course content is relevant to your future career or further studies.

Therefore, course content is revised and regularly reviewed.  This may result in changes being made in order to reflect developments in research, learning from practice and changes in policy at both national and local levels.


Develop communication, relationship building and observation skills in the realistic flat, bedroom and hospital ward of our Simulation Centre.

You'll practise home visit scenarios and visits to care homes and hospitals, and complete assessments to ensure you're ready for practice placement.

Careers and opportunities

Careers this Master's prepares you for

When you graduate from the MSc Social Work degree course, you'll have the knowledge and practical skills to work in any branch of social work. 

As a newly qualified social worker (NQSW), there are a number of opportunities open to you. Most local authorities in England operate a scheme for newly qualified practitioners, called the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE). This provides intensive supervision and guidance in your first year as well as a protected caseload.

Graduates of this course have gone onto roles such as:

  • ASYE (Approved and Supported Year in Employment) Social Worker
  • Independent Domestic Violence Advocate
  • Senior Case Worker
  • Social Worker

Graduates of this course have gone on to work for employers such as:

  • Portsmouth City Council
  • Hampshire County Council
  • Northumberland County Council 

9 reasons to do a Master's

Career outcomes shown are sourced from the latest available graduate outcome surveys. The data shows career outcomes at 15 months after graduation.

Career planning

During your course you'll have expert career support from your tutors and our Careers and Employability Centre – which you can access for up to 5 years after you graduate.

Female student standing at careers and employability help desk

You'll benefit from:

  • Networking events
  • Applied projects with employers
  • 1-to-1 appointments
  • CV and cover letter advice
  • Interview preparation and practice
  • Workshops to enhance your employability skills
  • Recruitment events including the Student and Graduate Opportunities Fair
  • Support starting your own business

Learn more about your career support

Placements and work experience

We're part of a network of Local Authority and NHS social work service providers, local and national third sector and charitable organisations. As such, we’re able to support students in a variety of placement settings.

We provide skills days which are Government directed and funded by the NHS. They’re delivered by social workers, managers, senior managers and principal social workers from our network. Skills days are themed around specific topics such as mental health or safeguarding, and are designed to help prepare you for your placement experience. 

As a MSc Social Work student, you'll undertake two separate professional placements – one in your first year and one in your second year.

Most travel costs are covered by placement providers or employment agencies. The NHS bursary for postgraduate social work students includes a contribution towards your placement travel costs.

Each placements is:

  • 16 weeks (Year 1), 25 weeks (Year 2)
  • 28 hours per week

Placements are assessed by:

  • Oral assessment and presentation
  • Coursework portfolio

How you'll spend your time

We recognise that you'll probably be juggling more demands when you do your Master's degree, as you may be working or you may have family responsibilities.

We'll give you as much indication here as we can of how much time you'll need to be on campus and how many hours you can expect to spend in self-directed study, but please note that these indications are always subject to change. You should receive your full timetable several weeks before you start with us.

It is our expectation that all international students will join us here on campus in Portsmouth.

Course structure

This Master's degree will take:

  • 2 years (full-time)

Each week you'll spend:

  • 10–15 hours in timetabled teaching
  • 20 hours in independent study

During your placements, each week you'll spend:

  • 4 days (or 28 hours) on placement
  • 1 day in timetabled teaching

In the final 3 months of the course you'll focus on your dissertation.


Master's study is deeper and more specialised than an undergraduate degree. This means you'll focus on something that really matters to you and your career as you work closely with academics committed to the subject.

You'll spend more time in independent study and research than you did for your undergraduate degree, but the majority of your teaching time will be in-person and face-to-face.


There are no exams – you’ll be assessed on coursework assignments, such as:

  • short reflective essays
  • long essays
  • presentations
  • group assessments
  • assessed interviews

Values, the NHS Constitution and Social Work England

We embed the principles and values of the NHS Constitution in all our health and social care courses. When you apply for this course, we’ll expect you to demonstrate how your values align with the values of the Constitution.

Find out more about the values we look for

The values in the NHS Constitution (working for patients, respect and dignity, commitment to quality of care, compassion, improving lives, and everyone counts) align with Social Work England's Professional Standards.

Term dates

September start

The Master's academic year runs from September to the following September. There are breaks at Christmas and Easter. Over the summer you'll be writing your project / dissertation.

See key dates

Joining us as an international student

You'll feel at home in our international community and our diverse city. You'll be joining over 5,000 international students from more than 150 countries who are studying with us.

Learn more about international student life and how we can help you with visas, applications, arrival and settling in. 

Information for international students

Supporting your learning

Master's study is more focused on independent learning than undergraduate study, but you'll get lots of support via video, phone and face-to-face from teaching and support staff to enhance your learning experience and help you succeed. You can build your personalised network of support from the following people and services:

Types of support

Your personal tutor helps you make the transition to postgraduate study and gives you academic and personal support throughout your Master's.

As well as regular scheduled meetings with your personal tutor, they're also available at set times during the week if you want to chat with them about anything that can't wait until your next meeting.

You'll have help from a team of faculty learning support tutors. They can help you improve and develop your academic skills and support you in any area of your study in one-on-one and group sessions.

They can help you:

  • master the mathematics skills you need to excel on your course
  • understand engineering principles and how to apply them in any engineering discipline
  • solve computing problems relevant to your course
  • develop your knowledge of computer programming concepts and methods relevant to your course
  • understand and use assignment feedback

All our labs and practical spaces are staffed by qualified laboratory support staff. They’ll support you in scheduled lab sessions and can give you one-to-one help when you do practical research projects.

As well as support from faculty staff and your personal tutor, you can use the University’s Academic Skills Unit (ASK).

ASK provides one-to-one support in areas such as:

  • academic writing
  • note taking
  • time management
  • critical thinking
  • presentation skills
  • referencing
  • working in groups
  • revision, memory and exam techniques

If you have a disability or need extra support, the Additional Support and Disability Centre (ASDAC) will give you help, support and advice.

Our online Learning Well mini-course will help you plan for managing the challenges of learning and student life, so you can fulfil your potential and have a great student experience.

You can get personal, emotional and mental health support from our Student Wellbeing Service, in person and online. This includes 1–2–1 support as well as courses and workshops that help you better manage stress, anxiety or depression.

If you require extra support because of a disability or additional learning need our specialist team can help you.

They'll help you to:

  • discuss and agree on reasonable adjustments
  • liaise with other University services and facilities, such as the library
  • access specialist study skills and strategies tutors, and assistive technology tutors, on a 1-to-1 basis or in groups
  • liaise with external services

Library staff are available in person or by email, phone or online chat to help you make the most of the University’s library resources. You can also request one-to-one appointments and get support from a librarian who specialises in your subject area.

The library is open 24 hours a day, every day, in term time.

The Maths Cafe offers advice and assistance with mathematical skills in a friendly, informal environment. You can come to our daily drop-in sessions, develop your mathematics skills at a workshop or use our online resources.

If English isn't your first language, you can do one of our English language courses to improve your written and spoken English language skills before starting your degree. Once you're here, you can take part in our free In-Sessional English (ISE) programme to improve your English further.

​Course costs and funding

Tuition fees (September 2022 start)

(including Transition Scholarship)

  • Full-time: £10,900

  • Full time: £16,200

University of Portsmouth graduates may receive a 20% alumni tuition fee discount

Fees are subject to annual increase. Read our tuition fees terms and conditions.

You'll be able to pay your fees in instalments. Find out how to pay your tuition fees.

Funding your studies

Explore how to fund your studies, including available scholarships and bursaries.

If you're a UK student, you may be eligible for a Government Postgraduate Master's Loan, which you can use to help with course fees and living costs.

If you're a UK student who achieved a first in your undergraduate degree you may be eligible for a £3,000 University of Portsmouth scholarship.

NHS Bursary

If you're a UK student studying an MSc in Social Work, you may be able to get a MSc Social Work bursary from the NHS Business Services Authority.

Please note that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Department for Education (DfE) allocate a fixed number of undergraduate and postgraduate social work bursaries to Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) delivering qualifying social work programmes. As the number of students starting social work programmes can exceed the number of bursaries available, there is no guarantee that all students will receive a bursary. 

Additional costs

These course-related costs aren't included in the tuition fees so you'll need to budget for them when you plan your spending. Additional costs could include:

  • Accommodation: Accommodation options and costs can be found on our accommodation pages
  • Recommended reading: You can borrow key texts from the library and if you choose to purchase these texts they may cost up to £60 each.
  • General costs: such photocopying, memory sticks, printing charges, binding and specialist printing. We suggest budgeting £75 per year.
  • Placement expenses: Some placement providers contribute towards travel expenses, some students qualify for financial support such as an NHS bursary – in all other cases you'll need to budget for travel to and from your placement.
  • Final project transport or accommodation: where necessary, which related to your research activities. The amount will depend on the project you choose.

Read more about tuition fees and living costs, including what your tuition fees cover.

Entry requirements​


This course accepts UK, EU, and international students.

September 2022 start

  • An upper second class honours degree in a relevant subject or a degree in an associated discipline. Applicants with a lower classification (second class) will be considered on an individual basis, considering relevant experience and academic achievement.
  • Applicants must also have relevant work experience, more than 3 months in voluntary or paid employment in a health, education or social care environment.
  • GCSE Mathematics at grade C/4 or above.

Please get in touch if you're not sure if your undergraduate subject is relevant to this degree.

Equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will also be considered, such as previous study, employment, voluntary work and training courses, including courses and qualifications you didn't complete. Learn more about our Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL).

If you're applying as an international student with a non-UK degree, view the equivalent entry requirements we accept for your country

  • English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 7.0 with no component score below 6.5.

You do not need an IELTS or equivalent certification if:

  • you have a UK degree
  • you have a degree from a majority English speaking country (not taught by Distance Learning)
  • you are a national of a majority English speaking country

Degrees taught solely in English from non-majority English speaking countries will be considered on a case by case basis. Find out more about our English language requirements.

If you do not meet the English language requirements yet, you can achieve the level you need by successfully completing a pre-sessional English programme before you start your course.

  • All shortlisted applicants are subject to a holistic and multidimensional assessment process which has been designed in accordance with Social Work England's standards, and includes an application, group discussion, individual presentation and an interview.
  • International applicants must provide a satisfactory police check/certificate of good conduct from their home country (with a certified English translation if necessary), before admission to the programme can be confirmed.
  • All offers are subject to Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) clearance and Occupational Health clearance.

How to apply

You can apply for this Master's course through UCAS, or directly to us.

There's no deadline for applications to this course. We accept applications right up until the start date in January. Most people make their application to us during the previous summer, so you may find that by January the course is full. If you're an international student you'll need to leave plenty of time to get your visa organised. 

You can find more advice about applying in our Master's application checklist. Current students and recent graduates of the University of Portsmouth and international students also have some different application options, which are detailed below. 

Extra information for international students

If you're an international student, you can apply directly to us using the same application form as UK students.

You could also get an agent to help with your application. Check your country page for details of agents in your region. To find out what to include in your application, head to the how to apply page of our international students section.

If you don’t meet the English language requirements for this course yet, you can achieve the level you need by successfully completing a pre-sessional English programme before you start your course.

Ready to apply?

Standard applications

Start this course in September 2022 (full-time, 2 years)

Apply now

I'm a current Portsmouth student, or a recent Portsmouth graduate

If you're currently in your final year of study at Portsmouth, or you graduated since July 2021, you're eligible to make a fast track application. You'll have:

  • a shorter application form to complete
  • access to the 20% Alumni fee discount
  • a guaranteed conditional offer, for most Master's courses 

Learn more about fast track

After you apply

Once we receive your application, we may ask you for further information. We will then either make you an offer or suggest alternatives if your application is unsuccessful.

You'll usually get a decision within 10 working days, so you shouldn't have to wait too long. Some courses have an interview stage – we'll let you know if you need to prepare for one.

Learn more about how we assess your application.

Admissions terms and conditions

When you accept an offer to study at the University of Portsmouth, you also agree to abide by our Student Contract (which includes the University's relevant policies, rules and regulations). You should read and consider these before you apply.