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Social Work MSc

Study social work for two years full-time to advance your knowledge to a postgraduate level. Become a confident practitioner in the changing arena of social work.

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This course is Accredited

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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, and you’ll be supported by passionate industry experts with many years of social work experience. 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.

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 have the skills and knowledge you need to apply to register as a social worker with the professional regulatory body, Social Work England. 

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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 Logo | JPEG

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.

Explore MSc Social Work at Portsmouth

Discover how our MSc Social Work degree course will equip you with the skills and experience you need to become a professional social worker.

Nick Reeve: The MSc in Social work is a two year course that leads to regulated and qualified status as a social worker in England. The MSc in Social Work is accredited, it's approved by the regulator for social work, which is called Social Work England. 

We have a simulated flat where we can mock up scenarios using social workers. It allows us to move more closely to the reality of practicing social work and are intended to prepare students for actually going on to compulsory placements, one of which is in the first year, one of which is in the second year. 

Some of the placement opportunities available would be in fostering teams, the voluntary sector or the third sector, for example Barnardos or Red Cross. 

The career opportunities that this degree could lead into would be local authority children teams, local authority adult teams – other examples of third sector voluntary teams. I think the university is a really friendly place and I think from a student perspective that being by the sea is always a very, very big, big plus for many students. 

Contact information


+44 (0) 23 9284 5566

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Entry requirements


This course accepts UK, EU, and International students.

September 2024 start

  • An upper second class honours degree in a relevant subject or a degree in an associated discipline (Anthropology, Criminology, Critical Thinking, English, Health & Social Care, Law, Philosophy, Politics, Psychology, R.E, Sociology, Social Policy, Theology). 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.
  • All applicants must have an acceptable GCSE qualification in English at grade C/4 or above.
  • If successful, applicants will be required to declare if they have been subject to any disciplinary procedures of fitness to practice by any other regulator, professional body, employer or educational establishment.

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.

  • Successfully shortlisted applicants will be invited to a staged, holistic and multidimensional selection day which has been designed in accordance with Social Work England's standards. The assessment day will commence with all shortlisted applicants completing a written task, which is assessed as a pass or fail. In accordance with Social Work England standards, the written element will assess applicants’ command of English, ability to analyse and present written information, motivation to become a social worker, knowledge of the social work profession and relevant policies and legislation and ICT skills. Applicants who pass the written assessment will be invited to attend an individual interview on the same day.
  • 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.

Course costs and funding

Tuition fees (September 2024 start)

  • Full time: £12,000 per year

(including Transition Scholarship)

  • Full-time: £12,000 per year

  • Full time: £17,200 per year

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.

Tuition fees terms and conditions

Funding your studies

Find out more how to fund your studies, including the scholarships and bursaries you could get. You can also find more about tuition fees and living costs, including what your tuition fees cover. 

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

Applying from outside the UK? Find out about funding options for international students and our international student scholarships.

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. 

Loans, scholarships and bursaries

Browse funding such as the Government Postgraduate Loan, our scholarships for new and returning students, and subject specific loans.

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Funding for international students

Learn more about sponsorships, scholarships and loans for students applying from outside of the UK.

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Fees and funding for Master's courses

Explore Master's funding options, including loans, scholarships, bursaries and more.

Explore funding

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



All modules on this MSc Social Work course are core.

You'll gain the skills to recognise personal and organisational discrimination and identify ways to challenge this, with reference to legislative requirements. Collaborate with people using social work services to gather their lived experiences and promote their rights, reducing their experience of discrimination.

Identify key statutes and policy frameworks and then critically analyse them as you explore how they apply ethical considerations to social work legislation and practice, and learn to evaluate their relationships.

You'll consider the link between social work theory and practice and reflect on user feedback. Through the creation of a portfolio of evidence, you'll demonstrate how you meet the Professional Capabilities Framework and enhance your ability to undertake placements.

You'll develop critical analysis skills to reflect on interventions and your professional development while gaining an understanding towards a range of human development models.

All modules on this MSc Social Work course are core.

Throughout your degree course, you'll have studied and researched a range of evidence on which to build your professional practice. This includes developing knowledge in various social work theories and models, engaging with research, legislation and policy, as well as practice placement experience with a focus on the critical engagement of service users. You'll integrate this range of evidence and knowledge to build on your understanding of social work practice through researching and writing a project within your chosen topic area. This module will also provide general guidance for independent study preparation, as well as preparing you for a future career in the social care sector, both as an evidence-based critical thinker and reflexive practitioner.

You'll consider the link between social work theory and practice and reflect on user feedback. Through the development of a portfolio of evidence, you'll demonstrate how you meet the Professional Capabilities Framework and enhance your ability to undertake placements.

You'll explore empowerment principles, prevention, collaboration and accountability ,and detail the core concepts in the professional safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults. Through the evaluation of your social work knowledge, values and skills, you'll address complex care and control dilemmas and gain the ability to solve complex problems across diverse settings. With support, you'll enhance your ability to analyse information and evidence and confidentally communicate your professional judgement and safeguarding choices.

By analysing the professional standards and requirements for social work, you'll learn how to develop professional resilience in a rapidly evolving social work context. Through your practice placement, you'll evaluate an ethical dilemma and apply professional codes of conduct while examining your own professional development.

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.


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.


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

Graduation Class of 2021

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

Career development

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.

employability 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 unpaid professional placements – one in your first year and one in your second year.

The NHS bursary for postgraduate social work students includes a contribution towards your placement travel costs.

Each placements is:

  • 70 days (Year 1), 100 days (Year 2)
  • 4-5 days per week

Placements are assessed by:

  • Oral assessment and presentation
  • Coursework portfolio

Supporting you

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.

How to apply

You can apply for this Master's course through UCAS, the shared applications service for UK universities or directly to us.

There's no deadline for applications to this course. We accept applications right up until the start date in September. Most people make their application to us during the previous summer, so you may find that by September 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 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?

Start this course in September 2024

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

To apply through UCAS, you'll need:

  • the UCAS course code – L508
  • our institution code – P80

If you'd prefer to apply directly, use our online application form.

Apply through UCAS

Apply direct

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 2023, 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.