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Social Work (MSc)

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Course overview

The Department of Social Work has a longstanding tradition of providing excellent social work education and training and has produced a wide range of research that has been highly influential in the development of social work practice.  

The MSc Social Work is an accelerated programme for applicants who already have a first degree and want to embark on a career in social work; the course will fully prepare you for a professional career in the statutory or voluntary social care field.

This Masters degree runs in close partnership with local social care agencies and local authorities based in inner and outer London boroughs. The course is a combination of a taught and practice curriculum, where you will undertake two fieldwork placements in addition to the College-based teaching over the two years.

We welcome overseas and self-funding students.

Key facts

Key facts about the course
Qualification Master of Science
Duration 2 years full-time
Department and Faculty Social Work, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Partner institution(s) The department has partnership arrangements with a number of key Local and Voluntary Sector Agencies in Greater London.
Course director Louise O'Connor
Contact for more information Lynn Walsh
Postgraduate & Admissions Administrator
+44(0)1784 443681

Fees / funding

Please visit the Fees and funding pages for the latest information about tuition fees and the different sources of funding which may be available to you.

NHS Social Work bursaries are available for many of the places on our MSc in Social Work course.The Department of Social Work will select candidates for the bursary on merit in relation to academic ability, previous experience, how well you have completed the admissions activities, your general understanding of social work and commitment to completing the course.  

NB The NHS bursary will cover a substantial part of Royal Holloway's MSc course fee but will not cover the full amount.College alumni are eligible for a fee reduction.

How to apply

Royal Holloway Application System

Applications for entry to all our full-time postgraduate degrees can be made online via the Royal Holloway application system.

Further information on making an application, including the documentation that you will need to submit with the application is available in the How to apply section of this site.

If you are interested in applying to Royal Holloway, why not arrange a visit to our campus to see for yourself what academic and student life is like here. More information on arranging visits is available on our Open days pages.

UCAS Application System

Although MSc Social Work is a postgraduate course, applicants for this programme also have the option of applying via UCAS in the same way as they would for an undergraduate course. Further information can be found on 'Applying to undergraduate courses'.


Entry requirements

Entry criteria:

UK Upper Second Class Honours degree (2:1) in any subject, or equivalent, plus six months' full or 12 months' part-time relevant experience.

We offer some flexibility in our admissions and strongly encourage non-standard applicants (e.g. with UK Lower Second Class Honours degree (2:2), more substantial relevant professional experience, or other experience in and/or a demonstrable aptitude for working with vulnerable adults and children.

You will need a minimum Maths and English qualification at Key Skills level 2 (equivalent to grade C at GSCE.)

Preference will be given to applicants with a wide range of relevant experience and a degree classification of 2:1 or above.

English language requirements:

IELTS 7.0 overall with a minimum of 5.5 in all other subscores. For equivalencies see here|.

While students can have a degree in any subject, work experience is key and the amount listed above is an absolute minimum.

Students from overseas should visit the International pages for information on the entry requirements from their country and further information on English language requirements. Royal Holloway offers a Pre-Master’s Diploma for International Students and English language pre-sessional courses, allowing students the opportunity to develop their study skills and English language before starting their postgraduate degree.


Additional requirements:

  • You are required by the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC) to have Mathematics and English at Key Skills level 2, equivalent to grade C at GCSE level.
  • You will be expected to provide two references: one academic and one from a current employer.
  • All shortlisted applicants will be required to undertake the following selection process:
    • c omplete a written test
    • attend a group interview
    • attend an individual interview
    • write a reflective essay - to be completed in the applicant own time. (Applicants invited for interview will be emailed the essay title and will have three weeks to complete the essay from the date of the email).

Applicants are assessed against Professional Capabilities Framework for Social Work - Entry Level

  • You will also need to undergo a Criminal Records Bureau Enhanced Disclosure and provide a satisfactory health declaration.
  • Overseas applicants will complete a written test and an interview (on Skype) conducted with the Admissions Tutor.

Why choose this course?

Students have said the following about this course:

  • “Lectures are delivered by experienced practitioners and leaders in the Health and Social Care field.”
  • “The teaching is of a high standard and lectures are interactive with opportunities for small group activity.”
  • “Staff are enthusiastic, knowledgeable and professional.”
  • "There is excellent support for mature students, especially those with childcare and family commitments.”
  • “I am a final year student and proud to be a postgraduate student at Royal Holloway.”

Department research and industry highlights

Since its inception, the department has developed a reputation for delivering high quality research across a range of areas by engaging with matters of public concern. In the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 2008 45% of the department’s quality profile was ranked 3-4*.

  • A team of researchers in the department recently conducted a major study into leadership in health and social care services.
  • Two members of staff are currently completing a small-scale study into decision-making in the field of child and family welfare.
  • The department hosted the Centre for Trauma and Abuse studies and continues to maintain strong links with this centre.
  • The department runs the most successful Graduate Diploma in Child and Family Studies in partnership with 28 London Boroughs and has been designated a Centre of Excellence.

Course content and structure

The MSc in Social Work is a two-year course that runs over two academic years, and is based at Royal Holloway’s Egham campus. The course is full time and students are expected to attend from 9am - 5pm, both in College and while on placement. The course integrates theory, research, policy and practice in social work, and the academic and practice programmes run concurrently.

Course structure and organisation

In the first year you'll attend College four days a week during the first term. In the second term you are on placement (70 days) from Monday to Thursday and in College on Fridays. The placement continues in the third term. There are occasional block weeks on placement and Recall Days when you need to attend College.

In year two you'll attend College on Mondays and Tuesdays and are on placement (100 days) the rest of the time. Again there are occasional block weeks on placement and Recall Days when you need to attend College. Please see information about placements for more details regarding the practice element of the course.

First year courses

Practice Learning 1: preparation for practice. .

Social Policy for Social Workers: gain an understanding of social policy issues related to social work.

Human behaviour in the social environment: gain knowledge about psychology in relation to working with service users.

Child observations: develop observation skills that are relevant to social work with all service user groups.

Theories and knowledge for Social Work practice: gain knowledge of theories and approaches used to understand how to work with service users.

Law for Social Work: learn about law relating to working with services users.

Second year courses

Critical Social Work: issues relating to working with service users and about different service user groups e.g. adult and child safeguarding, assessments, working with asylum seekers, substance misuse, working with resistant service users.

Choose one of three optional seminars depending on your area of interest: mental health, child and family welfare or vulnerable adults.

Practice Learning 2 - critical reflection: students explore and reflect upon their practice in seminar groups.

Research methods: Students learn about research methods in preparation for their dissertation.

Understanding and working in organisations: learn about the legal obligations, structures and cultures within organisations and how these impact on policy, procedure and practice.


Students are provided with one to one support from: Academic Tutors, who'll support you throughout the course; Placement tutors and Practice Educators; Dissertation Supervisors in the second year.

Royal Holloway provides range of wider services that support students including the Educational Support Office, Student Financial Advisor, Counselling Services, Students’ Union and Careers Service.  


On completion of the course graduates will have advanced knowledge of:

  • sociology, psychology, social policy and law and their application to social work practice
  • the contribution and application of social research to social work theories and practice
  • the range of statutory, voluntary and private welfare organisations within social work agencies and in health, housing and educational environments
  • the range of theories and methods needed for effective social work practice
  • the social and individual origins of a typical range of problems presented to social care agencies
  • values and ethics relevant to social work practice
  • the significance of inequalities and difference in working with organisations and social service users
  • the significance of cultural diversity and anti discriminatory practice in working with organisations and social service users.

View the full course specification for Social Work (MSc) in the Programme Specification Repository


Assessment is carried out by a variety of methods including coursework, examinations, presentations and a dissertation. Students are also required to successfully complete one 70-day and one 100-day practice-learning placement.

Employability & career opportunities

The MSc in Social Work qualifies graduates for careers in statutory and voluntary social work. Qualified social workers can continue their professional/academic development through taught post-qualifying programmes or research opportunities within the department. This course also equips you with the subject knowledge and a solid foundation for continued PhD studies.


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