Postgraduate study
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Social Work, Master of MSW

Awards: MSW

Study modes: Full-time


Funding opportunities


Programme website: Social Work, Master of

The University of Edinburgh started providing training for social workers in 1918 and today our social work department is ranked as 1st in Scotland and 4th in the UK (Complete University Guide 2025).

The Master of Social Work (MSW)/Diploma in Social Work is a postgraduate qualification for anyone wishing to practise as a qualified social worker. Students come from all over the world to this programme, and go on to practise in diverse settings in social work practice, training, research, as well as in the government, public, private and voluntary sectors.

You’ll gain a fundamental understanding of the theory and practice that underpins all work in the field, splitting your time between theoretical learning on campus and practical work in various learning environments.

Our approach to social work is a critical one. Social work has always, as its name suggests, been concerned with ‘the social’ and with social explanations for problems faced by individuals, families, communities and society as a whole. C. Wright Mills, writing in 1959, made an important distinction between ‘personal troubles’ and ‘public issues’, arguing that problems we often think of as personal (for example, unemployment or criminalisation) are actually public issues which are encountered in the private sphere. Social work should be about understanding individual problems in their wider social context.

Recognition of qualification

The MSW qualification is recognised by the Scottish Social Services Council and the corresponding regulators of social work in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, and those who successfully complete the programme are eligible for registration as a social worker.

The programme, approved by the Scottish Social Services Council, complies with the Scottish Requirements for Social Work Training and enables you to meet the Standards in Social Work Education.

It is also recognised as a professional qualification in social work across the world, including the United States and Canada, following accreditation with the in-country regulatory authorities.


Successful completion of our MSW programme qualifies you to practise as a social worker.

You will study over two years, with periods of practice learning in both years.

You will complete six courses in your first year and three in your second year, including your dissertation.

You may need to complete a top-up mathematics course while on programme in order to satisfy Scottish Social Services Council registration requirements. This will be required unless:

  • you have achieved at least SQA National 5 Mathematics at grade C, GCSE Mathematics at grade C or 4, or equivalent; or
  • your undergraduate degree included sufficient numerical content, such as a statistics course

First year courses

  • Social Work in Communities
  • Social Work with Individuals and Families
  • Working with Self and Others: Skills, Theories & Methods
  • Doing Social Work Research
  • Understanding Care and Control in Social Work
  • Professional Social Work Practice 1

Second year courses

  • Working with Risk, Trust and Complexity in Social Work
  • Professional Social Work Practice 2
  • MSW Dissertation

You have periods of practice learning in both first year (full time for 70 days) and second year (full time for 100 days).

Placements are an integral part of the programme, during which you will be attached to a social work practice setting and will be under the supervision of a practice educator.

You will also have periods to return to the University and will be provided with regular support, including a member of staff visiting you while on placement.

The Social Work department supports students with national and international placements. Since 2018 our students have been placed in a wide variety of locations including:

  • USA
  • Canada
  • India
  • Republic of Ireland
  • Dubai
  • Italy

Any placement is conditional to students securing a visa to the respective country, which is independent of the University of Edinburgh placement arrangement process.

The department has a partnership agreement in place with Rajagiri College of Social Sciences in Kerala, India allowing us to organise a regular annual placement with them.

Many of our MSW graduates go on to work across a range of diverse settings in social work practice, training, research, government and in the public, private and voluntary sectors.

You will also develop a range of highly transferable skills, such as communication and project management, which can be applied to roles in any field.

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, is preferred. Applicants holding or predicted less than a 2:1 degree (or equivalent) with additional qualifications and/or substantial relevant experience may also be considered.

You must be able to demonstrate knowledge and experience of social work and a sound motivation to train as a social worker through a period of paid or voluntary work in a social care/social work settings or any settings that allowed you to work with people in need. You will normally have at least six months of work experience at the time of applying.

We may also consider your application if you have other voluntary or work experience and can demonstrate an ability to transfer your learning and experience, and to manage complex relationships in personal or work contexts. You must be able to demonstrate this in your personal statement.

Students from China

This degree is Band C.

Protecting Vulnerable Groups

All successful applicants will be required to join Disclosure Scotland's Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme before starting the programme. In addition, all applicants who don't live in the UK, or who have spent more than a year abroad, will need to provide equivalent verification from the relevant national authority.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.5 in each component. We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 23 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 176 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 62 in each component.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries (non-MESC).

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than five years old* at the beginning of your programme of study. (*Revised 05 March 2024 to extend degree validity to five years.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

SSSC Bursary for Scottish Students

The Scottish Social Services Council administers postgraduate bursaries for students studying full-time postgraduate social work courses in Scotland. Funding is reviewed annually but for 2023/24 includes a contribution of £3,415.00 towards tuition fees and a maintenance grant.

Students must be nominated by their university for each year of the course. Nomination is attached to the university as well as to the student. Funding is limited and subject to a quota.

The University will send lists of nominated students to the SSSC. For September intake this is during summer. Those students will be invited to apply. Nomination does not guarantee eligibility for funding. Students will be assessed for residence eligibility, previous funding received and, if eligible, entitlement.

Please contact the Bursaries team at for further information.

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences
  • Undergraduate Admissions Office
  • 57 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9JU

Further information

  • College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences
  • Undergraduate Admissions Office
  • 57 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9JU