Undergraduate study - 2021 entry

BSc Social Work

UCAS code: L500

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Social and Political Science

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences


Introducing BSc Social Work

The study of social work allows you to develop the knowledge, skills and experience needed to work with vulnerable people who are encountering difficulties in their personal or family lives, or whose actions have led to the involvement of statutory services.

Social workers undertake sophisticated assessments in relation to issues of care and control in order to protect the individual and safeguard society. Social workers often work with other services including health, education, housing and the police. They have a strong interest in human relationships and a commitment to social justice, along with well-developed social, empathic and communication skills. The work of a social worker is challenging, demanding and rewarding. A high level of personal resilience is required in order to manage the various challenges of this career.

Social workers represent society's response to the challenges of families under stress, offending, long-term illness, mental illness and other serious problems. Good social work combines an interest in people with a rigorous intellectual attitude and the constant search for better methods of helping, supported by research and development.

It is a profession suited to creative, practical and resourceful individuals who enjoy working with people. You will combine ingenuity and optimism with honesty and realism in the face of the demanding situations which some service users experience. You should have a stable, well-integrated personality and you must be able to see beyond the immediate issues presented by service users, the general public and policy makers. You will also require well-developed social and communication skills and a high degree of empathy.

The University started providing training for social workers in 1918 and we are well-recognised as a leading institution in social work training. Social Work at Edinburgh has been ranked number one in the UK for the second year in a row in the recent ‘Complete University Guide 2020’ league table.

We seek to meet the demands of a changing profession and contribute to understanding of, and improvements in, public policy and professional practice. We have previously played a major role advising on the future shape of social work services in Scotland, and contributed to reports that led to the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968, which remains a core legislative basis for Scottish social work today.


The BSc (Hons) Social Work is accredited by the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC).

Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC)

Year 1

You will study the roots of social work and the milestones in the field's development. You will also study social policy and will be able to choose a range of option courses.

Year 2

You will study the policy and legal frameworks of social work and take the course Working and Relating: Developing Your People Skills, plus two option courses of your choice.

You will be required to undertake either paid or voluntary relevant work experience as part of the Working and Relating: Developing Your People Skills course. This experience also acts to inform discussions regarding your progression into honours years, which is based on academic achievement, professional registration and confirmation of your continued interest in social work.

Year 3

You will study courses: Social Work in Communities, Social Work with Individuals and Families, Working with Self and Others: Skills, Theories and Methods, Understanding Care and Control, and Professional Practice in Social Work 1 (including a 70-day placement). A 10-day observational placement takes place towards the end of Semester 1.

Year 4

You will study: Working with Risk, Trust and Complexity, and Professional Practice in Social Work 2 (including a 95-day placement). You will also undertake an 8,000-word dissertation.

Programme structure

Find out more about the compulsory and optional courses in this degree programme.

To give you an idea of what you will study on this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year.

Programme structure (2020/21)

Our facilities

The majority of teaching takes place at facilities located within the University's Central Area. You will also have access to the University's libraries and computer facilities.


Practice placements in Years 3 and 4 are full time and are organised by the University. Placements are generally within agencies in Edinburgh, the Lothians, Scottish Borders and Fife. Placements are undertaken in a wide variety of statutory and non-statutory settings, these includes children and family teams, residential homes, women’s aid agencies and hospitals.

How will I learn?

You will be taught through a combination of lectures, tutorials and group activities.

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed by exams, coursework and, in your honours years, by a combination of coursework, groupwork and your performance on your practice placements.

Programme details

Find out more about this programme's aims, what you will learn, how you will be assessed and what skills and knowledge you will develop.

To give you an idea of what to expect from this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year.

Programme details (2020/21)

Social work graduates are eligible to work in statutory or voluntary settings within adult services, children and families, or criminal justice sectors. While many of our graduates stay working in Scotland, your professional qualification will allow you to work elsewhere in the UK and in many countries internationally.

Graduates work in a range of locations such as community-based agencies, prisons or hospitals. Career pathways exist from early practitioner stage through to senior management, including in major organisations in the third sector, and international aid and humanitarian organisations.

The strong communication and interpersonal skills that you will develop during your programme prepare you for a range of other careers involving working with people.

Some social work graduates also choose to continue with their studies or enter research.

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S5 or AABB/ABBBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 34 points with 655 at HL.

Minimum entry requirement

The minimum entry requirement for widening access applicants is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 34 points with 655 at HL.

More information for widening access applicants

Required subjects

The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:

  • SQA: Highers: no specific Higher subjects required. National 5s: English at C and Mathematics at C.
  • A Levels: no specific A Level subjects required. GCSEs: English at C or 4 and Mathematics at C or 4.
  • IB: HL: no specific subjects required. SL: English at 5 and either Mathematics at 4 or Mathematical Studies at 5.

Additional requirements

Fitness to practice

Please consult the HEOPS website for additional fitness to practice guidelines for this degree:


Find out more about entry requirements

International applicants

We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.

Entry requirements by country

International Foundation Programme

If you are an international student and your school qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to the University you may be eligible for admission to this degree programme through our International Foundation Programme.

International Foundation Programme

Mature applicants

We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.

Mature applicant qualifications

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


For SQA, GCSE and IB students, unless a higher level is specified in the stated entry requirements, a pass is required in English at the following grades or higher:

  • SQA National 5 at C
  • SQA Standard Grade at 3
  • SQA Intermediate 1 at A
  • SQA Intermediate 2 at C
  • GCSE/IGSCE at C or 4
  • Level 2 Certificate Grade C
  • IB Standard Level at 5 (English ab initio is not accepted for entry)

English language tests

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

  • IELTS Academic module overall 6.5 with 5.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Special Home Edition) 92 or above with 20 in each section. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • Cambridge English: Advanced or Proficiency overall 176 with 162 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with a distinction in all four components.

We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.

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

English language requirements

*(Revised 27 April 2020 to include TOEFL-iBT Special Home Edition.)

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.

Scottish Social Services Council

All students must register with the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) as students of social work.

This information is part of a government initiative to enhance the material that higher education institutions provide about their degree programmes.

It is one of many sources of information which will enable you to make an informed decision on what and where to study.

Please note that some programmes do not have Discover Uni data available.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees for BSc Social Work

Additional costs

All successful applicants must join Disclosure Scotland's Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme, which will currently cost you £18-£59.


For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.

Fees and funding

Search the degree finder

1 degree in Social Work

You may also be interested in