Undergraduate study - 2019 entry

Subject area: Social Work

Why choose Social Work at the University of Edinburgh?

  • We are ranked first in the UK for social work in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018.

  • You will undertake full-time practice placements with local agencies and organisations during Years 3 and 4.

  • Our programme is fully accredited by the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC).


The most rewarding thing about studying social work is the idea that you can make a huge difference to families’ and individuals’ lives.

Shauna O'Neill 3rd year BSc (Hons) Social Work
Shauna O'Neill 3rd year BSc (Hons) 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. 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.

We seek to meet the demands of a changing profession and contribute to understanding of, and improvements in, public policy and professional practice.

Entry to our Social Work programme is conditional on continued registration with the professional body, the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC), and up-to-date membership of the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme.

In Years 1 and 2, you will study the history and development of social work, key milestones in its development and the policy and legal frameworks of practice. You will also begin to develop your people skills. In Years 3 and 4 you will then focus on the context and complexity of social work practice and will undertake two assessed practice placements, each based in different settings.


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

Scottish Social Services Council

Entrance to BSc (Hons) Social Work is conditional on continued registration as a Student Social Worker with the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC). Successful applicants will be advised of how to apply for registration.

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.

Are there additional costs?

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

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 are full-time and are organised by the University. Placements are generally within agencies in Edinburgh, the Lothians, the Scottish Borders and Fife.

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.

Social work graduates are eligible to work in statutory or voluntary settings within adult services, children and families, or criminal justice sectors.

They might 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.

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.

Search the degree finder

Find your degree

1 degree in Social Work

You may also be interested in