Master of Social Work (MSW) / PGDSWS

Master of Social Work (MSW) / PGDSWS

Application process closing date for the MSW & PGDSWS programmes at UCC: 1st February 2024. Please be advised, only one application can be made to the MSWK / PDSWS per year. 

The Master of Social Work (MSW) and the Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work Studies (PGDSWS) are two-year, full-time, level 9 programmes that combine academic study with fieldwork placements. These programmes are approved by CORU. Successful completion of the programme leads to an academic qualification and will make you eligible to register as a social worker with regulatory bodies in Ireland and Internationally. Social workers practice in exciting contexts that make a difference to people's lives, such as probation, hospitals, child protection and welfare Tusla and community services), family support, community and voluntary groups, hospices, fostering, adoption, older adult safeguarding, and many more! Open now for applications - apply here. All enquiries to Click here to download our brochure: MSW Brochure 2024

Make an application

The selection process is a multi-part process involving the following elements: (a) application form, (b) two references, (c) written pieces, (d) evaluation of practice experience (min. 420 hours), (e) group and individual interviews, and (f) Garda vetting. 

The course is open to graduates with a minimum second-class honours grade 1 (2H1) Bachelor of Social Science (B.Soc.Sc) level 8 degree or equivalent (e.g. Level 8 BA in Social Care/H. Dip. in Social Policy/Early Years and Childhood Studies). If your course is not listed here, you need a minimum of 20 credits in social policy, and also have ideally studied modules in at least one of the following (psychology, sociology, economics, social work) in your primary degree. Students with a 3H or 2H2 standard degree can apply for the Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work Studies. PGDSWS students who achieve an aggregate grade of 50% in year one and pass their placement, can proceed to year two of the Master of Social Work programme.

Selection decisions are based on the following combined criteria: academic performance and research capacity; certified social work-related experience and initiative; knowledge of social work and motivation, commitment and suitability.

N.B. CURRENT FINAL YEAR BSOCSC / H.Dip Social Policy / Social Care Degree level 8 (OR EQUIVALENTs) STUDENTS, SHOULD APPLY FOR THE MASTERS OF SOCIAL WORK OPTION ONLY, pending their final results. Applicants should NOT apply for BOTH the Masters and Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work options as it is the one selection procedure for both options.

Please note that all students on the MSW/PGDSWS will be subject to the UCC fitness to practise policy and procedures.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the important dates in the selection process?
The advert to notify the opening of the selection process is normally placed on the School website / social media accounts during November. The closing date for applications is normally in early February. The interviews usually take place during March. Applicants receive a decision about 2-3 weeks after the end of the interview process. The course normally starts in September.

What award does the MSW / PGDSWS lead to?

The Master of Social Work (MSW) course leads to two possible degree awards. Students whose average grades are 50% or higher on all modules and pass their placements are awarded a Master of Social Work. Students whose grades are less than 50%, and who pass their placements, are awarded a Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work Studies (PGDSWS).

Will I be a professionally qualified social worker when I graduate?

Both academic awards will make you eligible to apply to CORU for registration as a social worker. This is an independent process managed by CORU and successful completion of the MSW/PGDSWS does not guarantee registration as a social worker in Ireland or in any other country. The MSW / PGDSWS are long-established courses recognised by CORU and other international regulatory bodies; however, Irish and international regulatory bodies take other factors into account as well as your academic qualification when deciding on registration. Please see the CORU website for further information.

What degrees/courses are recognised as equivalent to the BSocSc (National University of Ireland) and what subjects would I need to have studied?

The Bachelor of Social Science degree is the primary degree for equivalency purposes for the MSW/PGDSWS. All of the level 8 BA (Hons.) Applied Social Studies (Social Care) degrees, the BA Early Years and Childhood Studies degree (UCC), Bachelor Degree and Higher Diploma in Youth and Community Work, BA Hons in Social Policy, and non-equivalent degrees where the candidate has also completed a recognised Higher Diploma in Social Policy (UCC online and UCC campus-based), are recognised as equivalent to the BSocSc degree for the purpose of applying to the MSW/PGDSWS.

If your course is not on this list, but it contains 20+ credits of social policy, you may be eligible to apply. Students whose degree course does not fit this subject profile would need to complete a H.Dip in social policy to be eligible to apply.

My degree is not one of the degrees recognised -
can I apply?
Prospective candidates who would like to pursue a career in social work, but whose degree is not recognised as equivalent to the BSocSc, can do a conversion course in the School of Applied Social Studies called the Higher Diploma in Social Policy (UCC online and UCC campus-based courses), which, in conjunction with your primary degree, will make you eligible for interview if you have also met the other entrance requirements (such as a minimum of 420 hours social work-related practice experience).

My degree is not a level 8 degree - can I apply? 
If you were awarded a Bachelor of Applied Social Studies (Social Care) ordinary level degree (level 7), you will need to upgrade to a minimum level 8 degree. Please contact your college to discuss your options, for example, to complete an add on year for an Honours BA degree (level 8). Alternatively, you could complete a Higher Diploma in Social Policy (UCC online and UCC campus-based courses) which would also give you the honours year and the required level 8/9 qualification. 

What does social work-related practice experience mean?

To be eligible for an interview, candidates must have at least 420 hours of social work-related practice experience by interview. Examples of practice experiences that candidates have undertaken in the past include: Simon Community, Citizens Information Services, Nightline (UCC), residential care work, observational placements such as Probation and Health Service Executive, access work with the Tusla, social work-related posts, disability services, community and voluntary groups, youth work, SUAS (UCC), Hope Foundation, volunteer programmes abroad, advocacy groups such as Alzheimer's society, Age Action, Amnesty International, and, and, and … (not an exhaustive list!).

It is not expected that these are paid positions, nor that candidates have done the hours consecutively, nor that your role was that of a social worker. As long your social work-related practice experience adds up to at least 420 hours and you can make the connections to social work, then that is likely to be satisfactory. A pre-selection review of the applications takes place by the MSW/PGDSWS course team to assess the relevance of the social work-related practice experience of all candidates. Candidates must provide as much detail about their work experience as possible.

I don’t have 420 hours of social work-related practice experience, but I will have the hours completed by the interview date. Can I still apply?
Yes, we would encourage you to apply if you have 250+ hours at the time of application; please state clearly on your application form how you hope to complete the hours before the interview date (normally March of each year).

Garda Vetting: What if I have a Garda/Police record?
All students on this programme will require Garda Vetting in order to attend student placements. University College Cork has made arrangements with the Gardaí in relation to Garda Vetting procedures.  All candidates who accept places on this programme must complete and sign GARDA VETTING FORMS and return them to UCC. Please note:  All students on the MSW/PGDSWS must have Garda Vetting. Should matters arise in the Garda check form, a student may be asked to delay taking up a placement until the clearance is confirmed or, alternatively, they may be requested to leave the course. The public interest and protection of vulnerable persons will take precedence in our deliberations regarding the nature of a person's record. Some very minor incidents on a person's record from a long time ago may be deemed acceptable by UCC, but this does not guarantee that CORU or a similar international regulatory body will take the same opinion and we provide no warranty in this regard. From UCC's perspective, offences of a recent, and/or sexual, violent, criminal, or recurring nature are very likely to lead to exclusion.

Do I have to provide evidence / certify my practice hours?
We no longer require applicants to certify their practice hours, but it is expected that your hours/roles and responsibilities as listed on your online UCC application are accurate. If there is some doubt, we may ask you to provide further information or to speak with someone in the agency where you completed your hours.

Will interviews be held online or face-to-face?

All interviews will be held online for 2024.

How do I submit my references?
All applicants have to provide one practice and one academic reference as part of the selection process. For 2024, this will be submitted by your referees through an online form. As part of your online application, you will need to provide the email addresses of your two referees.

Why have I not been offered an interview?
We try to offer interviews to all applicants; however, as there is a limit to the number of applicants that we can interview, a short-listing process may take place. This short-listing procedure examines the presentation and quality of the written applications, whether applicants have included all of the relevant documentation, whether applicants’ academic qualifications are equivalent to the BSocSc, academic ability and the quality and breadth of applicants’ social work-related practice experience is examined. Candidates whose applications are incomplete are not offered interviews.

I have previously applied for the MSW/PGDSWS, but was not successful at interview. Can I apply again?

If you have previously been unsuccessful in securing a place on the MSW/PGDSWS, you may reapply. If you are not offered a place the first time you apply, do not be discouraged; students in the past have come back and reapplied with more experience.

Recognition of Prior Learning
The MSW / PGDSWS programmes recognise that applicants to our programme bring a wealth of knowledge, experience and learning from practice / work / courses. This prior learning will be invaluable to you on the course and as part of the selection process; however, we do not offer exemptions/credit(s) for this prior learning.

I live outside the European Union

International/Non-EU students - apply online also through our online application system. The same supplementary candidate’s statement form and references are also required. If the applicants are from countries where English is not their first language, they also have to submit an IELTS or TOEFL English language proficiency result as a part of their application. The closing date for applications is the same as for EU applicants. A review will be undertaken of the comparability of your degree and grading standards compared to the level of the degrees in Ireland.

School of Applied Social Studies

Staidéar Sóisialta Feidhmeach

William Thompson House, Donovan's Road, Cork, Ireland.