Master of Social Work (MSW)

Master of Social Work (MSW)

The Master of Social Work is a two-year full-time programme, accredited by CORU, that combines academic study with fieldwork placements. 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 work in exciting contexts that making a difference to people's lives in probation, hospitals, child protection and welfare, community centres, community groups, hospices, fostering, adoption, older adult safeguarding, and many more! Opening date for online applications: 8th December. Closing date (to be confirmed): 5th February 2021. All enquiries to (offices are mostly unattended due to Covid-19)

Click here to download our brochure: MSW Brochure (updated)

Why Study for your MSW at UCC?

  1. Our programmes (MSW / PGDSWS) are offered by a School which is a national centre of excellence in social work education, research and continuing professional development.
  2. Two previous external examiners have said that the MSW at UCC is one of the best social work training course in Ireland and the United Kingdom
  3. Full professional accreditation by Ireland's national regulatory body CORU as a social work training course, with international recognition and invaluable professional work placements comprimising 50% of the curriculum.
  4. Learn core social work practice skills through a reflective pedagogy and delivered by an inclusive, student focused, and research led academic team who are recognised as national and international experts.
  5. We are nationally and internationally recognised for our high quality teaching and research. Our lecturers have received the UCC President's Award for Excellence in Teaching on seven occassions.
  6. MSW team members have won prestigious research awards: UCC's Research Team of the Year Award and the Irish Association of Social Workers researcher of the year.
  7. UCC is a five star university and is ranked in the top 2% of universities worldwide, based on the quality of its research output and peer esteem.
  8. The teaching staff on our modules have a multi-disciplinary base, with staff expertise in social work, social policy, law, community development, psychology, psychotherapy, and addiction.
  9. We provide student-centred teaching and learning supported by small group tutorials, individual tutorials, continuous assessment and placement-based learning.
  10. We provide students with a wide range of practice placements.
  11. We provide opportunities for practice research including action research and community-based research.
  12. Irish and International employers recognise the quality of training on the MSW at UCC and past graduates have been very successful in securing employment. UCC is ranked by employers as the one of the top 100 universities in the world for the quality of its graduates and their employability.
  13. UCC is a beautiful campus which has been extensively developed in the last number of years with new teaching rooms, sports facilities, library facilities and a broad range of student computer services. Click here to read more about the Campus and take a virtual 360 VR tour.
  14. We have established links with International placement sites in South Africa, India, USA (Chicago/New York), and London (on hold due to Covid-19)
  15. The Lonely Planet Travel guide recommended Cork as one of the top 10 cities in the world to visit in 2010 and in 2014 the Huffington Post identified Cork as one of the 'overlooked European Cities you must visit in your lifetime'. Cork was voted the third friendliest city in the world in 2018.
  16. Your registration fee includes free use of the excellent Mardyke Arena health and leisure centre.

Testimonials from Programme Graduates

"I was in my late 30’s when I began the MSW programme and I came with a variety of work and academic experience.  I found the MSW programme receptive of all I came with and willing to incorporate it into how I progressed in my professional development as a social worker.  The MSW programme is based on a model of ‘Reflective Learning’ and this is embedded in a variety of ways; learning journal, tutorial groups, structure of practice placements and so on.  I find this model a most necessary and central aspect to how I practice as a social worker in terms of the often complex situations I find myself working with.  The ability to work reflectively means that for the people I encounter on a daily basis they will meet a professional that responds rather than reacts to the dilemmas of their lives.  On completing the programme I secured a full-time social work position with the Bedford Row Family Project in Limerick City.  I left the MSW programme not certain of what the role of social work is (I find this is often an organic and evolving role) but I left with a confidence in my ability to enter this profession with a sound theoretical and practice base". Bernie O’Grady.

"The MSW course I participated in used many different forms of study such as group work, individual study, two practice placements and I received regular support from individual tutors. I also had the opportunity to carry out participatory research for an agency that I work for as the MSW participates in Community Academic Research Links (Science Shop). This allowed my to carry out research that I was interested in and also benefited the agency. I felt very supported throughout the research by my tutor. Overall, the MSW at UCC is a great course, I got the opportunity to be part of a great class, and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more about themselves through reflective practice". Karen McInerney, MSW Graduate.

"While on MSW programme, I met many people (lecturers and students) who supported me and gave me a confidence to complete this course. During the two years, I had an opportunity to learn and practice social work theories and skills required to become a competent social worker. My current work with young people is influenced by variety of knowledge and training I was able to gain through the MSW (groupwork, cultural competence, International Law, my two practice placements and much more). I’ve learned to think critically about many social issues and deal with them professionally. I gained in-depth knowledge about social work processes and thinking though reflection. Reflection as a tool allowed me to grow academically and professionally and it also made me to think more clearly about myself. The success of the two years study wouldn't be possible without a great MSW team and my fellow students, who are now friends for life". Zuzana Strbianova, MSW Graduate.

MSW Students 2013

MSW/PGDSWS students on their graduation day

Modules and Practice Placements

Year 1

Applied Social Research 1; Child and Family Welfare 1; Human Growth and Development; Reflective Counselling; Law and Rights 1 (Child Law); Practice Skills 1; Social Policy, Social Exclusion & Anti-Discriminatory Practice; Social Work Settings 1; Social Work Theory 1: Theory and Practice, Groupwork, Community Work; Practice Placement 1

Year 2

Practice Placement 2; Child and Family Welfare 2; Law and Rights 2 (The Rights of Vulnerable Persons); Practice Skills 2; Social Work Settings 2; Social Work Theory 2: Theory and Practice; Social Work Dissertation and Practice Research Conference Presentation.

Practice Placements

Practice placements are an integral part of the programme.  Students are required to complete 1,000 hours (normally two x fourteen week fieldwork placements of 500 hours each). For one of these placments, students will be required to move outside Cork. The course has a wide range of placements within both voluntary organisations and statutory agencies in Ireland and abroad. 

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 would need to a minimum of 20 credits in social policy, and also 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 (OR ITS EQUIVALENT) 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.

  • Click on this link for the entry requirements for the Master of Social Work (MSW) / Postgraduate Diploma courses and to make your application. Full details on the selection process are listed on this link and are not reproduced here to avoid duplication.

International Applicants

Applications from Non-EU applicants are welcome. If you are not resident in Ireland, an online interview can be facilitated.

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 early December. The closing date for applications is normally mid-January. The interviews usually take place sometime between late February to late 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 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 at end of the course. Students whose grades are less than 50%, and pass their placements, are awarded a Postgraduate Diploma in Social Work Studies (PGDSWS) at the end of the course.

Will I be a professionally qualified social worker when I graduate?
Both academic awards will make you eligible to apply to 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 is a long established course 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 making a decision regarding 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 for equivalency purposes for the MSW/PGDSWS. All of the level 8 BA (Hons.) Applied Social Studies (Social Care) degrees from the IT sector in the Republic of Ireland, the BA Early 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) such as the one provided by UCC, are recognised as equivalent to the BSocSc degree for the purpose of applying to the MSW.

If your course is not on this list, but it contains a substantial amount of social policy, some sociology, and some psychology, 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 before they would 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). The Higher Diploma in Social Policy course is run over one academic year.

My degree is not a level 8 degree - can I apply? 
If you have a Bachelor of Applied Social Studies (Social Care) ordinary level degree from an Institute of Technology (level 7), before the degrees were upgraded to level 8 degrees you will need to do some work to upgrade your degree to a 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 that would also give you the honours year and the required level 8 qualification in Social Science.

What does the interview day look like?
We usually run a few interview days and candidates attend one of the selection days. Following a registration and orientation process that usually starts early morning, candidates participate in a number of group interviews. Later that day, anytime up to 4pm, candidates are offered an individual interview lasting approximately 20-25 minutes. The selection panel for each interview day is comprised of staff from the School of Applied Social Studies and social work practitioners/practice teachers. With Covid-19 interviews may take place online.

What does social work-related practice experience mean?

To be eligible for interview, candidates must have at least 420 hours social work-related practice experience on the day of their interview. Examples of practice experiences that candidates have undertaken in the past include: Simon Community, Comhairle (Citizens Information Services), Nightline (UCC), residential care work, observational placements such as Probation and Health Service Executive, access work with the Health Service Executive, social work 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 explain why you think your practice experience is related to social work, then that is likely to be satisfactory. Of course, you will need to present your learning from these practice experiences at interview and this will be assessed. A pre-selection review of the applications takes place by the MSW course team to assess the relevance of the social work-related practice experience of all candidates. It is important that candidates provide as much detail about their work experience as possible (number of hours, exact name and address of organization, the title of your role and a clear description of your duties and responsibilities).

Garda Clearance: What if I have a Garda/Police record?
All students on this programme will require Garda clearance in order to attend student placements. University College Cork has made arrangements with the Gardaí in relation to Garda Clearance procedures.  All candidates who accept places on this programme must complete and sign GARDA CLEARANCE FORMS and return them to UCC. Please note:  All students must have Garda clearance.  Should matters arise in the Garda check form, a student may be asked to delay taking up a placement until a 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, offenses of a recent, and/or sexual, violent, criminal, or recurring nature are very likely to lead to exclusion. A further Garda clearance and fit persons test will be undertaken by the professional registration body such as CORU upon successful completion of the course, should a graduate apply to use the title of social worker.

I don’t have 420 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, but please state clearly on your application form how you hope to complete the hours before the interview date (normally March of each year).

I am having some difficulty certifying some of my practice experience – what can I do?

We are aware that in certain cases it may not be possible to certify all of your practice experience, for example, where an agency has closed down. Please place an explanatory note next to this entry on your application form.

I would like to apply for the MSW but can’t attend for interview in Cork - can I do a phone or video-conference interview?

All candidates must participate fully in the selection process, which involves attending the group and individual interviews held in Cork. However, if you have a health risk due to Covid-19 or are working or studying outside of Ireland and can't attend in person on your interview day, you can submit a request to the MSW Director to be interviewed online. The course will make a decision close to the interview based on public health advice as to whether interviews will be at UCC or all/mostly online.

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 over our interview days, 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. In particular, candidates whose applications are incomplete, are not offered interviews.

I have previously applied for the MSW, but was not successful at interview – can I apply again?

If you have previously been unsuccessful in securing a place on the MSW, 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. They have told us that in retrospect they were pleased they did not get on the course first time around as they now realise that they were not ready and that more experience has been extremely beneficial for them in engaging with the course.

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 part of their application. The closing date for applications is the same as 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/Britain.

Fitness to Practise

As part of their University programme, some students are required to undertake placement and training that involve dealing directly with patients, clients or service users. All students commencing the first year of the MSW/PGDSWS at UCC will be required to comply with the Fitness to Practise Policy and meet the relevant Fitness to Practise standards in order to progress to the next year of their programme.  Students registering on the MSW / PGDSWS are required to read and sign a form to accept the Fitness to Practice requirements at registration and annually at re-registration.

Details of the CACSSS / Applied Social Studies Core Competencies and Health Matters, and a copy of the University Fitness to Practise Policy and Procedural Guidelines, relating to Fitness to Practise are available here.

Contact the MSW team

All enquiries should be sent by email only to Due to Covid-19, most of UCC staff are working remotely.

School of Applied Social Studies

Staidéar Sóisialta Feidhmeach

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