MA Social Work – work experience guide


Work experience prior to the programme

We are seeking applications from people who are able to demonstrate a real interest in social work as a career, grounded in work experience in social care.

To be accepted onto the MA in Social Work you must have a minimum of one year’s recent (normally within the last two years) full-time/full-time equivalent social work experience. We require a minimum of six months’ experience at the point of application and a further six months at the point of entry to the course. This can be gained in a paid and/or voluntary capacity.

Generally, we welcome people with a range of backgrounds and experiences. In our experience, applicants make best use of the course when their professional background has been in a social work role or one that has equivalent responsibilities.

What is social work experience?

The following guidance is not intended to be comprehensive or definitive, since social work is a dynamic field that is constantly evolving with new areas of need, practice and agencies developing. The examples given below mainly relate to work in the UK, but we also welcome applicants with experience in social work overseas, either because you live there or because you have undertaken paid or voluntary work in another country.

We attach importance not only to the amount of social work experience that you have gained but crucially to the learning that you have gained from it and are able to bring to the course and your professional development.

We are looking for experience which demonstrates your interest in and commitment to social work combined with practical experience that you have gained in this field. The experience should include:

  • Direct work with service users either through face-to-face work on an individual or group basis or telephone work
  • Working with people who need emotional and/or practical support or help
  • Using a range of people skills, such as, listening, counselling and problem-solving
  • Some understanding of the legal and policy framework in that area of practice
  • Some understanding of the social work role with that service user group

Types of work that are relevant to social work

The work experience you have gained may be directly relevant to social work and/or partially relevant to social work. It is difficult to state categorically whether a particular type of experience is directly or partially relevant without knowing more about the agency setting and your role. However, the list below is intended as a guideline.

Directly relevant

Work, on paid or voluntary basis, in a role that involves social work skills including:

  • residential social work, day care, community work
  • counselling and advice work
  • youth work
  • being a foster carer
  • being a carer of a disabled or older person that has provided first-hand experience of social work or social services interventions
  • personal support of disabled or older people (not a family member)
  • mental health nursing or mental health care assistant work
  • support work in high support housing projects or hostels
  • mentoring of young people or others through a formal project or agency; group work with service users including self-help groups
  • working in a women’s refuge
  • advocacy work
  • employment as a social work assistant

See our Voluntary Agencies in the Teaching Partnership of south-east London offering the types of experience and skills development that would support your application.


Partially relevant

  • nursing home experience (work that does not involve one-to-one personal care of individuals or key worker responsibilities eg health care assistant, auxiliary nurse)
  • teaching experience in ‘special needs’ work
  • housing advice work
  • play group/nursery/crèche work
  • play scheme work
  • general nursing/nursing assistant work include district nursing
  • teaching

Partially relevant experience will count but may not be sufficient on its own. We are looking for people to have had some additional contrasting experience that is directly relevant to social work and who can show very clearly what they have learnt about social work practice through this experience. You are most likely to be invited for interview if you have directly relevant experience.

Ideally we would expect applicants to mainly have directly relevant experience. Partially relevant experience may be sufficient if you can say what you have learnt from it.

Not relevant

Though this work is of value, for the purpose of entry to the MA in Social Work, we are unable to count:

  • personal experience of caring for a relative or friend where you have not had first-hand experience of social services or social work intervention
  • baby sitting
  • non-formal mentoring or support of younger school children, college or university student
  • having a parent(s) who is a foster carer

Service user experience

We welcome applications from people who have personal experience of being on the receiving end of social services or social work intervention. We are interested in what you have learnt from this experience. In addition, you should have relevant and/or partially relevant work experience as outlined above.