Degree in Social Work

The Degree in Social Work is the recognised professional qualification for social workers throughout the UK, as well as for Probation Officers and Education Officers in Northern Ireland, and Criminal Justice Social Workers in Scotland. In Northern Ireland, the course is a combination of taught modules and learning in practice. NISCC approves Degree in Social Work courses in NI and regulates the standards for taught modules and Practice Assessment.


  • In NI, the Degree is normally a three-year full time course.
  • Graduates with a relevant degree can complete the degree over two years full-time via an accelerated route (Relevant Graduate Route – RGR).
  • 3 A-levels in any subject (usually grades ‘BBB’ or above) and GCSE Maths and English (minimum of grade C).
  • Equivalent qualifications such as Access courses or HNDs
  • Relevant experience of paid/unpaid work in care or related services In NI.

If you do not have qualifications equivalent to these entry requirements, information about access courses and study options is available from your local Further Education College. Contact details for local colleges are available here.

The Degree is offered at four colleges in NI, all of which are approved by NISCC to deliver social work training and are quality checked annually:

Detailed advice on the application process is available in the booklet Honours Degree in Social Work: Advice for Applicants - available in the resources below. 

  • Applications for the Degree are made online through the UCAS system www.ucas.com from mid-September to early January.
  • The universities/institutions will shortlist applicants initially on the basis of their UCAS/university application form.
  • Applications that meet the university/institution academic entry requirements are processed through a series of stages to assess the applicant’s suitability for social work training in NI.

Stage 1: Suitability for training for social work - 600 word personal statement

All applicants who meet the universities/institutions entry criteria will be required to complete an additional 600 word statement on their knowledge of and aptitude for social work training. From September 2016, the statement will be completed under exam conditions. At this stage it is important to highlight any relevant experience that they have gained to indicate their knowledge and/or understanding of social work and social services. Applicants will be selected for Stage 2 of the process on the basis of this statement.

Stage 2: Suitability for training for social work - interview

The interview will assess if the applicant has the skills, qualities and understanding required to train to be a social worker at Degree level. Applicants are given the opportunity to highlight any practical/personal experience and knowledge they have about social work. Advice on preparing for interviews for the Degree in Social Work is available in the Degree Partnership section.

Stage 3: Offers/Confirmation of offer

Every university/institution will respond to each applicant individually through UCAS. There may be a variation in the grades, which each university/institution requires for entry, or the type of offer made. The applicant must then inform UCAS of the offer(s) they wish to accept and the order of preference. Applicants are advised to refer to UCAS guidance at this stage.

Stage 4: Application to register on the NISCC Social Care Register

Students on NISCC Honours Degree in Social Work courses must apply to register with the NISCC when they enrol to start their Degree course. To be approved for NISCC registration, you must provide us with information to demonstrate your suitability to work safely in social work. Social work students are required to meet the NISCC Standards of Conduct for Social Work. This is to ensure that social work students are ‘fit to undertake practice learning’. When they qualify as a social worker, they will also be required to meet the NISCC Standards of Practice for Social Work. More information about the standards and registering through the NISCC Online registration system is available in the Registration and Standards section.

Social Work Student Funding - DHSSPS Incentive Scheme

The Department of Health (NI) - Office of Social Services, offers a Financial Incentive Scheme to attract students from Northern Ireland to remain in Northern Ireland to study for the Degree in Social Work. The scheme is available to students who are: domiciled in Northern Ireland; undertaking a NISCC approved programme of study in Northern Ireland leading to the Degree in Social Work; currently registered with NISCC on the relevant part of the Register; and not employed as Regional Social Work Degree Trainees. Currently, the Incentive Scheme offers:

• Full-time students - a non-means tested grant of £4,000 for each year of the course towards the cost of study and a contribution of £500 towards expenses related to work-based learning
• Part-time students - £750 per module (maximum 4 modules per academic year). This includes a contribution towards expenses related to work-based learning

(This scheme is currently under review by the DoH NI)

Associated Resources