Social Work Students

As social work students – your needs may vary – depending on the social work programme you’re undertaking, and how far through that programme you are – but we’ve tried to address some of the most frequently asked student questions below:

What are the different routes into social work?

B.A. or M.A. Degree  from a University

This would be a 3-year (BA) or 2 year (MA) qualification course, with work-based placements in years 2 & 3 for the BA course, and in both years 1 & 2 for the MA course. You would be trained as a generic social worker and could opt to work in either children’s social care or in adults social care. The entry requirements and admissions processes for each university may vary slightly, so it’s worth checking this out on their website before you apply.

Open University Degree             

OU presents the learner with the option to remain in employment, whilst studying part-time (usually evenings and weekends). This can be a useful option for those with existing financial responsibilities – a family, mortgage etc. – who are not in a position to be without an income.

Because it’s usually undertaken part-time, it can take longer to achieve your degree with OU, but the benefit lies in being able to remain in work whilst studying.  OU currently offer a BA (Hons) in Social Work, and a Post Graduate Diploma in Social Work.

Step Up to Social Work

This is a 14-month Government funded programme that sponsors a fixed number of individuals each year to undertake social work training – with a focus on children’s social care. You would need to have at least a 2:1 degree  (in any discipline), and some experience of having worked with children, young people & families (either paid or voluntary). You would be paid a bursary of £19,833 each year, whilst undertaking the Step Up programme, and would be placed within a Local Authority for your 170 days of work-based experience.


This route into social work is aimed at existing graduates or those seeking to make a career change, and operates somewhat differently to the conventional university route. It is focussed on training the individual to work in children’s social care.

Following a five-week residential training programme, you will spend two years working in a local authority children’s services department, where you will start building your experience by working directly with children & families. The first year qualifies you as a social worker through direct work with children and families. In the second year you will work as a newly qualified social worker responsible for your own caseload, and will complete a fully-funded masters qualification.               

Social Work Apprenticeship

At present, this option is still being developed, but it is anticipated that it should be available to access from September 2018. In principal, this apprenticeship will operate like any other, in that participants would be work-based and earning an income, and would attend university on a part-time basis. This will be an attractive route into social work for practitioners who are already working – in a non-social work role – with adults or children/families, who wish to progress into social work, but who can’t give up their day-job to return to full time study.

Large employers, such as Local Authorities, will be offering these apprenticeships to their existing social care staff, and the funding for the apprenticeship will be met from the employer’s Apprenticeship Levy – therefore removing the burden of cost from the learner.

How long will it take me to qualify?

This depends on the particular route you’re taking – but generally speaking a conventional degree course would take you 3 years to complete. The M.A. route would take between 14-18 months, and would be available to those with an existing degree in another subject.  The Step Up to Social Work scheme is run by the Department for Education and takes 14 months to complete, and the Frontline programme runs for 2 years.

All social work training routes will require that you undertake work-based placements, to enable you to put your knowledge and skills into practice – so whichever route you choose, you will need to be able to participate in placements.

What types of roles could I undertake as a qualified social worker?

Social workers are employed by a wide range of organisations, including Local Authorities, hospitals, voluntary & independent organisations, academic institutions involved in social work training, and recruitment agencies.

Most social work roles are divided into two main specialisms – those who work in adults’ social care, and those who work in children’s social care. Whilst you are undergoing your social work training, you should have the opportunity to experience both fields of social work practice and will most likely make a decision about which you’d prefer to specialise in by the end of your second year – though some students wait until their third year to make their final choice.

To find out more about the types of roles that you could consider within each of these specialisms, visit our Day in the Life page.

What courses do the Partnership’s two universities offer?

Nottingham Trent University offers both BA (Hons) and MA courses in Social Work.  Both are Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) approved degrees which will qualify and prepare you for the role of a social worker. They have been designed to enable you to progress into employment and integrate both academic and practice work-based modules.



The University of Nottingham has been providing social work education for over sixty years and in the 2018 Complete University Guide was ranked as number one for social work.

We currently offer BA (Hons) Social Work and MA Social Work programmes.  Both of these programmes are HCPC-accredited, meaning that you will be qualified to practice as a Social Worker in England.  You will be taught by experienced and qualified social workers, who will draw on both their practice experience and their published research to deliver teaching which is intellectually challenging and practice-relevant.  We use a diverse range of assessments, including not only essays and exams but also service-user interviews, presentations, posters, observation exercises, case study analysis and portfolios.

Admissions process

Recruitment and selection of social work students follows a three-stage process

  • apply via UCAS (for either BA or MA)
  • if you meet our entry criteria (see links below for details), you will be invited to an assessment day. During the assessment day you will do a written exercise and take part in a service user-led group discussion and reflection exercise
  • if you are successful at the assessment day, you will be invited back for an interview day. This will involve being interviewed by a panel of two people: a current practitioner and a member of the academic team; and undertaking a communication skills exercise.

Placement opportunities

All students, whether studying on the BA or MA, undertake two placements during the course of their studies. The first placement is for 80 days and the final placement is for 90 days.  Whilst on placement, you will be supported by a qualified Practice Educator and receive visits from your university tutor. Placements are based in a wide range of social work settings, working across all D2N2 partner agencies. Placement settings include – but are not limited to – opportunities to work with children and families, young offenders, older adults, people with learning disabilities, people with mental health difficulties and many other service user groups.

To read more about our social work courses, apply to study with us, or find out more about the University of Nottingham, please follow the links below:

Find out about and apply for BA Social Work at University of Nottingham.

Find out about and apply  for MA Social Work at University of Nottingham.

Find out more about The University of Nottingham.

When will I go on my first placement?

Whilst you may go on some day visits to social work settings during your first year, your formal student placements will take place in your second and third years of training (unless you are undertaking an M.A. course, in which case you will have placements in both year 1 and year 2).

Will I have a choice about where I do my placements?

Universities are reliant on local social work employers to provide placement opportunities for their students, and clearly these employers will have their own limitations in terms of the numbers of students they can accommodate – so, whilst your university or training provider will do their best to accommodate your preferences for placements, you may need to be a bit flexible about your options, depending on what is actually available locally.

It’s a good idea to build in some variety to your placement experiences, so that you get a broad overview of the different types of social work, and the ways that social workers operate within different organisations. We’ve known some students who’ve been sure they wanted to work with adults but, when given a placement with children’s, have acknowledged that they actually enjoyed it and have changed their plans – so give yourself the opportunity to explore different types of social work – and embrace the experience it gives you!

Within our local universities (Nottingham Trent University and The University of Nottingham) placements are assigned to students by the course team, based on their identified learning needs and placement availability.  Students are given the opportunity to express a preference regarding the type / area of placement work they would like, and this is accounted for as much as possible.  It is, unfortunately, not possible for students to arrange their own placements.

Who will support me whilst I’m on placement?

Once you’ve been allocated to an employer for your placement, the employer will identify a Practice Educator – usually from within the team where you’re based – and it will be their responsibility to offer you on-going support during your placement with that organisation. They will also feedback on how you’re doing to your training provider/University.

How can I prepare for a placement?

A Learning Agreement meeting is held at the beginning of each placement to formally identify students’ learning needs and opportunities over the course of the placement.  Areas such as type of work to be undertaken, working hours and support arrangements are formalised at this meeting.  Students are also invited to visit their placement agency in advance of the placement to familiarise themselves with its location and staff.  Undertaking some background reading on the type of work undertaken at the placement agency is always a good idea, as well as considering practical arrangements such as travel and childcare/personal commitments whilst on placement.       

What contact will I have with the University whilst on placement?

Your personal tutor will attend the Learning Agreement meeting (described above) and will be available for contact throughout the placement.  They will also be the first port of call should any difficulties arise.  The university also arranges for a mid-way ‘Recall Day’ event, where all students return to university for a day to review progress and draw on their learning so far.  This also provides a useful opportunity to touch base with staff and fellow students.

How long will my placements last?

Each student undertakes 2 placements – usually 80 days and 90 days respectively.  They are required to be available to work full-time equivalent hours during these periods.  Nottingham Trent University’s placements take place between September and January.  

What about travel costs and expenses?

Generally speaking, we would expect student social workers to be able to drive, and to have access to a car for the duration of their placements – but you can check this requirement out during the Learning Agreement Meeting. Students will be expected to pay travel expenses to and from the placement. Some agencies do pay travel expenses, but not all and there may be an expectation that students will undertake home visits, visits to other teams and attend meetings.  Students are required to have Business use on their car insurance.  Travel costs and expenses while on placement will be discussed at the Learning Agreement Meeting.

Which local employers offer an ASYE programme?

All of the social work employers within the D2N2 Teaching Partnership offer an ASYE programme.

Where can I find out about ASYE programmes?

A brief overview of the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment is provided on our ASYE page, but you will be able to find out more about them when you are on your placements, or via university talks that employers provide to each year’s cohort of graduating social work students.

What are the average rates of pay for a newly qualified social worker?

Rates of pay vary across the employers within the Partnership, and each employer will have their own employment package to offer to new recruits. Most newly qualified staff can expect to be earning between £25,000 - £30,000 p.a. when they start their ASYE year.

Whilst we would hope that money is not the primary motivation for taking a job – we do recognise that pay is still an important factor to be weighed up, alongside other things such as career opportunities, CPD, location, and the support infrastructure that is offered. So it’s well worth doing a bit of research to find out more about each employer before you make any firm decisions.

What else should I think about when picking a prospective employer?

As mentioned above, the employment package that is offered may vary – but you might want to consider some of the following elements when deciding where to work:

  • location – where will you be working/how far will it be to commute/is it too close to home
  • CPD – does the employer offer a good range of development and training opportunities to keep your knowledge and skills up to date, and help you progress your career
  • career structure – what are your options for moving up the ladder and building your experience as a social worker
  • flexibility – can you work at different office-bases, or from home (when appropriate); can you access IT systems remotely; can you fit your work around other commitments
  • support – what is the support infrastructure like – is there adequate administrative support, are managers accessible, what are the caseloads like and how are caseloads managed, is there support for staff from minority groups
  • health - what health and wellbeing initiatives do they have in place for their staff, is there an employee health scheme, what else is available eg counselling
  • other benefits – what other employee benefits do they offer e.g. car loan scheme, pension, childcare voucher scheme, annual leave allowance, career break scheme

Where can I get help with job applications and preparing for interviews?

It’s always worth checking an employer’s website, to see what advice and information they offer about their recruitment process – and expectations may vary from one employer to another – but there are some general guidelines that will be well worth taking into consideration if you’re applying for a social work job.

If you’re not sure what type of social work role would suit you best, you can also visit our Day in the Life pages, to learn more about the different social work jobs that you can access as you progress your career.

Where can I go to find out about jobs?

Visit our Jobs page for direct links to the Partnership’s local employers and their vacancy details.

If there is anything else that you feel would be useful to include on this page, or which you feel would be useful to others, please contact us and let us know.

Share this page?