Course Overview

The MA in Social Work (MSW) programme is located within the School of Political Science and Sociology. It is an innovative programme, one of the newest programmes in the country, committed in particular to the promotion of human rights and social justice. In high demand from its inception in 2004, the MA in Social Work programme provides accredited professional education and training in social work.

This course will equip you with the skills and knowledge to be registered as a social worker by the CORU registration body. It provides both university and practice-based learning to students, offering opportunities to learn about social problems and their causes, as well as policy solutions. It also equips students with skills in working with individuals, groups and communities, putting an emphasis on the promotion of human rights and social justice. 

One of the strengths of the Master of Arts in Social Work Programme (MSW) at University of Galway is the small size of class membership, which facilitates supportive relationships between students and staff members. The programme is delivered as part of the provision of the School of Political Science and Sociology, also home to the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre.

Throughout the teaching, the connection between academic learning and practice application is central. We benefit from excellent partnerships with practice teachers and statutory and voluntary organizations which employ social workers across individual, family and community services. We are continually striving to develop and foster these relationships. Where possible, opportunities for international placements are also offered. The Social Work Programme is well placed to provide high quality theoretically informed research and up-to-date practice applied professional education. We have a dedicated Social Work Staff Group that works alongside School colleagues to provide students with a broad range of teaching and learning experiences and access to knowledge and expertise from local, national and international perspectives.

We offer joint teaching and learning opportunities with other disciplines within the School (e.g. Social Policy & Community Development) and are connected to the Child and Family Research Centre and a range of research clusters, which are partnered with the Life Course Institute. This means that staff throughout the School play a key role in relation to teaching and supervising research dissertations by students. The Programme also benefits from inter-disciplinary training with colleagues in other schools (e.g., School of Health Sciences), professionals in practice and service users and carers.

The maximum annual intake of Social Work students is 25. A dedicated teaching room, with extensive computer facilities, is available to students. The programme adheres to the definition of social work provided by the International Federation of Social Workers and expects Social Work students to adhere to both professional and university codes of conduct (see and for codes of ethics and practice). 

Applications and Selections

Applications are made online via the University of Galway Postgraduate Applications System. Two letters of reference, one academic and one work-related, and a well written and convincing personal statement (600 words) must also be submitted. You must also provide evidence of the equivalent of 6 months' work experience on the relevant form provided within the online application system.

Interviews will normally take place towards end of Feb/Early March 2023.

Who Teaches this Course

The Practice Learning Co-ordinator is Ms Eleanor Kelly.

Other staff members of the School of Political Science & Sociology and the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centrestaff are members of the programme board, module convenors and contributors. Many practice teachers and practitioners from a range of social work organisations also contribute to the programme through teaching, practice education, tutoring and/or practice assessment. Some members of the public (e.g., service users) also contribute to teaching on the social work programme. 


Prof Caroline Mc Gregor
Professor of Political Science and Sociology- Social Work
Room 1001, ILAS
Child and Family Research Centre
School of Political Science and Sociology
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Dr. Paul Michael Garrett
Senior Lecturer
Dept. of Pol. Science & Soc.
Room 102C
Science & Technology Building
NUI Galway
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Dr Declan Coogan
B.A.,Dip.,M.Sc.,MSW., Ph.D
T: ++353 91 495373
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Emeritus Practice Learning Coordinator / Adjunct Lecturer
School of Political Science & Sociology
NUI Galway
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Requirements and Assessment

Students will be expected to pass all modules, including the practice component of the first year before progressing to the second year. Each module will be assessed through a variety of assessment methods including written assignments, individual and group presentations, podcasts, written examinations and minor dissertation. Students will require at least a 50% pass in each module. All Year 1 academic and fieldwork modules must be passed before progression to Level 2. No ’compensation’ between modules allowed.


The Fieldwork component of the MSW is 50% of the entire period of the course. Students are placed in a variety of statutory, non-statutory and voluntary agencies. Geographically these agencies are along the Western seaboard, though there are also a number of placements in the Midlands and the East of the country. In Year 1 the placement runs for 14 weeks from early January to mid-April. In Year 2 the placement is also 14 weeks, from September to December. Each student is supervised by a professionally qualified social worker (the Practice Teacher) and is visited on placement by a Personal Tutor to discuss the student’s learning progress in developing the skills required for professional practice. International placements have been available in Chicago, South Africa and the Philippines. These are, in general, self-funded.

Key Facts

Entry Requirements

Candidates applying for admission to the programme must have completed a Level 8 primary undergraduate degree (minimum of Second Class Honours, Grade 2) in one of the following: Bachelor Degree with a major in Social Work, Sociology, Psychology Social Policy, Social Science, Social Studies, Social Care, Public and Social Policy, Youth and Family Studies, Health and Social Care, Childhood education, Community Development, or B.Soc.Sc or other relevant qualifications deemed equivalent by the College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Celtic Studies. These may include undergraduate/postgraduate degrees such as Childhood/ Children’s studies, Geography, Law, Economics, Theology, Philosophy, if such degrees have included a significant proportion of social science related subjects. Potential Candidates should contact the programme director to request an assessment of their eligibility.   Transcripts will be required to assess this dimension.

Prior work experience is compulsory and candidates must have obtained six months (approx. 960 hours) of voluntary or paid work experience relevant to the social work profession in order to be eligible to apply. Relevant supervised placement learning will normally count for up to a maximum of 240 hours (6 weeks). It is the candidate’s responsibility to demonstrate clearly in their application how they have met the required six months/960 hours experience and the relevant experience form in the application must be completed and submitted as part of the application. Candidates are expected to share all of their relevant experience in this form. This includes any relevant involvement with any other courses that involved relevant placements citing the details of the agencies where placements were completed. Two letters of reference, one academic and one-work related, and a well written and convincing personal statement (600 words) must also be submitted. Advertising for applications for the MA in Social Work (MSW) usually takes place in early January. Short-listed applicants will be called for interview.

Scholarships available
Find out about our Postgraduate Scholarships here.

Recognition of Prior Learning

RPL is not formally available for the MSW programme due to the accredited nature of the course and the requirements that must be met. These learning requirements are met through an integrated programme throughout two years which all students must complete.  This is in line with university RPL policy (linked here). Please note that, while we do not have a formal RPL system, prior learning is recognised in other ways. For example, the admissions processes recognises prior learning from practice experience and in the teaching processes encourages students to bring their own learning to the programme and build on this throughout. 

Additional Requirements

Garda Vetting/Police Clearance is necessary and required for students participating in this programme.

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)


2 years, full-time

Next start date

September 2023

A Level Grades ()

Average intake


QQI/FET FETAC Entry Routes

Closing Date

27 January 2023

NFQ level

Mode of study

ECTS weighting




Course code


Course Outline

Programme aims and objectives

The aim of the MSW Programme is to aid in the development and formation of students wishing to gain accreditation as professional social workers. This is achieved by

  1. Preparing students to undertake an ethnically based practice integrating both theory and research, policy, skills and reflection. 
  2. Putting in place the foundations of generic learning applicable to all fields and methods of practice. 
  3. Sustaining the focus on human rights and social justice within social work practice. Students will learn professional autonomy and accountability; develop interpersonal and professional relationships; practice effective communication; build towards personal and professional development; assess and be able to deliver a quality service; develop knowledge, understanding and skills in a creative environment. Underpinning all of these domains is the basic principle of respecting and advocating for the rights of the service user.

Through the course, student participants are encouraged to:

  • develop an appropriate skills base within practice placement settings

  • lay an emphasis on the need for social workers to make use of social theory and research evidence

  • facilitate the development of critical and reflective thinking and practice

Students are expected to show evidence of a commitment to promoting social justice and human rights throughout their studies and practice.

Programme Content (Subject to Change)

Year 1

Social Work Practice (5 ECTS) 
Theory and Social Work 1 (5 ECTS) 
Methods of Social Work (5 ECTS) 
Research Methods (5 ECTS) 
Support and Protection across the Lifecourse (10 ECTS) 
Social Policy (5 ECTS) 
Mental Health and Health Promotion (5 ECTS) 
Field Work Placement I (20 ECTS)

Year 2

Social Work, Law and Human Rights (5 ECTS) 
Contemporary Social Issues (5 ECTS) 
Social Work, Supervision, Management & Administration in a Culturally Diverse Setting (5 ECTS) 
Theory and Social Work 2 (5 ECTS) 
Criminal Justice System, Probation & Social Work (5 ECTS) 
Research Dissertation (15 ECTS)
Pre Placement Programme,
Recall Day & Field Work Placement 2 (20 ECTS) 

Curriculum Information

Curriculum information relates to the current academic year (in most cases).
Course and module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Glossary of Terms

You must earn a defined number of credits (aka ECTS) to complete each year of your course. You do this by taking all of its required modules as well as the correct number of optional modules to obtain that year's total number of credits.
An examinable portion of a subject or course, for which you attend lectures and/or tutorials and carry out assignments. E.g. Algebra and Calculus could be modules within the subject Mathematics. Each module has a unique module code eg. MA140.
Some courses allow you to choose subjects, where related modules are grouped together. Subjects have their own required number of credits, so you must take all that subject's required modules and may also need to obtain the remainder of the subject's total credits by choosing from its available optional modules.
A module you may choose to study.
A module that you must study if you choose this course (or subject).
Required Core Subject
A subject you must study because it's integral to that course.
Most courses have 2 semesters (aka terms) per year, so a three-year course will have six semesters in total. For clarity, this page will refer to the first semester of year 2 as 'Semester 3'.

Why Choose This Course?

Career Opportunities

Graduates will be eligible to apply for registration with CORU as qualified social workers in a range of public, private and voluntary sector organisations. TUSLA, Health Service Executive, County Council, Community and Local Government and Department of Justice and Equality are examples of employers of social work in the public sector. The non-governmental sector includes services to children and adults such as, Ability West, Enable Ireland, Brothers of Charity Services, Galway Drugs Service, Jigsaw and COPE Galway. Graduates have also found employment internationally in the U.S.A., Canada, Scotland, England and Australia for example. With regard to further study, we encourage qualified social workers to consider post graduate study and or further professional training (e.g. PhD study or a recently established Higher Postgraduate Diploma in Practice Teaching, Supervision and Management).

Who’s Suited to This Course

Learning Outcomes

Transferable Skills Employers Value

Work Placement

Study Abroad

Related Student Organisations

Course Fees

Fees: EU

€8,040 p.a. 2023/24

Fees: Tuition

€7,900 p.a. 2023/24

Fees: Student levy

€140 p.a. 2023/24

Fees: Non EU

€17,790 p.a. 2023/24

Postgraduate students in receipt of a SUSI grant – please note an F4 grant is where SUSI will pay €4,000 towards your tuition (2023/24).  You will be liable for the remainder of the total fee.  An F5 grant is where SUSI will pay tuition up to a maximum of €6,270. SUSI will not cover the student levy of €140.

Postgraduate fee breakdown = Tuition (EU or NON EU) + Student levy as outlined above.

Note to non-EU students: learn about the 24-month Stayback Visa here

Find out More

Academic curriculum queries:
Social Work Admissions 
T: +353 91 492 290

Ms Stephanie Quinn 
T: +353 91492290

More information

Quick Links


What Our Students Say


Holly Sheeran |   MA in Social Work (MSW) Graduate

While it is without a doubt a challenging and demanding course, it has given me the foundations for social work practice; both through the theory and discussion in the classroom and through the hands-on experience as a trainee practitioner over the two excellent placements. Respecting values, working within an ethical framework and practicing in a diverse cultural society are core components which are applied to my every day work in a voluntary organisation, and I have been able to specialise in areas that are of particular interest to me to improve my social work ‘toolkit’.

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