This programme creates links between social work research and practice in a range of settings. You will be taught the necessary skills to undertake research into social work and social care as a practice-based professional, a postgraduate research student or a policy-focused professional.   

This degree will help you acquire vital tools to maximise your work in addressing genuine issues of concern with policymakers, managers, practitioners and service users in social work and social care. 

The programme provides core research training in philosophy and research design in the social sciences, along with introductions to, and further approaches in, quantitative and qualitative methods in the social sciences.   

While the programme primarily focuses on 'research methods', it also has a clear focus on social justice and how research can improve policy and the lives of those it impacts. You can choose an optional unit from a range of policy areas such as child and family welfare, gender and violence, health and social care, poverty and social exclusion, and policy-oriented evaluation. The programme also provides the opportunity to further investigate policy areas of interest through the assignments and dissertation. 

We recognise that many of our students will have relevant experience as researchers, service managers/planners or policy advisers, and there will be space for you to reflect on and share your expertise in these fields.

Some units are taught in collaboration with other postgraduate programmes, providing a co-learning environment where you can interact and share insights with students working towards research degrees in public policy and policy research.  

Please note: This programme does not include practical training or lead to a professional qualification in social work. If you want to study for a qualification in social work practice, please see the MSc in Social Work.

Programme structure

The programme is delivered through a combination of intensive block teaching and weekly delivery, to ensure it is accessible to both postgraduate students as well as busy policy professionals and practitioners. You can accumulate credits flexibly and organise your patterns of attendance to suit your needs and circumstances. 

The MSc consists of five core units and one optional unit, along with a dissertation of 10,000 to 15,000 words. 

Visit our programme catalogue for full details of the structure of our MSc in Social Work Research.

Entry requirements

An upper second-class honours degree or international equivalent in a social science discipline: Sociology, Social Care, Social Work, Social Policy, Social Welfare, Public Policy, Public Administration, Business Administration, Management, Social Administration, Political Science, Psychology, Economics, Gender Studies, Development Studies, Health, History, Philosophy, Law.

We may consider subject not listed above if (a) 2.1 in any subject AND Masters degree in Social Work or (b) professional qualification in Social Work and 12 months relevant work/voluntary experience in social care role (CV required).

For applicants who are currently completing a degree, we understand that their final grade may be higher than the interim grades or module/unit grades they achieve during their studies.

We will consider applicants whose interim grades are currently slightly lower than the programme's entry requirements. We may make these applicants an aspirational offer. This offer would be at the standard level, so the applicant would need to achieve the standard entry requirements by the end of their degree. Specific module requirements may still apply.

We will consider applicants whose grades are slightly lower than the programme's entry requirements, if they have at least one of the following:

  • evidence of significant, relevant work/voluntary experience (minimum 12 months) in the following sectors/areas: mid- to high-level policy/practice work for local or national government or third sector/voluntary/community-based organisation (Manager, Director, Academic, Researcher, Social Worker, Social Carer, Social Care Manager);
  • a relevant postgraduate qualification (merit or above).

If this is the case, applicants should include their CV (curriculum vitae / résumé) when they apply, showing details of their relevant work experience and/or qualifications.

See international equivalent qualifications on the International Office website.

Read the programme admissions statement for important information on entry requirements, the application process and supporting documents required.

Go to admissions statement

If English is not your first language, you will need to reach the requirements outlined in our profile level E.

Further information about English language requirements and profile levels.

Fees and funding

UK: full-time
£12,900 per year
UK: part-time (two years)
£6,450 per year
UK: part-time (three years)
£4,300 per year
Overseas: full-time
£25,000 per year

Fees are subject to an annual review. For programmes that last longer than one year, please budget for up to an 8% increase in fees each year.

More about tuition fees, living costs and financial support.

Alumni discount

University of Bristol students and graduates can benefit from a 25% reduction in tuition fees for postgraduate study. Check your eligibility for an alumni discount.

Funding for 2024/25

Further information on funding for prospective UK and international postgraduate students.

Career prospects

This programme places strong emphasis on the development of social work/care research methods and analysis, as well as building substantive knowledge. Graduates from our MSc Social Work Research can go on to careers as social work and care researchers or analysts, or research commissioners/managers in public or private agencies, both in the UK and internationally.

Potential employers include local or central government departments; voluntary or charitable organisations; national or international non-governmental organisations; and global institutions such as the United Nations.

Alternatively, the programme provides students with the core training to further their career in academic research with a PhD in Social Work.