School of Health Professions

PgDip Social Work

Want to make a rewarding and positive contribution to society? Social workers support children and families through child protection procedures, fostering and adoption and youth justice to name but a few. They also support adults with issues including disability, drug and alcohol dependency, mental health, homelessness and safeguarding.

You'll gather insights and develop a real understanding of social work through our highly commended approach to integrated learning. You will equip yourself with the skills to be a reflective and ethical practitioner, committed to lifelong learning.

Careers with this subject
Social workers support people experiencing difficult times of change and circumstances, by offering guidance and acting as an advocate for people who are vulnerable. Specialising in supporting children, adults, or adults with a range of issues, they use social care legislation to improve outcomes in people’s lives and safeguard their rights.
Social workers offer support to a wide range of people.
  • Safe environment 
    Social workers offer support to provide a safe environment for families to thrive.
  • Adoption 
    Social workers support the adoption process again to create safe and happy environments.
  • Voices are heard 
    Social workers ensure children’s voices are heard and listened to especially if they have disabilities or are vulnerable.
  • Societal and personal issues 
    Social workers support adults who may be dealing with issues related to homelessness, addiction, and maintaining good mental health. They also help clients to live independently and safely.
  • People’s rights
    Social workers champion people’s rights to ensure they are being respected and valued.
Social workers work with people of all ages, from the very start of life to the end. As a result, some difficulties may be more prevalent in certain age or service user groups than others. Some of the clients you might see include:
  • older people
  • children and families
  • young people who may have been involved in criminal activity, for example county lines
  • people with substance misuse such as drugs and/or alcohol
  • people who are homeless
  • people experiencing poor mental health
  • children and adults with disabilities
Key features
  • Get a head start – on successful completion of the course you can apply to become a registered social worker.
  • Benefit from the expertise of our network of partner agencies across the social work spectrum, learning from professionals to develop your skills.
  • Enhance your career options – six months after finishing the course, 95% of our graduates are in work or further study (source: 2019 DLHE survey).
  • Gather insights and develop a real understanding of social work through our highly commended approach to integrated learning.
  • Build your hands-on knowledge and experience on an excellent variety of placements, working in real-life adult and childcare settings in both years.
  •  From 2023, students in Plymouth can train and practice their professional healthcare skills in an inspiring purpose-built environment, InterCity Place
  • Engage with real service users and carers at every stage of your learning, so you graduate primed to put effective strategies to use in the workplace.
  • Learn about the increasing influence of global issues on social work and be inspired by staff who are leading the way in international social work.
  • Develop as a professional – equip yourself with the skills to be a reflective and ethical practitioner, committed to lifelong learning.
Course details
  • Year 1

  • Over the course of the programme you will cover the fundamental knowledge needed for social work focusing upon social policy and law, ethics and values, contemporary theory and professional practice. In doing so you will be learning how to apply ethical and theoretical perspectives to human development, understanding social sciences in a social work setting and getting to grips with applying legal and social policy in the context of welfare. Exploring issues of diversity and difference, reflecting on real-life issues that impact service users and carers, and develop your skills in collaborative working making connections between local and global issues. Learn how to analyse complex issues, and apply your knowledge and skills to resolve them. Gain a critical perspective on complex, uncertain and changing contexts in social work, further your skills working in multi-agency settings and develop your understanding of the international arena.In developing your professional practice you will engage in 30 skills days in preparation for practice, followed by 170 days of practice learning; 70 days in the first year and 100 in the final year in contrasting placements. In your final year, you’ll consolidate your learning, working towards becoming a safe, competent, ethical practitioner who demonstrates sound professional judgement.
    The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.

    Core modules

    • Social Policy and Law (SW701)

      The module provides students with up-to date knowledge and critical understanding of the law and social policy relevant to professional social work in the UK and explores how to use this knowledge and understanding in work with vulnerable people with diverse need

    • Professional Practice (SW702)

      The module examines contemporary social work practices including undertaking of child observation sessions, group presentations, narrative sessions conducted by the Service User/Carer Consultative Group, and an interactive course in advanced communication skills. Lecturers and guest lecturers cover an array of topics including, Critical Reflection and Critical Analysis, Safeguarding, Signs and Symptoms of Abuse, Human Growth and Development, Attachment Theory, Mental Health, Assessment Processes, Ecological Theory, Task Centred Practice, Motivational Interviewing, Drug and Alcohol misuse, Crisis management and Global Social Work.

    • Contemporary Social Work Theories and Issues (SW703)

      This module critically examines contemporary theories and social issues that are helpful in understanding the behaviour and/or functioning of individuals and communities most relevant to social work practice. Students are expected to examine their own relationship to these issues and develop the skills of theorisation as expected at a graduate level

    • Ethics and Values for Social Workers (SW704)

      The interrelationship between theory, practice and core values is presented as critical in the delivery of care. Account is taken of transcendent basic humanitarian principles in social work. Major social philosophies and virtue ethics underpinning care are considered and the moral dilemmas arising from conflicts between personal, professional and organisational norms.

    • Integrated Practice I (SW705)

      This module will enable students to develop their professional identity through the integration of theory, methods, skills, knowledge and values within practice. Combining classroom and practice based learning and opportunities it will provide students with a repertoire of critical knowledge, skills, evidenced based and informed responses and interventions congruent with working with people and situations across a plethora of society

  • Final year

  • Core modules

    • Integrated Practice II (SW706)

      The module enables students to consolidate their professional identity through integration of theory, methods, skills and values in practice. Teaching and practice learning provide students with a repertoire of evidenced informed responses congruent with complex practice situations. The module seeks to prepare students for the socio-legal and procedural aspects of statutory social work.

Every postgraduate taught course has a detailed programme specification document describing the programme aims, the programme structure, the teaching and learning methods, the learning outcomes and the rules of assessment.

The following programme specification represents the latest programme structure and may be subject to change:

PgDip Social Work Programme Specification 22-23 7399

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.
Entry requirements
You should have a lower second-class (2:2) undergraduate honours degree or above.
Your undergraduate degree can be in any subject. You must have GCSE 4/C for Mathematics and English or above.
A minimum of twelve months’ experience working with vulnerable or disadvantaged people in a social welfare capacity/setting (statutory, voluntary or independent sector, waged, unwaged or part-time, in the UK or overseas).
Extended entry requirements
  • In addition to the above, evidence of academic study within the last five years is required.
  • You must pass disclosure and barring service and occupational health checks satisfactorily in order to be able to start this course.
  • If English is not your first language and you do not have GCSE English grade 4/C or above you will have to achieve an IELTS or equivalent qualification at the grades stated below.
  • IELTS – 7.0 overall with a minimum of 6.5 in all elements.
  • Meeting the academic minimum is the first stage of an application being considered. Applicants must also submit a strong personal statement in order to be considered further.
  • English language requirements
Fees, costs and funding
Student 2022-2023 2023-2024
Home £6,270 £6,470
International £10,470 £10,800
Part time (Home) N/A N/A
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per a number of credits. Please note that fees are reviewed on an annual basis. Fees and the conditions that apply to them shown in the prospectus are correct at the time of going to print. Fees shown on the web are the most up to date but are still subject to change in exceptional circumstances. More information about fees and funding.

Additional costs

All students within the School of Health Professions will spend time in placements away from university. The South West is a largely rural region, which often requires students to travel longer and further distances than may be expected when universities are in largely urban areas. In many cases students will stay away from home for the period of that placement time. Some students on these courses are eligible for reimbursement of additional travel and accommodation costs over normal daily travel costs. This support is part of the Learning Support Fund administered through the NHS Business Services Authority. However, this should be investigated by the student to make sure this applies to your chosen course of study.
It is difficult to give a precise estimate of placement costs for each individual programme, due to the geographical spread of placements, and duration. However it is recommended you attend an Open Day to find out more about what placement costs can be anticipated or discuss placement with a member of our admissions teams.
Despite these costs, clinical placements offer an excellent opportunity to learn from experienced clinicians and are recognised as an essential part of students' development towards becoming a registered practitioner.
Further information
More details of any additional costs associated with the faculty's courses are listed on the following page: Faculty of Health additional costs

Tuition fee discount for University of Plymouth graduates

If you studied your undergraduate degree at Plymouth, you may be eligible for a fee discount if you complete your postgraduate studies here as well.
  • 20% discount on tuition fees for home students
  • £2,000 discount on tuition fees for international students

This programme is not eligible for the Postgraduate Master’s Loan.
How to apply

All applications for undergraduate courses are made through UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service).

UCAS will ask for the information contained in the box at the top of this course page including the UCAS course code and the institution code.

To apply for this course and for more information about submitting an application including application deadline dates, please visit the UCAS website.

The deadline for the receipt of international applications is 31 May 2023 for entry in September 2023.

Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office via our how to apply webpage or email

Information required by UCAS

Institution code

Campus code
There is no campus code

Application deadline
See UCAS website for deadline dates

Apply now

Professional accreditation

By Social Work England. 


You’ll spend over 170 days on placement during the course. You’ll have the chance to experience what it’s like to work in a variety of settings, these may include community-based projects, fostering teams, a variety of mental health teams and services, drug and alcohol teams, older adults, hospital discharge, children and family work, young adults or working with asylum seekers.

Personal holidays

In order to successfully complete your course and be eligible to apply for a professional registration you must complete a specified number of practice placement hours along with your theoretical study. Therefore you’ll only be able to take personal holidays during the specified leave periods for your course. This includes induction week where it is vital you attend all sessions.

Learning support

Our social work team is committed to providing you with the best possible learning experience during your time on the course. As well as the standard teaching, you’ll have the opportunity to get involved in activities working with wider issues locally and globally – giving you a better understanding of the issues relevant to social workers around the world. Possibilities exist (subject to agreement) for undertaking placements in different countries such as Africa or accessing the Erasmus scheme for a European placement in the year following graduation. 

Social Worker of the Year Awards

Three social work graduates were shortlisted for the 2018 Social Worker of the Year Awards, which aim to celebrate the achievements of practitioners in both children’s and adult services. In 2017, Gareth Benjamin, a graduate from the BA programme in 2013, won the Mental Health Social Worker of the Year category.

Margaret Jelley, Lecturer in Social Work said:

“These successes prove that the social work programmes at the University are producing excellent social work professionals, recognised at national level.”

Learn more about the 2018 awards

<p>Social Work</p>

Greta Cerniauskaite

As a child Greta moved from Lithuania to the UK. The support she was given helped her to integrate and inspired her to study social work

The second year of University provided an eye-opening journey, I would have never expected to gain such a vast range of knowledge and experiences from a degree. My practice placement was at British Red Cross Refugee Services and my degree equipped me with the knowledge to engage with the service users and provide the information or support they required.

To find out more about Greta's experiences you can read her profile

<p>Greta Cerniauskaite – BA (Hons) Social Work student</p>


Could our graduates inspire you?

“When you're working with people in a really vulnerable time of their lives, you feel really privileged that they've let you in and they've trusted you and that is a really rewarding part of the role.”

Enya Richards explains the moment she realised she was becoming a social worker and her most challenging moment so far.

Find out more about Enya's story

Read Enya's article 'Social work's person-centred focus will be key to a sustainable future after the pandemic'. This article first appeared in the May 2020 edition of Professional Social Work magazine published by the British Association of Social Workers.

Alison Smith

Alison graduated from BA (Hons) Social Work in 2014. She decided to pursue her interest in social policy and further education and is now studying MSc Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Southampton.

"The University was very supportive and nurturing and allowed me to leave feeling confident in my ability to perform as a social worker; this had a significant impact on my career aspirations. Further to this, the placements that I went on during my time at Plymouth gave me the experience I needed to take the next steps in my career."

Learn more about Alison's experiences

<p>Alison Smith</p>

Gareth Benjamin

Since graduating in 2013, Gareth has developed an interest in mental health and recently was honoured with winning the Mental Health Social Worker of the Year 2017 Gold Award. Gareth now works as a Social Worker for Livewell Southwest.

“Plymouth prepared me well for the challenges of my career. My final year placement gave me an insight into the work I would be carrying out and the course helped me develop the skills needed to succeed in an environment where you must be creative in finding solutions."

Find out more about Gareth's story

<p>Gareth Benjamin,&nbsp;BA (Hons) Social Work<br></p>

English Language Centre

We offer a range of courses to help you develop your academic English language skills.
These include pre-sessional academic English courses for undergraduates, taught postgraduates and research students along with insessional language classes, tutorials and activities to support students who have English as a second language.

Find out how we can help you reach your potential.
Plymouth Hoe
BSc (Hons) International Relations with Spanish

International students

Thinking about coming to study in Plymouth? Find the answers to many of your questions here, as well as links to places where you can discover more.