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 practice-based professionals or as postgraduate research students.

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

Optional units build on our particular research expertise and will focus on the skills you will require as a social work researcher engaged with a range of multi-disciplinary colleagues. For example, you may choose to study community development programmes in the context of poverty, interventions to tackle domestic violence, or programmes for young offenders. Other optional units focus on the wellbeing of particular groups: children with disabilities, people with severe and long-term mental illness, or asylum seekers and migrants.

We recognise that a number of our students will have relevant - albeit varied - experience. Therefore, there will be opportunities for you to draw on your own experiences as researchers, practitioners or service managers.

Core units are taught in collaboration with other postgraduate programmes, providing a co-learning environment and giving you the opportunity to interact and share insights with other students working towards research degrees in disability studies, policy research and health and wellbeing.

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 so that it is accessible to both full-time postgraduate students as well as busy policy professionals and practitioners. The way units are designed allows students to accumulate credits flexibly and organise their patterns of attendance to suit their needs and circumstances.

The MSc consists of four core and two optional units, 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 relevant social science discipline, such as sociology, social work, social policy, public policy, social welfare, social administration, psychology, economics, political science, business administration and management, public administration and management, gender studies, development studies, health, history, philosophy and law. Or an upper second-class honours degree or international equivalent in any subject AND a master's degree in Social Work. Or a professional qualification in social work and relevant professional or voluntary experience (minimum 18 months). A professional social work qualification is not a requirement for admission to the programme.

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
£11,000 per year
UK: part-time (two years)
£5,500 per year
Overseas: full-time
£22,000 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. 

Bristol Master's Scholarship 

£2,000 scholarships available for UK students from underrepresented groups applying for full-time master's programmes. Find out more about the Bristol Master's Scholarships and check your eligibility to apply

Funding for 2023/24

The Faculty of Social Sciences and Law has an allocation of 1+3 and +3 ESRC scholarships.

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

Career prospects

The 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, or global institutions such as the United Nations.

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