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Social Work

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A picture to illustrate studying social work at The Open University

Social work is challenging but also rewarding as the profession aims to protect children and adults from harm whatever their age, nationality, gender or disability. As a social worker, you’ll be working with people who are often in extremely distressing situations. You’ll need to be able to support individuals whatever their circumstances, working closely with other organisations, such as the police, NHS, schools and the probation service to support service users and their families.

If you already work in this field, you can train to be a social worker by studying one of our BA (Hons) in Social Work degrees, depending on where you live, but you will need to be sponsored by your employer. Successful completion will enable you to register with the relevant Care Council.  Afterwards you could specialise in a particular area, such as working with older people; children; young offenders; or people with mental health problems or learning difficulties.

Note that you can’t register yourself: your employer must register you and you must meet entry requirements. For a handbook with course information, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service. Further information is also available from the Health & Social Care website.

If you already hold a Diploma in Social Work (DipSW), topping up to the BA (Hons) in Social Work Studies by studying two modules at Level 3 is a great way to gain a degree on a part-time basis while continuing to work.

If you do not currently have the support of your employer, you may want to consider studying one of our qualifications or courses in social care.

Degrees ( More about Degrees
More about Degrees
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Undergraduate or bachelors degrees are nationally recognised qualifications consisting of academic study designed to help you gain a thorough understanding of a subject.

For a degree in a named subject, such as business studies or humanities, you'll study mainly in your chosen subject, although you may be able to include some modules from other subjects.

With The Open University you could also study an Open degree where you can combine a range of modules from similar or different subjects to suit either your particular career or personal interests.

You can use a degree to:

  • change careers or progress your current career
  • gain an in-depth knowledge and understanding of a subject you are interested in
  • gain professional recognition
  • go onto postgraduate study, such as a diploma or masters degree.
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  • Social Work (England)
    Qualify as a social worker in England with this unique work-based degree, offered in partnership with employers – who must sponsor and register you on the programme.
  • Social Work (Scotland)
    Qualify as a social worker in Scotland with this unique work-based degree, offered in partnership with employers – who must register you on the programme.
  • Social Work (Scotland)
    If you already have a UK degree, you can enter this unique work-based qualifying programme in social work at stage two. You must be registered by your employer.
  • Social Work (Wales)
    Qualify as a social worker in Wales with this unique work-based degree, offered in partnership with employers – who must register you on the programme.

Diplomas of Higher Education ( More about Diplomas of Higher Education
More about Diplomas of Higher Education
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A Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE) is equivalent to two thirds of an honours degree. They are nationally recognised qualifications focusing either on a particular job or profession, or academic study.

DipHEs are designed to increase the professional and technical skills of staff within a profession or extend your knowledge and understanding of a particular subject. A DipHE shows that you are capable of extended study at university level.

You can use a DipHE to:

  • change careers or progress your current career
  • gain technical and professional skills
  • gain a greater knowledge and understanding of a subject you are interested in
  • gain professional recognition
  • achieve a full honours degree through additional study.

The Diploma of Higher Education might be of particular interest to those living and working in Scotland.

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Certificates of Higher Education ( More about Certificates of Higher Education
More about Certificates of Higher Education
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A Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE) is a nationally recognised qualification focusing on either a particular job or profession, or academic study. Equivalent to the first year of a full honours degree, they are the most basic level of qualification that can be gained in higher education and show that you are capable of studying successfully at university level.

You can use a CertHE to:

  • gain confidence to study successfully at university level
  • change careers or progress your current career
  • build on your existing experience and gain new skills
  • gain a broad introduction to a subject you are interested in
  • achieve a foundation degree, DipHE or full honours degree through additional study.
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Getting started with an Access module

There are two ways to start a qualification. If you haven’t studied for a long time or need to build your confidence, beginning your studies with an Access module may be the right choice for you.

Choose a qualification to find out more.

Study a module as a standalone course

You can study a single module on its own for personal interest or to improve your career prospects. See the list of all our individual courses in Social Work.

Postgraduate options

If you already have a degree, you may want to see postgraduate courses and qualifications in Health and Social Care.

Are you already an OU student ? Go to StudentHome for information on choosing your next module.

Studying outside of UK and Europe?

If you live outside of the UK, Republic of Ireland and Europe, please visit our website for international students.

Your questions

Try our frequently asked questions.

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Or contact an adviser by Email or call +44(0) 845 300 60 90 +44(0) 845 366 60 35

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