This degree has three stages, each comprising 120 credits.
- You’ll start Stage 1 with a module introducing health and social care, followed by a module which introduces social work practice, the key roles, standards of conduct and communication skills for social workers.
- Stage 2 starts with a module covering the law and social work, and is followed by a practice module which includes a 85-day placement.
- At Stage 3, you’ll choose one module from a choice of four options, and conclude your degree with a practice module where you will undertake a 100-day placement.
Optional Access module – visit Entry requirements to find out about starting this course with a preparatory Access module.
In Stage 1 you are introduced to the social work process, theory and reflective practice. You’ll gain fascinating perspectives on contemporary society and how we organise social care. It’s the ideal start to your journey towards registration as a professional social worker, as it allows you to demonstrate your social work values, skills and knowledge in order to prepare you for your first practice placement.
Stage 2 introduces you to legislation and its application for social workers across a range of practice areas including adults, children and family services. You’ll be introduced to a broader knowledge base, and expected to show how you can select and apply social work theory and models of intervention to your own practice. You'll also demonstrate capacity of working in situations with greater complexity and risk. Ultimately, you will improve your understanding of the key roles that social workers undertake within the social work process.
At Stage 3 you’ll choose one area of interest to study from four options, then finish your degree with a practice-based module. You will develop a critical approach to theory and to your practice. There is an expectation that you will become an increasingly confident, analytical, and reflective learner and an independent practitioner. After successfully completing your degree, you can apply to register with the social work regulator in Northern Ireland and begin your career as a newly qualified social worker.
We regularly review our curriculum; therefore, the qualification described on this page – including its availability, its structure, and available modules – may change over time. If we make changes to this qualification, we’ll update this page as soon as possible. Once you’ve registered or are studying this qualification, where practicable, we’ll inform you in good time of any upcoming changes. If you’d like to know more about the circumstances in which the University might make changes to the curriculum, see our Academic Regulations or contact us. This description was last updated on 04 May 2020.
We make all our qualifications as accessible as possible and have a comprehensive range of services to support all our students. The BA (Honours) Social Work (Northern Ireland) uses a variety of study materials and has the following elements:
- studying a mixture of printed and online material – online learning resources may include websites, audio/video media clips, and interactive activities such as online quizzes
- working in a group with other students
- using and producing diagrams and screenshots
- undertaking practical work
- finding external/third party material online
In addition to the above, there may be entry requirements for this qualification, which include medical criteria, set by the regulatory body in Northern Ireland. Visit Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC) for more information.
For more detailed information, see the Accessibility Statements on individual module descriptions. If you feel you may need additional support, visit Disability support to find more about what we offer.
Learning outcomes, teaching and assessment
This qualification develops your learning in four main areas:
- Knowledge and understanding
- Cognitive skills
- Practical and professional skills
- Key skills
The level and depth of your learning gradually increases as you work through the qualification. You’ll be supported throughout by the OU’s unique style of teaching and assessment – which includes a personal tutor to guide and comment on your work; top quality course texts; elearning resources like podcasts, interactive media and online materials; tutorial groups and community forums.
Read the detailed learning outcomes here
If you’ve already completed some study at another university, you may be able to count it towards your Open University qualification – reducing the number of modules you need to study.
You should apply for credit transfer before you register, at least 4 weeks before the registration closing date. Just tell us what you studied, where and when, and we’ll compare this against the learning outcomes for your chosen course.
For more details and an application form, visit our Credit Transfer website.
Classification of your degree
On successfully completing this undergraduate course, you'll be awarded the BA (Honours) Social Work (Northern Ireland) degree. The class of degree (first, upper second, lower second or third-class honours) depends on your grades at Stages 2 and 3.
You'll have the opportunity to attend a degree ceremony.
As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the qualification-specific regulations below and the academic regulations that are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.
Although some modules in this degree are available to all students, the full degree programme is at present restricted to students who are being sponsored in their practice by their employing agency.
If sponsorship isn’t available to you right now, you may wish to study our Certificate of Higher Education in Social Care while you secure support from an employer.
To study this degree, you must also:
- have GCSE at grades A*-C in English and mathematics or certified equivalent
- meet the UCAS tariff threshold of 96 points or equivalent
- show that you can communicate clearly in spoken and written English (with and IELTS score of 7 if English is not your first language)
- demonstrate that you have the appropriate personal and intellectual qualities to be a social worker
- obtain an Enhanced Disclosure from Access Northern Ireland
- complete a health check
- produce a written personal statement in your application
- take part in an interview.
Entry to the degree must be through your employing agency; you cannot apply direct to the OU. If you volunteer with a social care agency, they may be able to sponsor you on to the programme, but they must be a designated site for providing social work placements.
Agencies and individuals interested in taking part in the programme are invited to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Students who get a place on the degree course can pay their own fees or be funded by their employer, or a combination of both.
How much time do I need?
Find out if you have enough time to study with our time planner
- Most of our students study part time, completing 60 credits a year.
- This will usually mean studying for 16–18 hours a week, plus work-based learning.
Preparing for study with an Access module
If your study skills are a bit rusty or you want to try out Open University study before committing yourself, don’t worry! The OU offers Access modules designed to introduce the subject area, build your confidence and prepare you for further study, and you may be eligible to study an Access module for free! You'll get:
- a personal tutor providing regular feedback with one to one telephone tutorials
- support from a dedicated team throughout your study
- detailed written feedback.
For this qualification we recommend:
People, work and society Access module
What you will study
This multidisciplinary module provides an excellent introduction to studying with The Open University; you'll get to cover a wide range of subject areas, including childhood and youth studies, social science, psychology, health, business and law.
View full details of People, work and society Access module
Skills for career development
This degree will develop the skills needed to work with individuals, families, carers, groups, communities and other professionals, and you’ll be able to demonstrate to employers your professional competence in social work practice. Employers sponsoring staff on this degree have commented that:
- OU graduates are enthusiastic social workers who are well equipped to provide high quality interventions with service users
- a very high percentage of their OU qualified staff remain within their organisation and progress to more senior roles.
An honours degree in social work is now the minimum professional qualification required for all social workers in the UK.
Once you’ve successfully completed this degree course, you’ll be entitled to apply for registration with Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC) and begin your career as an AYE qualified social worker.
Many graduate-level jobs are open to graduates of any discipline, particularly in business, finance, management consultancy and the public sector. Some careers may require further study, training and/or work experience beyond your degree.
Exploring your options
Once you register with us (and for up to three years after you finish your studies), you’ll have full access to our careers service for a wide range of information and advice. This includes online forums, website, interview simulation, vacancy service as well as the option to email or speak to a careers adviser. Some areas of the careers service website are available for you to see now, including help with looking for and applying for jobs. You can also read more general information about how OU study enhances your career.
In the meantime if you want to do some research around this qualification and where it might take you, we’ve put together a list of relevant job titles as a starting point. Some careers may require further study, training and/or work experience beyond your degree):
- Social worker
- Care home manager
- Probation officer
- Prison officer
- Adult guidance worker
- Advice worker
- Careers adviser
- Charity officer
- Community development worker
- Equality and diversity officer
- Health promotion specialist
- Volunteer coordinator
- Youth worker.