England.  Change location
Image of two women having a conversation

Unfortunately, this qualification isn't available to students resident in England.

To find qualifications available in England, use our course search or see our complete list of qualifications.

BA (Honours) Social Work (Northern Ireland)

Social workers support and protect some of society’s most deprived and vulnerable people. It’s immensely challenging and rewarding work, requiring a high level of motivation and commitment. Our BA (Honours) Social Work (Northern Ireland) is approved by the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC), and successful completion entitles you to apply for registration as a social worker. As part of this work-based programme, you’ll need to have current experience either working or volunteering in a social work/care capacity, and you'll also need the sponsorship of a relevant social work/care employer throughout your degree.

Key features of the course

  • Continue in your employment while you study, earning while you learn
  • Study through work-based and distance learning
  • Develop the knowledge and practical skills that underpin effective practice
  • Improve your career progression and opportunities within social work

Course Summary

Degree

Degree

  • Also known as an undergraduate or bachelors degree.
  • Internationally respected, universally understood.
  • An essential requirement for many high-level jobs.
  • Gain a thorough understanding of your subject – and the tools to investigate, think critically, form reasoned arguments, solve problems and communicate effectively in new contexts.
  • Progress to higher level study, such as a postgraduate diploma or masters degree.
Course code
R61
Credits

Credits

  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
360
How long it takes
Part time – 6 years
Full time – 3 years
Time limit – 8 years
Study method
Distance learning
& Practice-based learning
Practice-based learning is learning delivered in partnership with employers to support their staff development aims.

We’ve blended our unique distance learning approach with learning undertaken in your workplace:

 

  • A flexible model with the potential to earn as you learn.
  • Develop highly relevant skills and knowledge to advance your career.
  • Allows employers to support employees to develop within the organisation.
  • Recognises both academic achievement and attainment of work competencies.
  • Provides a setting for the assessment of professional competencies, where this is a requirement for your qualification.

Course details

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 options, and conclude your degree with a practice module where you will undertake a 100-day placement.

Prepare for OU study with an Access module

We offer two starting points depending on how confident you are or how long it’s been since you last studied. Choose to dive straight in at Stage 1, or if you’d prefer some extra preparation, you can get started with an optional Access module. See Entry requirements for more details.

Stage 1 (120 credits)

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.

ModulesCredits
You'll start your degree with:
Introducing health and social care (K102)60
You'll also study:
Foundations for social care and social work practice (K123)60

Stage 2 (120 credits)

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.

ModulesCredits
You'll study both of the following:
Social work law (K271)60
Applied social work practice (K216)60

Stage 3 (120 credits)

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 13 April 2022.


Accessibility

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

Credit transfer

Credit transfer for this degree is extremely limited because it is a professional programme. Restrictions such as time limits and credit applicability will apply.  However, if you’ve already completed some study with the OU or at another university within the last 5 years, you may be able to count credit towards Stage 1 of this degree.

For more details and an application form, visit our Credit Transfer website.


Classification of your degree

On successfully completing this course, we’ll award you our BA (Honours) Social Work (Northern Ireland).

The class of honours (first, upper-second, lower-second or third) will depend on your grades at Stages 2 and 3.

You’ll have the opportunity to attend a degree ceremony.

International recognition

If you intend to use your Open University qualifications to seek work or undertake further study outside the UK, we recommend checking whether your intended qualification will meet local requirements for your chosen career. Find out more about international recognition of Open University qualifications.

Regulations

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. 


Compare this course

Entry requirements

Some modules that make up this degree are available for standalone study, however, you can only apply to study the BA (Honours) Social Work (Northern Ireland) if you are:

  • resident in Northern Ireland
  • in receipt of the appropriate funding from the Department of Health
  • sponsored and supported by your employer.

Your employer must be a Designated or Associate Practice Learning Provider for social work placements (DPLP/APLP). If your employer is not a DPLP or APLP they should contact the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC) for further information. 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.

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
  • show successful registration as a Student Social Worker with the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC)

Entry to the degree must be through your employing agency; you cannot apply direct to the OU.

Start dates

October 2023

Places on this qualification are limited

Find out more

For more information, we've put together some Frequently Asked Questions for employers and individuals interested in the programme:

How much time do I need?

  • Most of our students study complete the degree in three years, completing 120 credits a year.
  • This will usually mean studying for 16–32 hours a week, depending on how many modules you are studying, plus work-based learning.

Find out if you have enough time to study with our time planner

Preparing for study with an Access module

Students who start their study with an Access module are more likely to be successful when they advance to Stage 1 of their qualification. They’re specially designed to give you a gentle introduction to OU study, boost confidence in your study skills, and help you gain a broad overview of your chosen subject area.

You’ll also benefit from:

  • feedback from your tutor through regular one-to-one phone tutorials
  • support from a dedicated team throughout your study
  • detailed written feedback on your work.
The Access module we’d recommend studying in preparation for this qualification is either:

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

Psychology, social science and wellbeing 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 psychology, childhood and youth studies, health and social wellbeing, sport, education and social sciences.

View full details of Psychology, social science and wellbeing Access module

This course is not available to students resident in England.

How will I study this course?

With our unique approach to distance learning, you can study from home, work, or on the move.

You’ll have some assessment deadlines to meet, but otherwise you’ll be free to study at the times that suit you, fitting your learning around work, family, and social life.

For each of your modules, you’ll use either just online resources or a mix of online and printed materials.

Each module you study will have a module website, with:

  • a week-by-week study planner, giving you a step-by-step guide through your studies
  • course materials such as reading, videos, recordings, and self-assessed activities
  • module forums for discussions and collaborative activities with other students
  • details of each assignment and their due dates
  • a tutorial booking system, online tutorial rooms, and your tutor’s contact details
  • online versions of some printed module materials and resources.

If you have additional needs, we can also provide most module materials in alternative formats. Find out more about materials on our accessibility webpage.


Tutor support

You’ll have a tutor for each module, who will introduce themselves before the module begins.

Throughout the module, they will:

  • mark your assignments and give feedback to help you improve
  • guide you to learning resources
  • support you, whether with general study skills or help with a specific topic.

Tutorials

Tutorials throughout the course could be online, face-to-face or a mixture of the two, and they’re always optional.

Online tutorials are live presentations with module tutors in dedicated online tutorial rooms, and are sometimes recorded.


Assessment

Our assessments are all designed to reinforce your learning and help you show your understanding of the topics. The mix of assessment methods will vary between modules.

Computer-Marked Assignments

  • Usually a series of online, multiple-choice questions.

Tutor-Marked Assignments

  • You’ll have a number of these throughout each module, each with a submission deadline.
  • They can be made up of essays, questions, experiments or something else to test your understanding of what you have learned.
  • Your tutor will mark and return them to you with detailed feedback.

End-of-Module Assessments

  • The final, marked piece of work on most modules.
  • Modules with an end of module assessment won’t usually have an exam.

Exams

  • Some modules end with an exam. You’ll be given time to revise and prepare.
  • You’ll be given your exam date at least 5 months in advance.
  • Most exams take place remotely, and you will complete them at home or at an alternative location.
  • If a module requires you to take a face-to-face exam, this will be made clear in the module description, and you will be required to take your exam in person at one of our exam centres.

Progressing to a point where I felt more comfortable writing my assignments, and having my scores reflecting that, made me quite happy because it showed the hard work was being rewarded.

Patrick ‘Ricky’ Skene, BSc (Hons) Sport, Fitness and Coaching

Other support and resources

Throughout your studies, you’ll have access to our subject-specific Student Support Teams.

They’ll help you with any general questions about your study and updates to your OU account.

To help with your studies, you’ll also have access to:

  • our online library, with high-quality online resources to support your study
  • other university libraries in the UK and Ireland
  • the online Help Centre, which has general information about OU study and support, along with study skills advice
  • free Microsoft Office 365 software
  • IT and computing support from our Computing Helpdesk.

Find out more about student support and being a part of the OU community.

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.

Career relevance

An honours degree in social work is now the minimum professional qualification required for all social workers in the UK.

Accreditation

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.

Other careers

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
  • Lecturer
  • Adult guidance worker
  • Advice worker
  • Careers adviser
  • Charity officer
  • Community development worker
  • Equality and diversity officer
  • Counsellor
  • Health promotion specialist
  • Volunteer coordinator
  • Youth worker.

Register

Unfortunately, this qualification is not available to students resident in England.

Request your Health and Social Care prospectus

Our prospectuses help you choose your course, understand what it's like to be an OU student and register for study.

Request prospectus