Master of Arts in Social Work

  • NFQ Level 9
  • Credits 120*
  • Course Code SG_WSOWO_M09
  • Award Masters (Taught)
  • Duration 2

Course Summary

The aim of this programme is to allow individuals to become professional and competent social workers who are knowledgeable, reflective, research-focused practitioners, able to work critically and ethically in a variety of different sectors. 


To provide students with the knowledge, skills and competencies to become professional social workers in a variety of settings within the statutory, voluntary and independent sectors.

  • To support students in developing a critical awareness of current issues facing society and generate innovative ideas to support the resolution of such issues.
  • To facilitate students to develop an understanding of professional accountability and the legal and regulatory framework within which social work operates.
  • To equip students to reflect, practise ethical, innovative and effective social work practice that actively promotes social justice in a diverse society.
  • To develop learners who not only recognise and understand the importance of evidence and research in and to practice but who can contribute to this debate and apply to social work practice.
  • To develop civic and social responsibility as an informed learner.

The programme does not accept a request for advanced entry to ensure the required competency of ATU graduates.

Key Course Information

Duration: The programme is two years full-time.Students may undertake the programme over a longer period, and this can be discussed with the Programme Director. 

Models of Teaching and Learning: As part of the student learning experience, students will be active participants in the learning, involved in case studies, role-playing, and scenario-based learning. This engaged teaching and learning model supports students' successful transition to placement learning and future careers.

Placement: Students complete two practice placements as part of the programme.

The programme is delivered by experts in social work practice and discipline-specific expertise.

There are a limited number of places on this programme.

Accredited by ATU through delegated authority.

Level 9 on the National Framework of Qualifications

MA 120 (ECTS = European Credit Transfer System

This programme is approved by CORU.

Intake: September

Application Closing Date : 16th August 2024

Entry Requirements

Admissions and Selection Criteria

Once an applicant registers their application on the system using the 'Apply Now' link on the programme page (on the ATU website), they will be required to follow 6 steps, for example they will be asked to upload a CV, their third level results (transcripts are required at a later stage) and references.  NB: All that is required at this point from an MSW applicant is their CV and transcripts (if they have them available, if not we will offer an opportunity at a late stage to submit these).  MSW applicants can skip other steps, where they are asked for references, as we look for very specific information later. This then registers the applicant on our system.  Following this, they will receive communication from admissions, requesting other more specific documentation, namely:

  1. A copy of their third level transcripts (it must be a relevant qualification within the discipline of social sciences)
  2. CV (if not already uploaded
  3. Applicants will be given 3 templates by the admissions team: (a) Academic Reference Template (b) Employer Reference Template and (c) a Work/Practice Experience form  Template 

Applicants need to ensure that the academic reference, employer reference and evidence of relevant practice experience are provided on the templates provided only. 

Applicants should not provide any other documentation other than what is listed above.  Applicants will be given a deadline for the provision of all relevant documentation after which time shortlisting then occurs.  If an applicant is shortlisted, they will be invited to interview, interviews have two components (1) written assessment and (2) individual interview.

To be considered for an interview and selection for this programme, applicants:

  • Require a grade of 2.1 or above in Social Sciences, i.e. B.Soc.Sc, Community Development, Early Childhood Care and Education, Psychology, Social Policy, Social Science, Social Care Practice, Sociology, Social Policy, Youth and Family Studies. If an applicant has a level 8 award in a discipline that is not social sciences, they must hold a postgraduate award in social sciences (minimum 2.1 grade).  If an applicant has a level 8 award in a discipline that is not social sciences, they must hold a postgraduate award in social sciences (minimum 2.1 grade). Students with a grade of 2.2 with greater than five years of relevant experience may be considered as suitable applicants to the programme.
  • Following registration of your application on the system, you will receive further guidance and documentation for completion from the admissions team.
  • English Proficiency: As all lectures, tutorials and practical work are delivered through English, it is vitally important all students (who are not English native speakers) have the required standard on entry to ensure they gain maximum value from their time at ATU Sligo. The required minimum proficiency score in English required for entry to an MA Programme is IELTS 6.0 or equivalent. Further information on English proficiency requirements can be found here. Where this is relevant to an applicant’s submissions, Certified Evidence must be submitted during the application process.
  • Students must have completed 420 hours  (min of 200 at interview) of non-study related practice experience before they commence the programme.

Application Process

Stage One:

Students will apply for the programme online. All applicants will be reviewed, and those who demonstrate that they meet the application criteria will be shortlisted for the next stage of the selection process. If a large number meets the criteria, exceeding places available, shortlisting for the next stage based on the highest overall GPA will occur. It is the student's responsibility to ensure all documents, including references, are received before the application deadline. Incomplete applications will not be processed. No late applications will be considered.

Stage Two:

Shortlisted applicants will attend a full day of interview and selection.

There are two components: (1) Written Assessment and (2) Individual Interview, all of which will be graded.

  • Written Assessment. Candidates will be given a topic to respond to within a specific timeframe.

  • Individual Interview

The highest-scoring applicants will be awarded places.

Garda Vetting

Garda Vetting is a requirement of this programme and will comply with ATU`s Student Vetting Policy.  During the Garda Vetting Process, issues that may emerge which were not declared by the student on the initial Vetting form may result in immediate termination of participation on the Programme. Offences that are disclosed through the process that is considered a serious risk to children and vulnerable persons may also result in a student’s discontinuation from the Programme.

Fitness to Practice

A student in the Master's in Social Work must be Fit to Practice. ATU`s guidance on Fitness to Practice is found in its policy. Students will be required to read this policy and acknowledge that they have read and understood this requirement.

Immunisations & Vaccinations 
Placement agencies may require students to be immunised against specific infectious diseases.
The Department recommends that Social Work students are protected against Hepatitis B, Tuberculosis (TB), Mumps, Measles Rubella (MMR) and Varicella (Chicken Pox).

The closing date is 01 April 2024

Career Opportunities

Upon qualification graduates are eligible to register with CORU (regulator) to practice in the profession of Social Work It is anticipated that the majority of graduates of this programme will enter the many vacancies in the social work field. Consequently, the programme has been developed to provide academic knowledge, and skills to work in a variety of social work environments.

This programme is approved by CORU.

Further Study

Graduates of the MA will be able to continue to further study at postgraduate level (NFQ levels 10) at ATU Sligo and other institutions.

Programme Fees

MA Social Work-

€4,750 fee per year.