Jacqueline Gallagher, Masters in Social Work

I worked for several years in the childcare sector, as a Montessori creche owner and progressed on to working with families as a support worker in the Lifestart programme in Sligo town. In 2008 I undertook a Degree in Social Care and from there progressed on to start a research masters, where my focus was on children affected by imprisonment.

In 2018, ATU Sligo launched the new Masters in Social Work and on reviewing the modules and learning outcomes of the course, I really felt that it was closely aligned to where I wanted to develop my career. At the time I had a young family and was working full-time, so I knew that if I was going to take it on, I needed to be very committed. I was drawn to Social Work, as I really wanted to help empower families and communities to be more in control of their own life experiences.

The application process was very thorough. On reflection I believe this is necessary to ensure that students are committed and have both the necessary skills and on the ground experience to progress through the course successfully.  I had to do plenty of preparation for the interview and was really delighted when I was offered a place.

The the level of work is significant and I dedicate myself full-time to study. I was on-campus for lectures 3 days per week and the other 2 days I was in the library.  The class size was small and together we supported one another to get through the workload.

There are 2 mandatory four month work placements on the course in both year one and year two. The placements are based on your learning needs, meaning you will be placed in a setting that will allow you to develop skills in that area. The placement enables the student to put the learned theory into practice under the guidance of expert practice teachers and the lecturing staff.

In second year, there is a 10,000-word thesis. In addition to support from my supervisor, I found the staff in the library a fantastic resource and very supportive of students completing a final year thesis.

Law was one of the standout modules, which really prepared you for going out into the workforce. Policy & Practice informs you and keeps you up to date as policies are continuously changing. Skills & Competencies are the nuts and bolts of the course and trains you for things like working with conflict using role play scenarios. There is also an element of self-directed learning

The course is CORU approved meaning I graduated with a recognized qualification and am eligible to apply to register as a professionally qualified social worker with CORU. This qualification is also recognised in many other countries.

There are lots of employment opportunities in the North West region and nationally. The course has really given me a whole new career and whilst it was tough, I am now working in a profession where I can make a positive contribution to society. The fact that the course is available in ATU Sligo, in my local region and I could work and study close to home, really was the icing on the cake.