Social Work


Bachelor of Social Work
Bachelor of Arts with Honours
Master of Social Work (by thesis) 
Master of Social Work (Applied)
Doctor of Philosophy



Social workers provide professional assistance to those experiencing difficulties in their lives and in their communities. They work with individuals, families, groups and organisations in a wide range of social service and social policy fields.

The Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) is a great option to consider if you are interested in working in a people-focused career. Professionally trained people are needed in increasing numbers to work in the social services, nationally and internationally.

The BSW is designed for students wishing to enter the social work profession, but is also valuable for those wishing to work in other people-oriented and social policy occupations.

You will study a variety of courses from the social sciences and Māori studies, as well as specialist Social Work topics and completing fieldwork practice in the community. The programme equips students with the experience, skills and knowledge to provide professional assistance and policy advice, along with provisional statutory registration.

Why study Social Work at UC?

Home to New Zealand's longest-established Social Work programme, UC offers qualifications which are internationally recognised. The programme is well-known for its high quality Social Work education and research and is home to the Te Awatea Violence Research Centre, which is leading New Zealand research in that area.

The Social Work programme is friendly and accessible, with interactive classes and a strong practice orientation. Students are likely to work with diverse populations and thus learn about practical issues relevant to Māori, Pacific and other communities. They also have the opportunity to pursue special interests in topics such as mental health, child welfare, criminal justice, violence and abuse, and gender and sexuality studies.

Interactive teaching styles are employed at all levels of the programme and students are encouraged to contribute to discussions. In the first year this is greatly enhanced by a specially designed and supportive tutorial programme. Later on in the degree, practice skills and fieldwork courses prepare students to work in a diverse range of organisations.

Recommended preparation

Entry to the first year of the Bachelor of Social Work is open to all students with entry to the University.

While there are no particular school subjects required for the study of Social Work, a background in subjects which require communication skills such as English, history, geography or Te Reo Māori are useful. Volunteer work in the community is good preparation.


See all Social Work courses

100-level courses

For the first year of the BSW you are required to take the three compulsory courses in Social Work:

Social Work courses at 100 and 200-level can also be taken by students studying for other degrees who want to build into their studies a knowledge of social work practice, policy and research.

200-level and beyond

There are three compulsory 200-level Social Work courses that explore communication in the human services, human behaviour and development, and also social policy debates in the social services, and one compulsory Māori and Indigenous Studies course. Students also take Human Services, Psychology, Sociology, Māori and Indigenous Studies and Te Reo Māori courses according to the elective stream they have chosen (see the BSW degree page).

Limited entry to third year

Entry to the third year of the Bachelor of Social Work is limited to students who have successfully completed the compulsory 100 and 200-level courses and who have been accepted into the programme following an interview and selection process. If you decide not to continue with a Social Work degree you can credit 100 and 200-level courses to a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Human Services, Psychology or Sociology.

The third and fourth years of the Bachelor of Social Work include courses in social work principles, research methodologies, mental health, social administration and law, and cross-cultural social work. In third year, the fieldwork skills course assists students to identify and develop interpersonal helping skills using role-plays, video equipment and small group discussions.

In fourth year, students undertake two fieldwork placements in social service agencies. During this time they are supervised by field educators who help them integrate the knowledge, values and skills taught at UC with social work practice in the community.

Further study

Social Work graduates are encouraged to undertake further studies. The School offers a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Social Work, the Master of Social Work (by thesis) and the Doctor of Philosophy.

The two year postgraduate Master of Social Work (Applied) (MSW(Applied)) is a great option to consider if you have already completed an undergraduate degree in arts or science. This degree is delivered in a distance learning format.

Career opportunities

In New Zealand, social workers are employed in both the public and private sectors, providing direct and indirect services. Direct services include those for children, families, older people, those who have committed offences and people with disabilities. Indirect services encompass social sector planning, administration, policy and research.

Direct services may include the protection of children who have been abused, providing group or family therapy, educational programmes for at-risk adolescents, supporting adolescent parents, working with groups aiming to achieve community development, providing interventions for people who are experiencing mental health issues, providing assistance with housing needs, mediation and resolution of family conflict, facilitating access to benefits and other financial resources and assessment of home and family support for older people.

Social Work graduates can work as community development workers, therapists, counsellors, case managers, field workers, youth workers, care and protection workers, probation officers, iwi social workers, school social workers, hospital social workers, service coordinators, educators, policy analysts and researchers.

Social Work graduates are highly sought-after internationally, especially in the UK and Australia.

Find out more about what you can do with a degree in Social Work.

More information

School of Language, Social and Political Sciences
College of Arts
University of Canterbury
Private Bag 4800
New Zealand

Phone +64 3 364 2976

Martin cox

Martin Cox

"I’ve developed good self-discipline principles and research methods."

Holika uhila

Holika Uhila

"It was very demanding, but I enjoyed the challenge. There are not many Pacific Island social workers, or even male social workers, but I can offer a lot to the community and that's a nice feeling."