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​The Master of Social Work (MSW) degree is an advanced specialist qualification, requiring at least two years of full-time study or its equivalent in part-time study.

The degree is intended for practitioners who wish to develop their professional knowledge and skills through specialised study, consistent with principles of applied professional training. It prepares graduates for senior level and specialist practice in social services, research and policy analysis.

The Master of Social Work (MSW) is also available through Distance Learning within New Zealand.

Please note: the MSW is a post-registration qualification.


Social workers seek to promote well-being and develop potential by working with individuals, families and groups to create positive change in people's lives. The challenge of social work lies in its complexity and diversity.

The University of Otago offers qualifications in social work for those with a strong interest in people, the make-up of New Zealand's society, and contemporary social issues. The professional bachelor degree (BSW) is recognised by the New Zealand Social Workers Registration Board (SWRB) and the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW). This four year degree provides a widely recognised, high quality, qualification for people wishing to become registered social workers. This degree is also available as a two year option for students already possessing a bachelor degree in another field.

The Master of Social and Community Work (Applied) (MSCW(Applied)) is a taught masters programme designed for students who already hold a bachelor's degree to attain a qualification that will allow them to become professional social workers. It is also suitable for mid-career social workers who are looking for a recognised professional qualification in social work. This degree is offered both on campus and by distance.

The two year Master of Social Work (MSW) degree is targeted towards professional practitioners seeking to undertake a research intensive qualification related to their professional practice. Postgraduate research is encouraged and opportunities are provided for students to undertake research in a range of associated areas.

Social and community work is based on human rights and social justice

Social work:

  • Is based on the principles of human rights and social justice
  • Seeks to implement human rights and social justice with individuals, communities and groups

Social workers aim to help people to develop self-determination and improve their wellbeing

If you have a strong interest in people, the make-up of New Zealand society, and contemporary social issues, then consider studying with us.​

A recognised professional qualification in the social services is a crucial step in becoming a social worker.

Subject Area

Career opportunities

Job opportunities arise in both policy and practice in a range of human services in education, health, welfare and justice sectors. These include government social service agencies, voluntary, and community agencies. Graduates work as health workers, social workers, teachers, probation officers, counsellors, advocates, community workers, policy advisers and analysts, and researchers.

Students are encouraged to tailor courses to their career aspirations by combining social work courses with other subjects to open up new fields of opportunity such as:

  • Community development 
  • Cultural services 
  • Correctional services/Police 
  • Health services
  • Individual care and counselling
  • Law
  • Mäori and Iwi development 
  • Management
  • Policy advice and development 
  • Political studies 
  • Treaty based services

Visit the Master of Social Work (MSW) page on the University of Otago website for more details!




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