Otago's involvement in social work and community development began in 1978. The programme has grown from a work-based certificate into a full undergraduate degree and postgraduate, master's, and PhD qualifications. Our professional qualifications are recognised by the Social Workers Registration Board for social work registration (Social Workers Registration Act 2003).
A distinctive element of our majors is the attention to intervention skills and methods, which lead to versatile career paths, particularly when taken with other social science disciplines. The combination of different academic subjects and hands-on skills and methods provides many career opportunities.
Our Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) is a four-year degree and students apply for entry at the end of year two (200-level). Otago also provides a distance-taught option of the BSW at third- and fourth-year level for students who already have a relevant BA (e.g. in Psychology, Sociology, or Education).
Your first year of study
Introductory papers outline the models and concepts of the social sciences. These are applied to the social and human services in the New Zealand context from a Treaty-based perspective, and a study of selected fields of social service practice. Students who want to go into social work must also take some Sociology papers, Māori papers and one human development paper (see website).
Continuing your studies
Second-year papers cover a range of the sociological bases of social work as well as the various fields of practice and ethical basis of social work. Finally, advanced papers focus on the theories and methods of actually achieving change across individual, family, organisational and community levels. At third- and fourth- year level, students will have the opportunity to practise their skills in supervised fieldwork settings.
We offer a taught master's that can be completed after a relevant first degree (e.g. in Psychology, Sociology, or Education). The Master in Social and Community Work (Applied) degree includes papers and fieldwork placements, enabling you to become a fully registered social worker on completion. It is taught alongside the BSW. In addition to these degree programmes, Otago offers a full range of postgraduate research courses to PhD level.
No specialist knowledge is required, but an interest in working with people is important. Subjects to take at school include English, Māori, and other social science subjects. To go on to the professional programmes, some experience with a social service organisation such as the Buddy Programme, Youthline, Women's Refuge, IHC, or similar is needed.