Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Students waiting for class

Apply for the Master of Social Work (MSW) through the Dunedin campus in 2023

Apply Now


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.

^ Top of Page

Contact Details

Social and Community Work programme


^ Top of Page


^ Top of Page

Programme requirements

Master of Social Work (MSW)

Papers Points

HUMS 502  Research Methods in the Humanities

SOWK 590  Research Dissertation
Plus three of:

SOWK 504  Care and Protection
SOWK 505  Lifespan Issues - Advanced Practice with Older Adults
SOWK 508  Pasifika and Social Services
SOWK 509  Decision-making in Child Welfare
SOWK 510  Advanced Social Service Counselling
SOWK 511  Advanced Family Practice
SOWK 512  Working with Children and Adolescents
SOWK 513  Mental Health and Specialist Practice
SOWK 514  Advanced Community Development
SOWK 515  Iwi Social Services I - Contextual Issues
SOWK 516  Iwi Social Services II - Development and Facilitation
SOWK 517  Social Policy Development
SOWK 518  Social Services Supervision
SOWK 519  Social Services Management
SOWK 520  Social Services Research and Evaluation
SOWK 521  Advanced Studies Special Topic
SOWK 522  Advanced Studies Special Topic




Regulations for the degree of Master of Social Work (MSW)

Note: The Postgraduate Diploma in Social Welfare may be taken as a stand-alone qualification or may be awarded as an exit qualification to students who have passed the papers component of the Master of Social Work programme but do not complete the thesis component.

  1. Admission to the Programme

    1. Admission to the programme shall be subject to the approval of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Humanities).
    2. Every applicant shall

      1. possess an approved professional social services qualification that entitles them to registration with the New Zealand Social Workers Registration Board, or international equivalent, and
      2. have at least two years' proven competence working in the social welfare field, and
      3. present evidence of ability for advanced level academic study.

    Note: Applicants who are not graduates or who have not achieved grades averaging B or better will normally be expected to enrol for a Postgraduate Diploma in Social Welfare or Diploma for Graduates or for approved papers for Certificate of Proficiency.

  2. Structure of the Programme

    1. The programme shall consist of four papers to a total value of 120 points in the University of Otago and a dissertation. The four papers must comprise of HUMS 502 or equivalent, two papers from SOWK 504-523, one further paper chosen from SOWK 504-523 or any approved paper at 400-level or higher offered by the University of Otago or another New Zealand tertiary education institution; and SOWK 590 Dissertation worth 60 points. Students are encouraged to complete the papers component of the programme before embarking on the dissertation as the programme's second component.
    2. A candidate may not present a dissertation that has been accepted for another degree.
    3. The programme of study, the topic for the dissertation and the supervision of the research shall be approved by the Head of the Social and Community Work Programme.
    4. A candidate who has completed the requirement for the Postgraduate Diploma in Social Welfare or equivalent, shall be exempted from the papers for the degree programme and shall be required to complete only the dissertation.

  3. Duration of the Programme

    A candidate shall normally follow a programme of study for the equivalent of not less than 12 months of full-time study and not more than five years of full-time study. Exceptions shall be permitted only with the approval of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Humanities).

    ^ Top of Page

  4. Examination of Research Dissertation

    1. The Head of Programme (or nominee) shall appoint a Convenor of Examiners who shall oversee the examination of each dissertation.
    2. The research dissertation shall be examined by at least two examiners, one of whom may be external to the University.
    3. Where both examiners are internal to the University, the examined dissertation shall be subject to external moderation.
    4. The candidate’s supervisor shall not be an examiner.
    5. Each examiner shall supply a written report on the research dissertation and recommend a mark and grade on the basis of the work as submitted.
    6. A candidate shall be permitted to revise and resubmit a thesis for examination once only.
    7. Where the examiners cannot agree on a result, the Head of Programme concerned should so report to the Pro-Vice Chancellor (Humanities) or nominee who shall arrive at a decision after consulting a referee who should normally be external to the University.
  5. Withdrawal from the Programme

    Where a candidate withdraws from the programme after completing the prescribed papers but does not complete the dissertation, the Pro- Vice Chancellor (Humanities) or nomine may recommend the award of the Postgraduate Diploma in Social Welfare, or determine which papers shall be credited towards the Diploma.

    Note: Students enrolled for endorsed options for the degree of Master of Social Welfare (the former name of the degree of Master of Social Work) may complete their programmes under the regulations in force when they commenced study for the degree, provided they do so by the end of 2014.

Top of Page