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Study Social Work at Otago

People, diversity, community – mana tangata

Human troubles are endemic in today’s societies. Many people in our world struggle with social and personal problems caused by complex, interacting systems and forces. A social work education prepares you to respond to these problems thoughtfully, creatively and practically. You will be asked to look beyond the individual to the systems impacting upon them.

If you are concerned with issues of justice and desire pragmatic, hands-on responses to help individuals and communities, then social work is for you. A social work education will prepare you for learning and engagement in diverse fields beyond the world of academia.

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Why study Social Work?

People who are interested in helping others and their community will be drawn to studying social work. The purpose of social work is to enable people to develop their potential, promote their human rights and pursue social justice. Professional social work focuses on problem- solving and change. Social workers are change agents in the lives of individuals, families and communities, as people's problems are often related to factors in all these domains.

Social work ranges from direct work with individuals and working with organisations to become more responsive to people's needs, right through to the development of social policy and legislation. The various roles include counselling, clinical social work, family therapy, helping people obtain services and resources, agency administration, community work, social policy, and political organising.

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 and Police
  • Health services
  • Individual care and counselling
  • Law
  • Māori and Iwi development
  • Management
  • Policy advice and development
  • Political studies
  • Treaty-based services

Social Work at Otago

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.

Study pathways

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.

Background required

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.

Requirements

SOWK papers

Paper Code Year Title Points Teaching period
SOWK111 2024 Working with People: The New Zealand Context 18 Semester 2
SOWK201 2024 Fields of Practice 18 Semester 2
SOWK236 2024 The Treaty and Social Services 18 Semester 1
SOWK301 2024 Theories and Methods of Social Work 18 Semester 1
SOWK302 2024 Social Work for Children and Families - Analysis and Theory 18 Semester 1
SOWK303 2024 Communities and Organisations - Analysis and Theory 18 Semester 1
SOWK304 2024 Kaupapa Māori, and Indigenous Approaches to Social Work 18 Semester 2
SOWK320 2024 Introduction to Professional Practice 18 Semester 1
SOWK392 2024 Fieldwork Practice 1 36 Semester 2
SOWK402 2024 Micro Intervention: Theories and Skills 20 Semester 1
SOWK403 2024 Communities and Organisations - Advanced Practice 20 Semester 1
SOWK404 2024 Care and Protection 20 Not offered, expected to be offered in 2025
SOWK405 2024 Social Work Issues Across the Lifespan 20 Not offered, expected to be offered in 2026
SOWK406 2024 Social Problems: Policies and Practice Models 20 Semester 2
SOWK407 2024 Kaupapa Māori and Social Work Practice 20 Not offered in 2024
SOWK408 2024 Pasifika and Social Services 20 Not offered in 2024
SOWK409 2024 Decision-making in Child Welfare 20 Not offered in 2024
SOWK410 2024 Special Topic 20 Not offered in 2024
SOWK411 2024 Advanced Special Topic 20 Not offered in 2024
SOWK480 2024 Research Project 20 Full Year
SOWK490 2024 Dissertation 40 Full Year
SOWK492 2024 Fieldwork Practice 2 40 Semester 1, Semester 2
SOWK504 2024 Care and Protection 30 Not offered in 2024
SOWK505 2024 Lifespan Issues - Advanced Practice with Older Adults 30 Not offered in 2024
SOWK508 2024 Pasifika and Social Services 30 Not offered in 2024
SOWK509 2024 Decision-making in Child Welfare 30 Not offered in 2024
SOWK510 2024 Advanced Social Service Counselling 30 Not offered in 2024
SOWK511 2024 Advanced Family Practice 30 Not offered in 2024
SOWK514 2024 Advanced Community Development Practice 30 Semester 2
SOWK515 2024 Iwi Social Services I - Contextual Issues 30 Not offered in 2024
SOWK517 2024 Social Policy Development 30 Not offered in 2024
SOWK518 2024 Social Services Supervision 30 Not offered in 2024
SOWK520 2024 Social Services Research and Evaluation 30 Not offered in 2024
SOWK521 2024 Advanced Special Topic 30 Not offered in 2024
SOWK522 2024 Advanced Studies Special Topic 30 Not offered in 2024
SOWK551 2024 Theories and Methods of Social Work 20 Semester 1
SOWK552 2024 Child and Family Social Work 20 Semester 1
SOWK553 2024 Communities and Organisation - Analysis and Theory 20 Semester 1
SOWK554 2024 Kaupapa Māori and Indigenous Approaches to Social Work 20 Semester 2
SOWK562 2024 Micro Intervention - Theories and Skills 20 Semester 1
SOWK563 2024 Communities and Organisations - Advanced Practice 20 Semester 1
SOWK570 2024 Introduction to Professional Practice 20 Semester 1
SOWK580 2024 Research Project 20 Full Year
SOWK590 2024 Research Dissertation 60 1st Non standard period, 2nd Non standard period
SOWK592 2024 Fieldwork Practice 1 25 Semester 2
SOWK593 2024 Fieldwork Practice 2 25 Semester 1, Semester 2
SOWK680 2024 Research Project 30 Not offered in 2024

More information

Contact us

Social and Community Work Programme

Email socialwork@otago.ac.nz
Website otago.ac.nz/social-community-work

Studying at Otago

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Regulations on this page are taken from the 2024 Calendar and supplementary material.

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