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Social studies (social work)

Admission Requirements

For Admission requirements please click here


To apply to this course, click on the relevant Apply Link below

What is Social Studies?

Social work is a profession concerned with supporting and helping people in a variety of situations and settings. People who use social work services include ethnic groups, young and adult offenders, children, families, travellers, older people, people with mental and physical illness and disability, homeless people, unemployed people and people with drug and alcohol problems. Social work spans a wide variety of roles including counselling, group work, lobbying, advocacy and political activism. Social workers network with other professions such as gardaí, doctors, public health nurses and schools as well as service-user and advocacy networks. Ultimately, social work aims to support people to live more successfully, within their communities, by helping them to find solutions to their problems.

Is this the right course for you?

Social Studies could be the right course for you if you wish to work in a caring and challenging profession. Most importantly, it is the right course for you if you have the ability to problem solve, a willingness to make challenging decisions alongside a strong desire to help others.

Why study Social Studies at Trinity?

This is one of only two undergraduate programmes in Ireland which qualifies students to a professional level in social work. A qualification in the area of social work has been taught in Trinity since 1934, making it Ireland’s oldest and most internationally renowned social work programme. The small class size ensures that there is a friendly and energetic relationship between staff and students that is based on mutual respect. The degree programme combines teaching on a range of social science subjects alongside work placements which are offered in Ireland and abroad. The programme is accredited by CORU (the Health and Social Care Professionals Council). The Social Studies degree is an interesting and intensive programme which aims to help you become a reflective and proactive professional social worker who will make a significant contribution to society.

What will you study?

This course introduces you to a wide range of social science subjects in the first year, and then increases the number of social work subjects in the following three years. Teaching methods are varied, interactive and draw on your personal and practical experience. Assessment includes written examinations, essays, case studies, projects, and placement reports.


First year subjects include Introductions to Social Work, Psychology, Social Policy, Sociology, Economic Policy and Political Science. Optional courses in either French or German are also available (see In first year, there are approximately 13-15 hours in lectures, 3-4 hours in tutorial classes and several hours in the library each week. If you have had no relevant practical experience before starting the degree, we ask you to do 30 hours (2-3 hours per week) volunteer work during first year to build your practical experience and help you to apply what you are learning to a real-world situation. First year students are also provided with the opportunity to undertake a six week placement related to the course (see below for further details).

In second year, core subjects are Social Work Theory and Practice, Law for Social Workers, Social Policy, Psychology and Social Research. In addition, you can either continue your language studies or choose one elective course from Sociology, Politics, or Economics. Second year students can also avail of the opportunity to take a Broad Curriculum module in this year (see The social work modules involve field trips to relevant organisations and services. In addition, students undertake a ten week placement during this academic year.


Third and fourth year subjects include:

  • Family and Child Care Studies
  • Social Policy
  • Sociology
  • Mental Health
  • Equality Issues
  • Group Work
  • Human Rights Law
  • Social Work Theory and Practice, including counselling skills and practice workshops


In each of the four years you will have a placement in a different social service agency, under the supervision of an experienced practitioner. These placements provide you with practical experience and an opportunity to apply and develop the skills and knowledge that you have acquired at Trinity. Placements are arranged in settings such as child and family welfare teams, hospital social work departments, child and family centres, probation service and community development projects. They account for approximately 30% of your course time (220 days) over the four years and take place at the end of each of the first and second years and mostly in term time in the third and fourth years. Overseas placements are possible (but not obligatory) within the course structure for those who are interested in experience in another country (e.g. the UK, North America, Australia). You are supported in your professional development by an individual social work tutor who meets you regularly and visits you on placement from third year onwards.


As a Social Studies graduate of Trinity, you are eligible to apply to register as a professionally qualified social worker with CORU (The Health and Social Care Professionals Council). Your qualification will be recognised in many other countries. You also have a good social science degree that allows you to move into policy, media, research or NGO project work. As a social worker, you can continue your professional development through postgraduate courses and can move into management, research or training.

Further information


Tel: +353 1 896 2001

Student Profile

Jeanne Forde

I cannot recommend the Bachelor in Social Studies highly enough. Many of the lecturers are qualified social work practitioners and gave real life practice examples, meaning that lectures were lively and engaging. The truly unique aspect of this course is the very interesting work placements available to each student, meaning that I was able to get a full picture of what to expect from the world of social work. This course provided me with an amazing foundation for my career, after which I went on to complete a postgraduate qualification in Oxford University.

Graduate Profile

Geoff Loane

I chose Trinity as a place where there was a widely appreciated value of creative academic and personal exploration. This space allowed for both critical thinking and innovative ways of learning about oneself and the course of study. In particular, personal development was strongly supported and the proximity between faculty and students facilitated very important learning during those crucial years.

Trinity lived up to its reputation and whilst it maintained a line of discipline and rigour both academically and socially, it also provided a safe space, which allowed for some grand exploration in every way. The confidence that this generated and the friendships remain valuable and precious 30 years later.

This openness supported my quest for a career where I could make a difference, albeit in the smallest of ways. It gave me the insight to realize that university was one step on a path of growth and that careers are based on the need for insights into oneself and an understanding of aspirations, skills and means.

Whilst I traveled and explored for a few years, I then worked as a social worker for two years before discovering what was to become my career in the humanitarian aid world. More than 25 years have passed since I started my work in this field, supporting victims of the wars and famines in Ethiopia. Since that time, I have had the privilege to work in Sudan, Somalia and Rwanda during the height of their conflicts and to bring assistance and relief to those societies. I have also worked in the Middle East, Balkans, and managed the emergency relief unit of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva. More recently, my time has been spent working in Washington in the post 9/11 world, representing the ICRC to the US government in relation to its use of military and intelligence detention, including Guantanamo Bay Cuba and CIA detention.

Intermittently, I have been able to write about my experiences and the practice of aid as well as teach at a number of universities on the subject.