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Masters in social work personal statement

If you'd like to become a social worker but didn't study the subject at undergraduate level you'll need a Masters to enter the profession. Discover how to write a personal statement that coveys your commitment and passion to social work

Writing a personal statement for a vocational postgraduate course, like the MSc or Postgraduate Diploma in social work requires a slightly different approach from what you might be used to when applying for academic courses, as you're not only applying for a course, but to train for a particular profession.

You will be expected to:

  • discuss your motivations to train as a social worker
  • reflect on your experiences to demonstrate that you have a realistic insight into the role of a social worker and how they work to support people
  • provide evidence that you have, or are developing relevant skills and qualities for the role
  • show that you have the academic suitability to undertake a postgraduate level course.

For many social work courses it is a requirement to have undertaken relevant work experience in a social work or social care setting. You can see in the example statement, rather than describing the experience and tasks undertaken, you will need to reflect on how your experience has shaped your motivation to train as a social worker and what you have learned about the role. You will also need to provide specific examples of how you have demonstrated the skills, qualities and professional values of a social worker.

This example should be used for guidance only. Copying any of this text could significantly harm your chances of securing a place on a course.

Masters in social work personal statement example

I gained my first insight into social work while studying a 'Social work perspectives' module during the first year of my degree in health and social care. Learning about the ethics that underpin social work practice challenged my assumptions about the role social workers play, demonstrating the importance of the role for empowering vulnerable people and coordinating support to overcome challenges to health, safety and wellbeing.

I was able to observe this in practice during my placement at a supported living service for young people with learning disabilities. Social workers were integral to enabling the young people to safely transition to independent living, advocating for them to secure appropriate accommodation, coordinating access to disability services and providing support to develop independent living skills and money management. Without this advocacy, many of the young people may never have had the opportunity to live independently.

I have recently started a placement working with a local mental health charity, spent a year volunteering with Citizens Advice and am currently volunteering with the Prison Advice and Care Trust (PACT). Through these experiences I have observed the challenges faced by different groups of people, many of which can be alleviated or managed through empowerment of individuals and access to the right support. Becoming a social worker would enable me to work with diverse groups and support them to overcome these challenges and live more successfully within our society.

Through my experience, I have responded to individuals with empathy and respect and have demonstrated that I can uphold the values and ethical principles of the social work profession, while resiliently managing the challenges of working under pressure and supporting those who may not always be receptive to me. As a volunteer adviser at Citizens Advice I was often the first point of contact for individuals facing stressful and time-pressured problems, such as eviction or debt. I responded calmly and focused on the issues at hand, taking a non-judgemental approach to the individual's circumstances by clearly explaining why I was asking particular questions and how this would enable me to direct them to the appropriate support. At PACT, I facilitate family play sessions with prisoners and their children. I have taken the time to build rapport with the individual and their families; focusing on the person's identity as a parent and ways I can support them to feel they have a positive societal role. As a social worker it is important to treat people holistically while promoting dignity and wellbeing, these examples show my potential to respond in a positive, impartial way regardless of people's circumstances.

Many of my interactions at the mental health charity are with individuals in challenging circumstances, who are reluctant to seek help from external services due to poor past experiences. Many of my interactions have been with people who are angry, frustrated or suspicious. I take the time to listen to their concerns, provide reassurance and identify an initial starting point. When faced with particularly challenging or complex cases I do not hesitate to seek advice from colleagues or request a referral, always involving the individual in this process. These experiences have enabled me to recognise the importance of multi-disciplinary teams to meet complex and multi-faceted needs. These interactions have better prepared me to work with people who may present in a challenging way due to their circumstances and have helped me to develop the resilience to manage those interactions professionally and calmly.

My degree has prepared me for both the academic study and practice elements of the MSc in Social work. The interdisciplinary nature of my degree has introduced me to approaches from sociology, philosophy, health, policy and psychology, which provide a strong foundation to build upon in the social work course. In safeguarding modules I was introduced to the legal and policy frameworks underpinning practice when analysing a number of recent serious case reviews. This developed my ability to analyse complex situations where the application of law and policy is not always straightforward. Undertaking practice placements will enable me to further develop and apply this knowledge to real scenarios, building my confidence in making effective, evidence-informed decisions.

My dissertation project evaluated the impact of a local mental health charity's peer support programme, enabling me to develop a strong understanding of the ethics of participant research. I developed the methodology, completed the literature review and carried out primary research. This has prepared me with the core academic skills to evaluate research and develop evidence informed approaches during the Masters course.

Undertaking placements and volunteering alongside my degree has seen me organise my time effectively, consistently meeting coursework deadlines and completing work to a standard that has put me on track to achieve a 2:1, while receiving positive feedback from placements on my reliability. This demonstrates my ability to successfully balance academic work alongside the demands of practice placements during the Masters.

My work experience has motivated me to pursue a social work career in mental health, advocating for those who may not be in a position to advocate for themselves. The course will equip me with tools and approaches for working with service users in a range of circumstances, from those in crisis to those who need practical support to manage their condition in the community. I particularly look forward to professional placements where I can apply my learning while supported by experienced practitioners to navigate this complex area of social work. The MSc in Social work will build upon the knowledge and skills gained through my degree and experience, equipping me to undertake this challenging and demanding role.

Find out more

  • Search for postgraduate courses in social work .
  • Take a look at the social worker job profile.
  • Discover more about social work courses .
  • Learn more about personal statements for postgraduate applications .
  • Read up on the BASWs Code of Ethics for Social Workers .

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SocialWorker.com

Graduate School Admissions: Writing an Effective Personal Statement

By: David C. Prichard, Ph.D.

This article focuses on the central role that the personal statement plays in the MSW application process. Strategies are presented for writing an effective statement that will highlight and emphasize applicant strengths congruent with the values of particular Schools of Social Work. The author has chaired the MSW Admissions Committee at the University of New England (UNE) over the past three years, and has assisted in the review of several hundred MSW application packages. During this period, the application procedures were completely revamped, and UNE was subsequently acknowledged in 1995 by the Council on Social Work Education in its Site Visit Report for reaffirmation of accreditation as having developed an admissions process that is "one of the more elaborate, perhaps, in social work education," and for using " . . . as primary sources of decisions, its applicants' personal statements and references." It is from this background that the author offers practical insights and suggestions for writing a personal statement that will increase the likelihood of a good match between student applicant and MSW program.

The Admission Process

Admission policies and procedures among Schools of Social Work vary widely; so too, do the criteria used to evaluate MSW applicants. In general, schools use GRE scores and academic transcripts as quantitative measures to predict academic success. The personal statement, letters of reference, and the application form (including employment and other social work-related experience) are qualitative indicators that may be used to suggest the "fit" between the applicant and the particular school. As the validity of GRE scores comes under increasing criticism (Donahoe & Thyer, 1992), Schools of Social Work, like UNE, are increasingly relying on the personal statement as a qualitative measure of the likelihood of an applicant's "success" with a particular MSW curriculum.

UNE may be representative of a more heavy emphasis on narrative to evaluate MSW applicants. In this approach, two faculty review each student application on the following 6 criteria:

  • work-related (paid and volunteer) and life experiences;
  • meaning attached by applicant to work-related (paid and volunteer) and life experiences;
  • previous academic and professional training;
  • composition and content of personal statement;
  • references, and;
  • experience with and understanding of human dignity, empowerment, social justice, and oppression.

GRE scores are not considered, and the use of undergraduate GPAs is minimized. The faculty reviewers are made familiar in advance with the application materials, particularly regarding where data related to each of the six evaluative criteria may be located within the materials. Reviewers are instructed to consult the student's personal statement for data in all categories but references; the data in all categories are in turn measured against the School's mission statement. Given this approach to evaluating MSW applications, applicants should craft their personal statements carefully, keeping the School's mission statement in mind.

The Personal Statement and the School Mission Statement

The personal statement should reflect careful consideration of the schools to which the applicant has chosen to apply. It gives applicants the opportunity to highlight experiences and reasons for their interest in the field, and allows the school's Admissions Committee to evaluate the compatibility between the values and goals of the applicant and those of the school, while maintaining and assuring diversity within the student body. Without question, well-developed personal statements have contributed to the acceptance of many applicants; poorly written ones to the non-acceptance.

The values and goals of Schools of Social Work vary greatly, and applicants should seek schools whose mission statements fit well with their own values and goals for practice. What are the values and principles that form the foundation of the school? Applicants should reflect upon these carefully. What do they mean? If a school emphasizes the concepts of oppression, social justice, empowerment, dignity, compassion, and respect, what do these mean and how has the life of the applicant been affected in these areas? One of the tasks of the applicant is to tap into her internalized experience of these values to allow the richness of her life to come alive.

The purpose of a well-written personal statement is three-fold. First, it should describe how the applicant's interest in social work developed; second, it needs to consider the applicant's perception of personal strengths and areas in need of development in relation to becoming a professional social worker; and third, it should describe an understanding of the school's mission statement in relation to the applicant's experience and vision of professional social work.

What events in her total life experiences have led the applicant to the field of social work? What is her story, and how did it lead her to apply to this specific school? This is the opportunity to show the link between what may appear on the surface to be disparate life experiences. It is the chance for the applicant to narrate her story and come alive to the faculty reviewer and become a living, thinking, feeling human being with a life full of meaningful experiences.

A Case Example

Using the values of the mission of the UNE School of Social Work, let's examine how an applicant might incorporate the values of the School to carefully craft a summary paragraph in a personal statement. The mission statement of the UNE School of Social Work states, in part, a commitment ". . . to the values of human dignity, individual and cultural diversity, individual and collective self-determination, and social justice . . . to struggle against oppression including all forms of discrimination, social and economic injustice, and violence . . . assessment of social, psychological, economic and organizational oppression, (and) their impact on people's lives, and the strengths people have developed to endure, resist, and change . . . and to promote human relationships grounded in mutuality, compassion, and dignity."

An applicant might present her life and professional experiences using the language and terminology consistent with the values of the stated mission of the School. A paragraph in the personal statement, then, might read as follows:

The values that the School presents in its mission statement are not just words for me. As a lesbian, I have lived the oppression of a society grounded in heterosexist patriarchy, and have experienced firsthand the social and economic injustices suffered by my women and lesbians friends, as well as the working poor. A quiet person by nature, I have discovered a voice that I did not know I had. I have added my voice to those seeking equal rights for same sex partners and continue my struggle to receive health care benefits for my partner of 15 years. I have come to recognize and value the strengths and resiliencies I have developed by necessity to survive the neglect and abuse of my childhood and use these in my ongoing struggle against the discrimination and societal injustices that I experience as a woman and as a lesbian.

Notice how this excerpt from a fictional applicant allows the applicant to come alive to the reader in a passionate, enthusiastic manner while clearly using the language and the values presented in the mission statement of the School. It should be clear that the values of the School and those of the student appear compatible and that there might be a good match here.

In the following fictional excerpt, note the apparent incongruence between the values and goals of the applicant and those of the School, suggesting a poor fit between the School and applicant.

In conclusion, I have always been intrigued by psychological issues, and have actually done quite a lot of reading in the field. I feel that I am an excellent communicator and that I would be able to help clients deal with their problems. My ultimate goal is to become part of a group private practice, and although I am concerned about the current insurance problems and third party reimbursement concerns, I believe that there continues to be a need for MSWs to help people with their psychological and social problems. I believe that the MSW is the most powerful degree to have to provide psychotherapy to clients, and that we will become increasingly recognized by HMOs and managed care companies as the most effective providers. This is the degree that will most aptly enable me, as a psychotherapist in private practice, to help those afflicted with mental illness to become more productive members of society.

Either of these excerpts may be acceptable and, perhaps, even appropriate, depending on the School to which the applicant is applying; however, given the summary of the values of the above School, the first excerpt clearly represents a better fit than the second. In the first we experience a strengths-based perspective and a genuine sense of the struggles and of the "voice" of the applicant-the person behind the words; in the second, we see a more traditional pathology-based perspective and an emphasis on the career ambitions of the applicant.

Recommendations

Four general recommendations are offered to applicants. First, they need to come to a clear understanding of their own values and career goals, and how these are informed by their total life experiences. Second they should come to a clear understanding of the values and goals of the School of Social Work to which they plan to apply. This may be accomplished through faculty, field instructor, and alumni interviews, review of mission statements, review of past core curriculum syllabi, and a library search and review of the literature produced by current faculty. Third, they need to determine which Schools have values that are compatible with their own. Fourth, they need to develop personal statements that reflect the influences in their lives that contributed to an interest in the profession of social work. These statements should reflect a clear understanding of the mission statement of the particular school.

In summary, the purpose of the application process is to give the applicant and the school the chance to screen one another. Applications should be completed only after careful examination of the mission and goals of particular schools, and personal statements need to show a clear understanding of and connection to the values and goals of the school and its curriculum. Perhaps the most useful recommendation for potential applicants is to take the time to reflect on and write out the values and beliefs that guide their lives, inform their behavior, and provide meaning to their life experiences, and to seek out schools that are compatible to these. This done, the personal statement should flow naturally and genuinely, because it will be based on the knowledge, truth, wisdom, and authenticity of personal life experience.

David C. Prichard, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Social Work and Chair of the MSW Admissions Committee at the University of New England.

Copyright © 1996 White Hat Communications. All rights reserved. From THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER , Fall 1996, Vol. 3, No. 2. For reprints of this or other articles from THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER (or for permission to reprint), contact Linda Grobman, publisher/editor, at P.O. Box 5390, Harrisburg, PA 17110-0390, or at [email protected] .

All material published on this website Copyright 1994-2023 White Hat Communications. All rights reserved. Please contact the publisher for permission to reproduce or reprint any materials on this site. Opinions expressed on this site are the opinions of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the publisher. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

Social Work Degrees

How to Write an Effective Personal Statement for Grad School

personal statement for postgraduate social worker

Written by Michelle, Founder of MSW Helper

Schools of social work are looking for your ability to think critically and contribute to the social work field. This is more important than your grades and experience. I know this because I’ve seen people with high grades and a ton of experience get rejected from the program because they weren’t able to articulate their critical thinking skills (and I’ve seen it go the other way too, where applicants with low grades and little experience get accepted because of their strong personal statement).

So, let’s talk about how you can write an effective personal statement for your grad school application.

personal statement for postgraduate social worker

Michelle is the Founder of MSW Helper, where she helps Master of Social Work Applicants write top notch personal statements for grad school. Michelle understands how stressful applying to the MSW can be, and strives to help applicants feel confident about their applications. 

Check out her website to learn more: https://www.mswhelper.com/

What schools of social work are looking for

In my experience, most schools of social work ask about these key areas:

  • Your experiences that motivated you to become a social worker, including personal, professional, academic, and other experiences
  • A discussion of a social problem and how social workers can work towards solving it
  • Your goals as a social worker

In addition, schools of social work typically assess your personal statement for the following:

  • Evidence of critical and analytical thinking skills
  • Potential contribution to the field of social work
  • Your ability to communicate clearly and succinctly

This is how you can demonstrate all of the following key areas seamlessly.

Contribution to the field

Let’s look at a personal statement of a past MSW applicant:

Applicant name: Sally ●        Experiences : Sally works at a women’s shelter and talks about what she learned there. ●        Social Justice Issue : Sally decides to talk about an issue within child welfare. ●        Goal : Sally mentions that she wants to get an MSW so that she can qualify for a job at the hospital.

There are a few issues with Sally’s personal statement.

First, there is no cohesion between her experience, social justice issue, and goals, which makes it hard for the reader to understand why she wants to pursue an MSW and how she’ll be an asset to the field.

Second, Sally is talking about how an MSW will be beneficial for her, which comes off as a bit self-serving. When writing a personal statement, it’s important to talk about how pursuing an MSW will allow her to help others.

With this in mind, let’s see an example of how Sally could improve her personal statement:

Applicant: Sally ●        Experiences : Sally works at a women’s shelter and talks about what she learned there. ●        Social Justice Issue : Sally discusses an insight from her time at the women’s shelter, and backs it up with research that proves that her observation is part of a larger social problem.  ●        Goal : This issue that Sally noticed at the women’s shelter inspired her to get her MSW so that she can address that issue and support her clients in a different capacity and advocate for women’s rights at the macro level.

Better, right?

In this version of her personal statement, Sally demonstrates a high level of critical thinking by talking about her insights and backing them up with research, and she demonstrates her potential contribution to the field by discussing how a Master of Social Work will allow her to serve others in a greater capacity. 

If you’re planning to write a personal statement, a great place to start is to think about insights and problems you’ve observed from your work, volunteer, placement, and personal experiences, and use those insights to develop your social justice problem.

Evidence of critical and analytical thinking

In addition to demonstrating your potential to contribute to the field, there are some tangible ways you can demonstrate your critical thinking skills.

First, make sure you understand what social work actually is.

This might sound obvious, but there are a surprising number of applicants who have a pretty limited understanding of what social work entails. I don’t blame them. The media often portrays a specific image of what social workers look like (usually involving child welfare, case workers, or therapists).

However, social work is so much more than that. Social workers work at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels of society, and can work in many areas at each of these levels.

Also, many applicants pursue social work out of a desire to help others, but it’s not good enough to say that in your personal statement. There are a lot of other jobs you can do that would allow you to help others. Think about how social workers are different from other helping professions (such as nurses, psychologists, police officers, teachers, lawyers, etc.).  Why do you want to be a social worker and not another helping profession?

Understanding what social work is will help you provide a stronger and more thorough answer to the question of “why” you want to become a social worker.

Finally, connect your insights to the bigger picture by integrating research into your personal statement .

It’s one thing to talk about the issues you’ve noticed from your experiences, and it’s another to connect your insight to the bigger picture with the help of research.

Let’s look at Sally again.

Sally’s role at the women’s shelter is to help her clients who experienced domestic violence find housing. Sally noticed that many of her previously housed clients got evicted and ended up back at the shelter.

Sally also did some research and found studies to suggest that women who experience domestic violence have an overall higher rate of housing instability due to barriers such as income loss and lack of social support.

This knowledge motivated Sally to pursue a Master of Social Work so that she can move into a policy role to advocate for income and social support for women who experience domestic violence.

Connecting experience to research will demonstrate a high level of critical thinking.

Ability to communicate clearly and succinctly

When it comes to writing your personal statement, it’s not only what you say, but also how you say it. Admissions committees are typically assessing your personal statement for your writing ability.

Make it easy to read : Admissions committees read literally hundreds of personal statements each application season, so it’s likely that whoever reads your personal statement is going to quickly skim through your personal statement to find your answers. With that in mind, it’s important to make your personal statement as skimmable and easy to read as possible.

You can do this by adding headings that match each question or prompt so that the reader can easily see that you did answer each prompt.

You should also be concise and get rid of filler words and sentences that don’t directly answer the prompts.

Finally, you should always try to include an introduction and a conclusion in your personal statement where you summarize your experience, social justice problem, and goals. This will allow the reader to get your whole story in a few sentences, and leave them with a strong impression at the beginning and end of your personal statement.

Treat your personal statement like an academic writing sample: Many applicants don’t realize that the personal statement is a sample of your academic writing and research skills. One way to stand out is to treat your personal statement like a school paper. I often advise applicants to use full APA formatting when writing their personal statement, as this will make your personal statement look more professional and will stand out from the crowd. 

Creating Your Own MSW Personal Statement

When writing a personal statement for your MSW, it’s important to demonstrate your potential contribution to the field, critical thinking skills, and strong writing ability. If you follow these tips, you’ll be on your way to writing an effective personal statement that stands out.

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The College Application

10 MSW Personal Statement Examples (with Commentary)

Get inspired by some of the best MSW personal statement examples below.

These personal statement examples are inspired by actual essays from students with whom we’ve collaborated, essays that contributed to their successful admissions. For confidentiality, key details have been altered.

If you’re looking for Personal Statement Help, Get Started Here !

Table of Contents

Example 1: NYU MSW Personal Statement Sample

Prompt: ‘why i want to be a social worker’ essay.

At the tender age of five, as my family faced the challenges of immigrating to the United States, I quickly became attuned to the complexities surrounding us. This early brush with adversity sparked my quest for understanding, especially in the realm of adolescent experiences. Growing up in a household where my mother tirelessly cared for us, while my father remained emotionally distant, I learned to seek solace in introspection and daydreaming. These experiences laid the foundation for my deep empathy towards others and a commitment to understanding them beyond surface-level perceptions.

My ability to empathize with others, particularly adolescents, has been a guiding force in my life. Working with XXXX as a counselor, I revisited my own teenage years, recognizing the crucial need for guidance during this transformative phase. This realization has fueled my determination to specialize in counseling and therapy for adolescents, a path I am eager to pursue through NYU’s Master of Social Work program. I am convinced that effective counseling during adolescence is pivotal in shaping capable, responsible adults.

My internship at XXXX Health was a turning point. Observing clinical behavioral health therapists and working alongside a psychiatrist specializing in post-incarceration life, I gained profound insights into the long-lasting impact of disrupted adolescent experiences. Hearing the narratives of former inmates underscored the importance of early intervention in defining one’s identity. This experience intensified my desire to work with young individuals struggling to find their place in the world.

Choosing NYU Silver was a natural decision. The school’s esteemed faculty, particularly Dr. Kirk Jae James, resonates with my journey as an immigrant. Dr. James’ dedication to overcoming his challenging past and disproving stereotypes is not just inspiring; it mirrors the resilience and determination I strive to embody. His work with those affected by mass incarceration aligns closely with my aspiration to be a clinical therapist who can bring change to young lives.

New York City, the vibrant and diverse backdrop of NYU Silver, also greatly appeals to me. The city’s rich history of nurturing notable figures like Andy Warhol, Roy Halston, and Jean Basquiat speaks to its capacity to foster self-discovery and belonging. I am excited to immerse myself in this melting pot of cultures and ideas, which will undoubtedly enrich my learning and practice in clinical therapy.

My personal history, particularly my father’s struggle with his traumatic childhood, has taught me that resilience and determination are key to overcoming adversity. His journey, though fraught with challenges, has instilled in me the belief that embracing the unknown and being steadfast in one’s goals can lead to remarkable achievements. Carrying this lesson with me, I step into NYU Silver poised to embark on a journey towards becoming an influential clinical therapist for adolescents.

My path to NYU Silver is more than an academic pursuit; it is a commitment to my dream of guiding adolescents through their most vulnerable years. By combining my personal experiences with the comprehensive training at NYU Silver, I am ready to make a meaningful impact in the field of clinical therapy, helping young individuals navigate their formative years with understanding and resilience.

Commentary:

  • Personal and Cultural Background : Effectively connects early experiences as an immigrant to developing empathy, crucial for social work.
  • Professional Aspirations : Clearly links past experiences with seniors and an internship to a focused interest in clinical therapy for adolescents.
  • Academic Motivation : Draws a parallel between personal experiences and the inspiration found in NYU Silver’s faculty and New York City’s diversity.
  • Resilience and Determination : Reflects on lessons learned from family, particularly the father, instilling a belief in achieving ambitious goals.
  • Career Vision : Articulates a strong desire to impact adolescent lives, demonstrating an understanding of the field’s challenges and opportunities.

Verdict: The personal statement is heartfelt and well-structured, showing a clear link between the candidate’s background, their professional drive, and their chosen academic path. The reflection on personal and family resilience adds depth, positioning the candidate as a motivated individual ready to leverage their experiences for meaningful social work.

Example 2: Columbia MSW Personal Statement Sample

  • Part 1: Reflecting upon your decision and motivation to pursue the MSW, describe how attending CSSW will enable you to meet your goals as a social worker. What are your immediate and long-term social work goals?
  • Part 2: Describe a social problem of significance to you. Please discuss it in regard to societal contributions to the origin of the problem, experiences that have contributed to your identification and understanding of the problem, and possible ways of addressing the problem.
  • Part 3: Choose two attributes and provide examples as to how you exemplify these traits. Choose one attribute you would like to improve. How will attending the MSW program at CSSW help you in doing so?

1. Motivation and Goals for Pursuing MSW:

From a young age, I have been acutely aware of the disparities and injustices in my community. Growing up in a low-income neighborhood in Chicago, I witnessed firsthand the detrimental effects of poverty, limited access to quality education, and the cycle of violence. These early observations fueled my passion for social work, specifically my desire to develop community-based programs aimed at youth empowerment and education. My immediate goal is to work in a non-profit organization focused on urban youth development, while my long-term ambition is to establish a foundation dedicated to providing educational resources and mentorship programs for at-risk youth.

Attending the Columbia School of Social Work (CSSW) will provide me with the critical skills, knowledge, and network necessary to achieve these goals. CSSW’s commitment to social justice, its comprehensive curriculum, and the opportunity to learn from esteemed faculty and diverse peers will equip me with a nuanced understanding of social issues and effective intervention strategies.

2. A Significant Social Problem:

The social problem that resonates most with me is the school-to-prison pipeline, an issue rampant in many urban communities, including my own. This problem arises from a combination of societal factors such as underfunded public schools, zero-tolerance policies, and systemic racial discrimination. My understanding of this issue deepened through volunteering at a local youth center, where I encountered numerous teens who had been expelled from school and were at risk of entering the juvenile justice system.

Addressing this problem requires a multi-faceted approach, starting with policy reform to prioritize education and rehabilitation over punishment. Community-based intervention programs focusing on mentorship, counseling, and educational support can play a vital role in diverting at-risk youth from the criminal justice system. At CSSW, I hope to explore these interventions in-depth and develop effective strategies to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.

3. Personal Attributes and Areas for Improvement:

Empathy : My empathy has been a guiding force in my social work journey. A poignant example was when I volunteered at a local youth center. There, I met a teenager named Marcus who had been expelled from school. By actively listening and engaging with him, I learned about his challenges at home and his struggles with learning disabilities. Understanding his situation, I worked with the youth center staff to develop a personalized educational plan and connect him with a mentor. This experience deepened my ability to empathize with individuals from diverse backgrounds, recognizing the unique challenges they face.

Resilience : My resilience was particularly tested when I spearheaded a community project to revitalize a rundown public park. The project faced numerous setbacks, including funding shortages and bureaucratic hurdles. Despite these challenges, I mobilized the community, organized fundraising events, and negotiated with local officials. The successful completion of the park not only provided a safe space for children but also reinforced my ability to persist in the face of adversity, a crucial trait for a social worker.

Area for Improvement – Policy Advocacy : My experience in grassroots initiatives has been rewarding, but it also highlighted the limitations of addressing social issues without policy change. For instance, while volunteering at the youth center, I realized that individual interventions, though beneficial, could not alone prevent the systemic issue of school expulsions leading to juvenile detentions. This recognition has fueled my desire to improve my skills in policy advocacy, an area where I see great growth potential. CSSW’s program, with its emphasis on policy practice, will be instrumental in helping me acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to advocate effectively for systemic changes.

Conclusion:

Attending Columbia School of Social Work will be a pivotal step in my journey to becoming an impactful social worker. I am eager to engage with the CSSW community, learn from diverse experiences, and contribute my perspective towards creating meaningful change. I am committed to using the knowledge and skills gained from CSSW to fight for social justice and empower the youth in communities like mine.

  • Clarity of Motivation : The essay effectively communicates the candidate’s personal experiences and observations of disparities in their community as key motivators for pursuing social work.
  • Goal-Oriented : Clearly outlines immediate and long-term goals, demonstrating a focused vision for a career in social work.
  • Understanding of a Social Issue : The candidate’s insight into the school-to-prison pipeline, informed by volunteer experiences, indicates a deep understanding of this complex social problem.
  • Attributes and Self-Improvement : Demonstrates empathy and resilience through specific examples. Identifies policy advocacy as an area for improvement and connects this to CSSW’s curriculum.
  • Personal and Professional Growth : The candidate’s experiences, challenges faced, and the growth they seek align well with the offerings of the CSSW program.

Verdict: The candidate’s personal statement is compelling and well-crafted. It showcases a strong personal connection to the field, a clear understanding of relevant social issues, and a desire for professional growth that aligns with the CSSW program.

Example 3: UC Berkeley MSW Statement of Purpose Sample

Please address each of the following in your statement:

  • Describe your aptitude, motivation and preparation for graduate study in the field of social welfare; your future career goals in the profession of social work; and achievements that demonstrate your professional promise and leadership potential as a social worker.
  • Describe your academic and professional areas of interest in social work, including your chosen area(s) of specialization.
  • Demonstrate your understanding of contemporary issues and challenges in the professional practice of social work by posing a question or identifying a relevant problem/current issue you would like to explore, and how you might address it from the perspective of a masters’-level social worker.

My journey into the world of social work began with a deeply personal experience – caring for my youngest daughter who faced developmental and language delays. This challenge opened my eyes to the struggles of parents with special needs children and sparked my commitment to helping vulnerable groups. I founded a non-profit organization to support children in rural Russian orphanages, which expanded my drive to assist not only children but also adults suffering from trauma and PTSD. This path has led me to pursue the Master of Social Welfare program at Berkeley, where I aim to deepen my knowledge and skills for effective global impact.

My background is richly diverse. As a mother of four bilingual, multicultural children, I developed a keen interest in early bilingualism. For my thesis at XXXX State Linguistic University, I explored bilingual language development in infants and toddlers, focusing on methods used by parents raising bilingual children. This research, recommended for publication as a guide for multilingual families, heightened my awareness of the challenges immigrant families face globally. It solidified my resolve to find research-based solutions to social issues, a commitment I bring to Berkeley’s rigorous program.

Professionally, I thrived as a XXXX Director for XXXX in Russia, where I honed leadership skills by building a team of passionate educators. A notable achievement was our collaboration with XXXX Department, providing educational programs to young patients. This experience was transformative, broadening my perspective on social change and reinforcing my desire to make a meaningful difference.

As a certified life and leadership coach, I focused on assisting Russian-speaking immigrants and refugee women, many confronting dire challenges like domestic abuse and PTSD. These encounters underscored the need for specialized social welfare skills, steering me towards a Master’s in Social Work. My goal is to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, specializing in trauma and PTSD, and to contribute on an international scale, possibly with organizations like Doctors Without Borders.

Recognizing the critical role of language in social work, I have been learning Spanish and French to better connect with diverse patient populations. My linguistic background enhances my ability to engage effectively in multicultural settings. To gain practical experience, I completed a 90-hour training at Crisis Support Services of XXXX and began volunteering on their crisis line. This hands-on involvement, particularly during these challenging times, has further motivated me toward my LCSW goal.

UC Berkeley’s MSW program, known for its diverse student body and commitment to public service, is the ideal environment for me to grow. Surrounded by peers and faculty who share a dedication to social justice, I am eager to expand my understanding and prepare for a career dedicated to improving the lives of vulnerable individuals, families, and communities.

  • Personal Experience as Motivation : The statement effectively uses the candidate’s personal experience of caring for a child with developmental delays as a catalyst for their interest in social work.
  • Global Perspective : Showcases a strong commitment to international social issues through work with Russian orphanages and immigrant communities.
  • Professional Achievements : Highlights relevant professional experiences, including leadership roles and work with vulnerable populations.
  • Educational Goals and Alignment : Clearly articulates the desire to specialize in trauma and PTSD, aligning with Berkeley’s MSW program’s strengths.
  • Multicultural and Linguistic Skills : Demonstrates an understanding of the importance of cultural competence in social work, supported by multilingual abilities.

Verdict: The candidate presents a compelling mix of personal motivation, professional experience, and academic alignment with the MSW program at UC Berkeley. Their diverse background and specific career goals make them an ideal candidate for the program.

Example 4: Cal State Fullerton MSW Personal Statement Sample

The quality of the writing in the personal statement will be evaluated, as will the applicant’s ability to thoroughly address the questions outlined below:

  • Describe how your personal background and life experiences have influenced your decision to pursue a graduate education in social work. Please include any challenges or hardships you may have overcome on your journey.
  • What are your expectations of graduate education at Cal State Fullerton in terms of your own development? Indicate any problems or limitations that should be taken into account in planning your graduate program.
  • Specify your career objectives as a professional social worker as you now conceive them. Indicate the fields of practice in which you are interested.
  • Describe your experiences with diverse populations and groups, and how those experiences have contributed to your interest in social work. Which population (defined by culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, psychological and/or physical functioning) would you like to serve and why?

While managing an in-school feeding program, I watched a 7-year-old boy take a modest meal at school, and save half for his siblings at home. Another girl expressed joy for the school meals she relied on. These encounters, and others like them, deeply impacted me, highlighting the critical issue of child hunger and food insecurity. My resolve to expand our school feeding program was fueled by these experiences, successfully growing it from 7 to 1,053 schools over five years.

After graduating, I joined the Philippine XXXXX in 2001, managing the Business and Peace Program in the XXXXX Region. Here, I worked with XXXXXX, identifying young Muslims for internships that fostered leadership and peace.

In 2008, I transitioned to the XXXXX Foundation, developing community programs and managing the in-school feeding program, which fed 40,000 children at its peak. These experiences solidified my commitment to child welfare and my belief in the power of social work.

Managing the feeding program, I faced ethical challenges, like discovering fund misappropriation by a local agency officer. I addressed this by establishing direct communication with schools and conducting random checks, ensuring program integrity.

Then in 2013, I took a break to focus on family and moved to XXXXX. Motherhood enriched my perspective, making me more empathetic, resilient, and dedicated to child welfare. Now ready to re-enter the social work field, I seek an MSW degree to update my skills and knowledge.

Post-MSW, I aim to influence policies and contribute to community-based solutions in the Philippines, aspiring to work with large non-profits and eventually with international agencies like UNICEF.

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened child poverty in the Philippines, underscoring the urgency of my mission. At CSU Fullerton, I plan to study social work theories, understand child welfare systems, and apply these learnings to the Philippine context.

With a Master of Social Work degree, I am poised to join the effort to advance children’s welfare, equipped to make a significant difference in their lives. The Filipino children cannot wait. They need all the help they can get. And with a Master of Social Work degree from CSU Fullerton, the battle will have been half-won.

  • Personal Narrative as Motivation : The statement effectively uses the applicant’s personal experiences with poverty, domestic violence, and addiction to illustrate a deep-rooted motivation for pursuing social work.
  • Community Involvement and Professional Experience : Highlights significant community engagement and professional achievements, demonstrating a commitment to social justice and positive change.
  • Challenges and Ethical Considerations : Discusses challenges faced during professional work, showing problem-solving skills and ethical awareness.
  • Academic and Career Goals : Clearly articulates how an MSW will enrich the applicant’s knowledge and skills, aiming to influence policies and create community-based solutions.
  • Personal Growth and Family Perspective : Reflects on the lessons learned from being a stay-at-home mother, tying this to a renewed enthusiasm for child welfare work.

Verdict: The statement presents a well-rounded candidate with a compelling personal connection to social work, reinforced by active community involvement, ethical professional practice, and clear career goals. The applicant’s experiences and aspirations align well with the MSW program at CSU Fullerton- making them a strong candidate.

Example 5: Cal State Long Beach MSW Personal Statement Sample

How did you become interested in social work? What motivated you to choose social work as a profession?

My passion for social work and advocacy for equality is rooted in a fundamental belief: no voice should be silenced in the pursuit of a just society. Throughout my life, I’ve witnessed how advocates for equality are often marginalized, their concerns unheard. This fuels my commitment to actively work towards a just world, where standing up for justice is a right for all.

As a child of Mexican immigrants, I experienced the harsh realities of a low-income household. This upbringing ingrained in me deep empathy and an intimate understanding of the struggles faced by underprivileged communities. My parents’ relentless hard work and sacrifices, despite economic hardships, have been a constant source of inspiration. They taught me resilience, compassion, and the importance of community support.

My professional journey in social work began at XXXX Community Development Corporation, where I took a lead role in organizing a landmark meeting with elected officials. We successfully voiced community concerns, addressing critical issues like infrastructure and public safety. This experience honed my skills in advocacy and highlighted the power of active listening and engagement.

Furthering my commitment, I volunteered at XXXX Volunteers in Medicine, assisting in providing healthcare to those unable to afford it. Here, I learned the critical role of accessible healthcare and the importance of educating communities about healthy living. These experiences have solidified my resolve to pursue a career in social work, focusing on advocating for essential services and support for underprivileged communities.

My aspiration to become a licensed clinical social worker, specializing in children’s mental health, aligns perfectly with the academic rigor and diverse environment offered by the Master of Social Work program at CSULB. As an undergraduate at CSULB, I was captivated by the program’s depth and the diverse perspectives it embraced. The experiences shared with students from varied backgrounds deepened my understanding of the multifaceted challenges in our society.

I am fully committed to investing my time and resources in the coursework and fieldwork placements at CSULB. The opportunity to study in a stimulating environment, surrounded by professionals who share my passion, will provide a solid foundation for my career. I bring with me a wealth of practical insights from working with low-income communities, the homeless, the elderly, and drug users. These experiences, I believe, will contribute significantly to our class discussions and align perfectly with CSULB’s mission of supporting vulnerable and oppressed populations.

My journey in social work is a commitment to those who struggle to be heard. At CSULB, I aim to further my skills, knowledge, and understanding, preparing myself to be a force for change and a voice for the voiceless. My goal is to ensure that every child, family, and community I work with gets the opportunity to thrive, just as I strive to make a meaningful impact in the field of social work.

  • Strong Personal Connection : The statement effectively connects the candidate’s personal background as a child of Mexican immigrants to her empathy and understanding of underprivileged communities.
  • Professional Experience : Highlights relevant work in community development and healthcare, which demonstrates practical skills in advocacy and community engagement.
  • Academic and Career Goals : Clearly articulates the ambition to specialize in children’s mental health, aligning with CSULB’s program.
  • Commitment to Social Work Values : Demonstrates a deep commitment to social justice, aligned with the mission of CSULB’s social work program.

Verdict: The personal statement is comprehensive and well-constructed, effectively demonstrating the candidate’s passion, relevant experience, and alignment with CSULB’s Master of Social Work program. The candidate’s background and professional aspirations make them a strong fit for the program.

Example 6: San Jose State University MSW Personal Statement Sample

In the heart of a small migrant community, where the sting of social inequities was a daily reality, my path toward a career in social work began to take shape. My childhood, marked by the challenges of racial discrimination and economic struggle, instilled in me not only resilience but a deep understanding of the complex social fabric that shapes communities. It was these formative experiences, coupled with my time volunteering at a local shelter, that solidified my dedication to advocating for social justice.

Professionally, my experiences have been closely aligned with the values at the core of social work. Serving as a community organizer, I worked alongside local leaders to tackle critical issues like housing affordability and healthcare accessibility, gaining valuable insights into the world of policy advocacy. Another pivotal role was as a counselor for at-risk youth, where I developed a keen understanding of the challenges faced by young people from diverse backgrounds. This role was instrumental in refining my skills in empathy and communication.

Looking ahead, my immediate goal is to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a focus on trauma and PTSD. In the long run, I aspire to establish a non-profit dedicated to providing mental health services to marginalized communities. These ambitions are rooted in a deep-seated commitment to effecting lasting change for those society often overlooks.

San Jose State University’s MSW program, renowned for its emphasis on culturally competent practice, particularly with Latinx and other minority groups, aligns perfectly with both my personal and professional values. The program’s exceptional faculty and comprehensive curriculum stand out as ideal for nurturing my academic and professional growth.

In conclusion, I am confident that my time at San Jose State University will not only refine my existing skills but also expand my perspectives, equipping me to become an effective, empathetic social worker. I am eager to embrace the tools and knowledge that the program offers, to champion social justice and make a tangible difference in the lives of those most in need.

This MSW personal statement sample effectively showcases the candidate’s journey and motivation towards a career in social work. It does well in several key aspects:

  • Personal Experience : The statement begins with a compelling narrative about the candidate’s upbringing in a diverse, challenging environment, effectively linking personal background to their interest in social work.
  • Professional Alignment : The candidate skillfully ties their professional experiences, like community organizing and counseling, to the core values of social work- to demonstrate a clear understanding and commitment to the field.
  • Future Goals & Alignment with the Program : The statement outlines specific short-term and long-term professional goals, aligning them with the strengths of San Jose State University’s MSW program. This demonstrates the candidate’s purposeful choice of program and their understanding of how it will support their career objectives.
  • Flow and Clarity : The essay is well-structured, with each paragraph transitioning smoothly into the next, maintaining a clear and engaging narrative throughout.

Verdict: The statement presents a well-rounded, sincere, and focused candidate with a clear vision for their future in social work. It makes a strong case for their admission.

Example 7: Wayne State University MSW Personal Statement Sample

Your statement must address the following items:

  • The National Association of Social Workers set forth important guiding principles to address social workers’ ethical responsibility to clients, colleagues, employers and employing organizations, the social work profession, and society.
  • Describe how these ethical standards would shape your professional social work practice. How would you reconcile any conflicts between your personal values and the requirements of the profession?
  • Describe why you believe you are a good fit with the mission of the Wayne State University School of Social Work, particularly its urban mission.
  • Social workers are committed to social justice. Please describe your thoughts on a particular social and economic justice issue and how you intend to use your professional social work degree to address these issues.

As an African American with Native American roots, I have firsthand experience with the challenges faced by underserved communities. This background has deeply influenced my desire to pursue social work, driven by a belief in compassion, commitment, and competence. I aim to amplify my impact in this field by enhancing my skills, and I believe the MSW program at Wayne State University is the ideal setting for this growth.

My life in Detroit has exposed me to the myriad challenges of urban environments, from food deserts to unsafe public spaces and high crime rates. The city’s struggle with deindustrialization has led to job losses, property abandonment, and heightened poverty, which I believe positions me uniquely for Wayne’s urban mission. Understanding these issues firsthand, I feel equipped to contribute meaningfully to solutions.

In my current role with a youth assistance program, I work to prevent youths from entering the juvenile system and help rehabilitate those already involved. Our sessions include group counseling, academic enrichment, and life skills training, aimed at early intervention to improve life quality and academic performance.

My practice as a social worker is grounded in the ethical standards set forth by the National Association of Social Workers. I prioritize service above self-interest, as evidenced by my role as a Direct Care Worker for my sister with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I am committed to social justice and understand the importance of dignity and respect for every individual, regardless of their background. My experience with Wayne State University’s XXXXXX program has further reinforced the value of human relationships in social work.

I recognize the potential conflicts between personal values and professional responsibilities. In such cases, I intend to adhere to the profession’s ethical standards, ensuring that my personal beliefs do not hinder my ability to serve clients effectively.

The Wayne State University School of Social Work’s urban mission resonates with my experiences and aspirations. My understanding of Detroit’s unique challenges aligns with the school’s focus on urban social work. I am particularly interested in addressing issues of poverty and economic disparity, leveraging my post-masters degree to initiate impactful programs like fundraisers for low-income students and collaborations with local food banks.

I am aware of the challenges in understanding certain aspects of social work, such as the dynamics of gang involvement. To address this, I plan to engage in continuous learning about various community issues to enhance my ability to serve diverse populations effectively.

My journey has not been without its challenges. While I have been actively involved in addressing the needs of victims of gang violence, I recognize a gap in my understanding of gang culture. To bridge this gap, I am committed to learning more about gang dynamics, history, and the socioeconomic factors that influence gang membership. This knowledge will be crucial in my work with at-risk youth, allowing me to provide more targeted and effective interventions.

Balancing the demands of graduate studies with work, family, and financial responsibilities will be challenging, but my experience in the Wayne State University XXXXX program has equipped me with valuable skills in time management and prioritization. I am prepared to fully commit to the MSW program, confident that it will transform me into an impactful social work professional aligned with Wayne State’s mission.

  • Alignment with University’s Mission : The statement effectively aligns the student’s personal and professional experiences with Wayne State University’s urban mission.
  • Ethical Awareness : Demonstrates a clear understanding of social work ethics and a commitment to upholding these standards in practice.
  • Conflict Resolution : Thoughtfully addresses potential conflicts between personal values and professional responsibilities, indicating maturity and professional readiness.
  • Commitment to Social Justice : Shows a strong dedication to social justice, particularly in addressing economic disparities and poverty.
  • Continuous Learning : Emphasizes a willingness to learn and grow, especially in areas like understanding gang dynamics, which is crucial for effective social work.
  • Personal Experiences : Successfully uses personal experiences to illustrate a deep understanding of the challenges faced by underserved communities.
  • Realistic Approach : Acknowledges and prepares for the challenges of balancing graduate studies with other life responsibilities.

Verdict: The applicant shows a strong alignment with the program’s focus, demonstrates ethical awareness, and possesses a clear commitment to social justice and continuous learning. The statement shows maturity and readiness for the challenges of graduate study in social work.

Example 8: University of Pittsburg MSW Personal Statement Sample

Please describe in your personal statement the following:

  • Influences in your life that led you to select social work as a profession
  • Why you are applying to the University of Pittsburg School of Social Work
  • How an MSW will help you achieve your career goals
  • Your special skills and abilities, your strengths as well as your limitations
  • How your abilities will contribute to your development as a professional social worker
  • Discuss a contemporary issue that is of concern to you

Printed on my grandfather’s funeral brochure was an old Irish proverb: “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal; love leaves a memory no one can steal.” This sentiment has resonated with me deeply, as I have experienced significant loss in my life, from cancer to accidents and suicide. These experiences have not only shaped my understanding of grief but also steered me towards a career in social work, specifically in gerontology and hospice care.

During my final quarter at XXXXXXX State College, I met a hospice social worker whose impact on families dealing with end-of-life situations was profound. Her approach to helping families accept, celebrate life, and find peace in farewells deeply inspired me. It was then that I realized the power of social work in providing comfort and dignity in life’s final stages.

I am applying to the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work because of its strong gerontology program and its commitment to addressing contemporary issues like the impact of COVID-19 on the aging population. The pandemic has starkly highlighted the disparities in our healthcare system, especially concerning end-of-life care. I aim to contribute to this field by developing solutions to these emerging challenges, ensuring dignity and comfort for all in their final moments, regardless of their racial or socioeconomic status.

My work experience in childcare and hospitality has equipped me with patience, empathy, and a strong work ethic, qualities essential for a career in social work. Additionally, my volunteer work with XXXXXXX and the XXXXXXX has given me valuable experience in community service. However, I recognize my tendency to be overly trusting as a limitation. In the field of social work, discernment is crucial, and I am actively working on balancing empathy with professional objectivity.

At the University of Pittsburgh, I am particularly interested in courses like Grief and Loss: Interventions, Implications, and Understanding, and Direct Practice with Older Adults. These courses, coupled with field education in aging, hospice, or hospital settings, will be instrumental in achieving my career goals.

My commitment to serving the Pittsburgh community stems from my deep-rooted connection to the city. Witnessing the impact of the university’s alumni in the field has further motivated me to pursue my MSW here. I am fully aware of the challenges that lie ahead in the field of social work, but I am confident that the guidance and training offered by the University of Pittsburgh will equip me to tackle these challenges effectively.

My personal experiences with loss, combined with my professional aspirations and commitment to social justice, make me a suitable candidate for the MSW program. I am eager to contribute my skills, work ethic, and unique perspectives to the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work and to grow into a compassionate and effective social worker.

  • Connection of Personal Experience to Career Choice : Effectively links personal encounters with loss to a passion for social work, particularly in gerontology and hospice care.
  • Alignment with Program’s Strengths : Clearly identifies why the University of Pittsburgh’s program, with its focus on gerontology, is a strong fit for the candidate’s career goals.
  • Discussion of Contemporary Issues : Addresses the impact of COVID-19 on the aging population, showing awareness of current challenges in social work.
  • Self-awareness and Growth : Acknowledges personal limitations, like being overly trusting, and the intention to work on balancing empathy with professional objectivity.
  • Relevant Skills and Experience : Highlights experiences in childcare, hospitality, and volunteer work, which showcase skills valuable in social work.

Verdict: The statement demonstrates a clear connection between personal experiences and professional aspirations. It aligns effectively with the program’s focus, displays awareness of current social issues, and shows a commitment to personal growth- making the candidate a strong fit for the University of Pittsburgh’s MSW program.

Example 9: Case Western Reserve University MSW Personal Statement Sample

Discuss significant factors influencing your decision to pursue a Master of Science in Social Administration (MSSA).

  • Your essay should include information regarding your interest in the social work profession, your intended concentration/specialization, and career goals.
  • Please reflect on how any past school, community, volunteer, professional work, and leadership experiences will contribute to your success as a graduate student.
  • Describe how you see yourself contributing to the vibrancy of our student body and school community.
  • Describe any strengths or limitations that might influence you being successful in your field placement.
  • Finally, please include why the Mandel School is a good fit for your educational goals.

My decision to pursue a Master of Science in Social Administration (MSSA) at the Mandel School is deeply rooted in personal and professional experiences that have highlighted the profound impact of social work. My journey began with observing the complexities of mental health within my family, which instilled in me a passion for understanding and advocating for mental health care.

Growing up, I watched a beloved family member struggle with mental health challenges. Witnessing their battle and the ripple effect it had on our family stirred in me a resolve to support others facing similar trials. This resolve only deepened with the birth of my daughter, Eve, when I encountered my postpartum mood disorders. Through receiving treatment and support, I was empowered to overcome these challenges, which further fueled my aspiration to assist women grappling with similar issues.

In my professional role as a Health Coach and Personal Trainer, I’ve had the privilege of supporting clients like John and Anna, whose mental well-being was intertwined with their physical health goals. These experiences have honed my ability to listen empathetically and devise holistic approaches to wellness that I believe will be invaluable in my social work practice.

My immediate career goal is to establish a private practice focused on women’s mental health, particularly addressing postpartum mood disorders. I am inspired to create a space where women can seek help without stigma or silence. In the long term, I aspire to influence mental health policy, advocating for accessible care and support systems that recognize and address the silent struggles many women face.

The Mandel School’s commitment to academic excellence and its vibrant student body resonate with my educational and professional ethos. The school’s innovative approach to social work education, particularly in mental health, makes it an exceptional fit for my aspirations. My compassion, coupled with my professional experience and personal journey through mental health challenges, will contribute to the rich tapestry of the Mandel School community.

Ultimately, I envision my time at the Mandel School as a transformative experience that will not only deepen my understanding of social work but also equip me with the skills to make significant contributions to the field. With a community that fosters diversity of thought and experience, I am confident that my educational journey here will prepare me for a fulfilling and impactful career in social work.

  • Personal Connection : The statement effectively establishes a personal connection to social work through the candidate’s family experiences with mental health.
  • Professional Relevance : It highlights relevant work experience that translates well into social work competencies, particularly in understanding clients’ holistic needs.
  • Clear Career Objectives : The candidate articulates well-defined short-term and long-term goals that align with their personal experiences and professional aspirations.
  • School Alignment : There is a strong emphasis on how the Mandel School’s ethos resonates with the candidate’s goals, suggesting a thoughtful choice in their application.
  • Contribution to Community : The statement outlines how the candidate’s unique experiences and compassion will add value to the student body and fieldwork.

Verdict: The candidate’s personal statement is compelling, demonstrating a strong, authentic motivation for pursuing an MSSA and a clear vision for how the Mandel School will help fulfill their career objectives.

Example 10: University of Pittsburg MSW Personal Statement Sample

  • Influences in your life that led you to select social work as a profession.
  • Why you are applying to Pitt’s School of Social Work.
  • How an MSW will help you achieve your career goals.
  • How your abilities will contribute to your development as a professional social worker.
  • discuss a contemporary issue that is of concern to you.

At just seven years old, I witnessed the harsh realities of poverty, domestic violence, and addiction within my family. These experiences instilled in me a passion for social work, especially after seeing how social workers supported our family through my parents’ mental health and addiction challenges. This inspired me to pursue a career in this field to use my background and skills gained from an MSW program to assist individuals and families in their recovery processes.

Growing up, our family was caught up in a custody battle, leading my siblings and me to frequently navigate foster care and courtrooms. My parents’ struggle with addiction was alleviated by the support of social workers and case managers, who provided housing, food assistance, service coordination, and counseling. Tragically, both my parents eventually succumbed to drug overdoses. Though painful, these experiences further reinforced my commitment to social work and helping others facing similar struggles.

In recent years, I have been actively involved in social justice activism. My roles as a community organizer and development director for XXXXX Summer Camp, a non-profit empowering girls and non-binary youth through music and mentorship, highlighted the need for improved mental and behavioral health services. Volunteering as a delivery driver and food packager with XXXXX Aid during the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the importance of community support for those in need.

My experience in event coordination, donor relationship building, and electoral campaign work has enabled me to contribute to meaningful change in my community, such as the successful XXXXX Wage initiative in Oregon, which improved the lives of countless workers. Serving on the XXXXX Democratic Committee for Ward Four, I have amplified community voices and supported candidates who advocate for accessible mental and behavioral health services, safe and affordable housing, and environmental protection.

A contemporary issue that concerns me is the effectiveness of harm reduction techniques in treating mental health and dual-diagnosis clients. I aim to explore how these techniques can be integrated into traditional substance abuse treatment models to better meet the mental health needs of individuals like my parents. Additionally, I am interested in how mental health professionals and addiction treatment providers can collaborate to provide comprehensive care for dual-diagnosis clients.

Obtaining an MSW will empower me to become a skilled, compassionate, and trauma-informed clinician. My goal is to contribute to accessible mental and behavioral health services, particularly for trauma survivors, and advocate for inclusive, culturally responsive, and restorative justice practices.

I am empathetic and easily connect with people, and my resilience in adversity will contribute to my development as a professional social worker. These qualities have supported me in helping my sister Cheyan and in my social justice work.

I chose the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Social Work for its highly-ranked program and specialization in mental health. This program aligns with my goal of employing harm reduction strategies for dual-diagnosis clients. Additionally, its proximity to my family will enable me to support them while pursuing my education.

I am eager to return to the University of Pittsburgh and embark on this transformative journey to become a professional social worker. The MSW program will enable me to make a significant difference in the lives of those who need compassionate and trauma-informed care. I am confident that this program will honor my family’s legacy and empower me to create positive change for countless individuals and families in need.

  • Personal Experience as a Motivation : The applicant compellingly uses their personal history of overcoming poverty, domestic violence, and addiction to demonstrate a deep-rooted motivation for pursuing social work.
  • Community Involvement : The statement highlights significant community engagement and activism, showcasing a commitment to social justice and change.
  • Professional Development : Details about event coordination, campaign involvement, and leadership roles show the applicant’s ability to effect change and work collaboratively.
  • Academic and Career Goals : The applicant clearly articulates their interest in harm reduction techniques and their intent to enhance their skills through the MSW program.
  • Personal Qualities : Empathy and resilience are emphasized as strengths that will aid in their development as a social worker.

Verdict: The statement presents a well-rounded candidate with a powerful personal connection to social work, backed by active community involvement and clear professional goals. Their commitment to addressing complex social issues, coupled with their personal strengths, shines throughout the statement.

Before you go…

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Related Articles:

Social Work Personal Statement Guide (w/Examples)

Top 8 Cheapest Online MSW Programs

Best Online MSW Programs in California

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  • Personal Statements
  • Social Work Personal Statement

Social work Personal Statement Example

Sample statement.

While many of the potential candidates for this course may be drawn to it by painful and difficult personal experiences in their own lives, my motivation is just the opposite. I have been lucky to have a very secure upbringing, in a traditional, two parent home, with the love and support of my family and extended family around me at all times. I appreciate how lucky I am to have had this, and I want to give something back to society by helping others who have been less fortunate.

I have always been a people person and tend to be the first choice ‘shoulder to cry on’ for friends of both sexes. I have been told that I am a good listener and I find it easy to not only sympathise, but also to empathise with other people’s problems. These talents have been recognised at my school, where I have been a student counsellor for the past year. In this role, I help fellow students to talk about their problems and liaise with the relevant parties, such as teachers, house masters and the school pastoral care leaders. I hugely enjoy this work, as I can see how much difference a friendly face can make in times of trouble, as well as the impact of practical help and representation when you are feeling too emotional or confused to act for yourself. 

Having decided on a career in social work early on, I have steered my studies towards this field, taking sociology, psychology and geography at A-level. While the geography may not seem immediately relevant, the issues discussed in this subject do have a genuine impact on people’s lives. I enjoy the lively debates that arise in all these subjects, especially sociology, and this has led me to establishing a debating society at my school, which I currently chair.

Outside of school, I am an active member of my local church, and am a youth leader at the out of school club. This club was created to give kids somewhere to hang out where they could feel safe and stay out of trouble. We play pool, darts and card games in the winter, and move outside for more active fun in the warmer weather. The youth group has an annual camp in Wales, and last summer I was chosen as a group leader, responsible for 25 kids aged from 11 to 15.

Although my own life has been comparatively easy, I am under no illusions as to how difficult life can be for others. My village borders a council estate with high unemployment and many deep-rooted social problems, and many of my friends are from this area. I have seen both the worst of these circumstances, in a friend’s mother who took her own life, and the very best, in which social workers have made a real difference in building communities and solving problems to give people much needed hope.

I know that my age and background will be a challenge for me in the field of social work, and that I will have to work hard to gain the trust and respect of the people I work with. However, I believe that I have the patience and abilities to succeed. This course will back those abilities with the knowledge and techniques I need to do well in this field, and so I do hope that you will consider me as a candidate.

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Master of Social Work - Guidelines for Preparing the Personal Statement

Guidelines for Preparing the Personal Statement (~600-800 words)

This statement must be included in your application for admission. The autobiographic statement details your interest in social work, including personal experiences, strengths, values and beliefs that will contribute to your competence as a social worker. The autobiographic statement should be a carefully prepared document that is typed and double-spaced, with 1-inch margins and 10-12 font. Please place your name at the top right hand margin on each page and number pages at the bottom center.

Please address the following: 

  • Describe in detail your personal understanding of social work as a profession. 
  • Discuss your interest in rural/non-urban social work practice 
  • What factors influenced your decision to seek graduate social work education at Jacksonville State University? If you have worked or trained in another field, why are you now considering a career change? 
  • Describe the intellectual and personal qualifications that will enable you to practice social work successfully in non-urban/rural social work, for example collaboration with others, leadership ability, ability to empathize, communication and language skills. What limitations do you see in your work experiences, skills, or other attributes, including your awareness of your personal biases that you want to address to ensure your effectiveness in practicing social work? 
  • How will you balance outside responsibilities with academic responsibilities? 
  • Discuss your notable accomplishments, such as related work experience, military experience, volunteer services, other academic accomplishments, etc.
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Social work personal statement.

Whilst helping to care for my elderly grandfather, I saw first-hand the invaluable work that a social worker offered my family at a very difficult time. The challenges that were faced on a day-to-day basis were eased with this individual’s support and I witnessed what a unique system of help a social worker can offer to people in difficult and changeable circumstances.

I realise that a career in social work is a more complex and challenging vocation than my current job roles. However, I believe that my life experiences, through my work and volunteering, have equipped me with various skills that would be of benefit to my working life as a social worker.

I currently work within the events and retail sectors, organising !!!!!! and supervising a small team in an often-fast paced shop setting. The ability to converse well with both the public and my colleagues is paramount, and I feel that I have good, confident communication skills, both on the telephone and in person. I work well under pressure, meeting deadlines and encouraging and supporting others to do the same, and I am comfortable working in a group environment or on my own. Both roles require me to work with a range of people and, as a result, I became more mindful of my own values and beliefs whilst showing respect for all individuals and their needs, beliefs, cultures and values.

Volunteering with the !!!!!!! has also furnished me with beneficial skills that are relatable to a future career as a social worker. I was involved in supporting a range of service users with a varying amount of disability and needs, both physical and emotional. The experience taught me that every service user is an individual and that each situation must be approached in a calm and patient way; ensuring that they get the best experience they possibly can. This was done through liaison with the service users’ parents and/or guardians. I have also recently started the training to become an Independent Visitor volunteer for !!!!!!!. The training so far has enabled me to attend various programmes such as safeguarding both adults and children and also how to comply with GDPR.

I have previously studied the Access to Higher Education course, with modules in Psychology, Law and Criminology. The course required a high level of dedication with work focused on research skills, group discussions, presentations, and essay writing. The access course was both interesting and useful, as it enabled me to further develop my analytical approach to academia and to also be succinct in my eventual evaluations. Through various group activities I was able to listen and respect the viewpoint of my peers whilst also making productive contributions in reaching common goals. I also started a Law degree at !!!!!!!!. However, I realised after one year that this was not the profession for me, so I took time out to continue my volunteer work and to find the correct career path.

To keep up to date with sociological issues, and to develop more knowledge and understanding of social work as a career, I subscribe to ‘My Social Work News’ and also read ‘The British Journal of Social Work’ as well as other online resources, such as ‘community care’, ‘Social Work England, and ‘British Association of Social Workers’. The topics covered are both interesting and also relevant, as they give an insight into the experiences and pressures that face current, qualified social workers.

I have also spoken, at length, with both existing and ex-social workers who were all keen to point out the negatives and positives of a career in this field. I feel, after discussing my plans with service providers and users, coupled with my own research into social work as a career, that I am well prepared to engage with a degree in social work which will eventually lead to a career in which I can hopefully make a positive difference to people and their lives.

Profile info

There is no profile associated with this personal statement, as the writer has requested to remain anonymous.

Author's Comments

Applied to Plymouth, Bristol, Gloucester and Bath and got offers from all.

This personal statement is unrated

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  • How To Write Your Postgraduate Personal Statement

Postgraduate study

  • What are the differences between an undergraduate and postgraduate personal statement?
  • Why study postgraduate?
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What's on this page?

What is a personal statement, preparing to write your personal statement, opening your personal statement, work experience and future plans, ending your personal statement.

Your postgraduate personal statement is your chance to get noticed for your expertise and experience you’ve gathered. It’s an important part of the application process as it allows you to talk about yourself and your passions and prove the value you can bring to your chosen university.

In this article, we’re going to talk you through how to write a postgraduate personal statement that stands out and gives you the best chance of being offered a place on the master’s programme you’re applying for. 

Shona Barrie – Director of Admissions, University of Stirling

You’ll have already written a personal statement for your undergraduate study, so you’ll know the importance of preparation. There are two things to think about when you’re planning:

  • The practical and factual information you need to get across.
  • Then, the more emotional, human parts of you that make you different to everyone else. 

Before you start writing, take some time to think about the key things you’d want your chosen university to know about you, and get them down on paper.

Questions to focus your mind

  • Why have you chosen this master’s programme?
  • Why are you passionate about this subject matter? 
  • How has your undergraduate study influenced your decision to apply?
  • Have you got any work experience that might help you?
  • What life experiences have you had that you could talk about?
  • What achievements can you talk about to support your application?
  • Why do you want to study at this particular university?
  • What plans and ambitions do you have for your future career?

personal statement for postgraduate social worker

Three top tips

Be specific.

Remember that a postgraduate personal statement needs you to talk specifically about the university you’ve chosen.

Demonstrate experience

Universities will be looking for postgraduate students who are able to demonstrate expertise in a particular subject – so include that.

Show what you've learnt

Tell the university about your university life as an undergraduate and include any clubs or societies you were involved in.

Admissions tutors will be reading a lot of personal statements so it’s important to grab their attention right from the start. 

You can find a full guide on How to start a personal statement: The attention grabber but here are the main things for you to think about. 

  • Don’t overthink the opening . Just start by showing your enthusiasm for the subject, showcasing your knowledge and understanding, and sharing your ambitions of what you want to achieve.
  • Avoid cliches . Remember, this opening part is simply about introducing yourself, so let the admissions tutor reading your personal statement get to know you. 
  • Keep it relevant and simple . You’re limited on how much you can include so avoid long-winded explanations. Why use 50 words when ten can make your point?

Talking about the course

Now you’re ready to start talking about the course and subject you’re applying for.

There are four main areas you’ll need to cover in this section of your personal statement. 

  • Why are you applying for this master’s?  Think about your undergraduate study and how this master’s will develop your expertise further. Do you have career aspirations this course will help you achieve?
  • Why does the subject interest you? This is your chance to show your passion and really demonstrate who you are. If you have work or volunteering experiences related to the subject, include them here.
  • Why do you think you’ll be an asset to the university?  Your personal and practical skills combined together create a unique picture of who you are and why you’ll be a successful postgraduate student, so include both. 
  • How does your previous undergraduate study relate to the course? Showcase your enthusiasm for your current study and take the opportunity to demonstrate your skills and knowledge now, and how you want to build on that. 

Next, you’ll need to write about your personal skills and achievements.

Universities like to know the abilities you have that’ll help you on the course, or generally with life at university. Don’t forget to include evidence to back up why you’re so passionate about the programme you’ve chosen.

Your personal skills and achievements

Be bold and talk about the achievements you’re proud of., include positions of responsibility you hold, or have held, both in and out of school., what are the things that make you interesting, special, or unique .

Your work experience and future plans are important to include in your personal statement. You should share details of jobs, placements, work experience, or voluntary work, particularly if it's relevant to your course. 

  • Try to link any experience to skills or qualities that’ll make you successful on your course.
  • If you know what you’d like to do after as a career, explain how you plan to use the knowledge and experience you’ll gain.

It’s always good to connect the beginning of your statement to the end and a great way to reinforce what you said at the start. You want to see the ending as your chance to end in a way that’ll make the university remember you. 

This final part of your personal statement should emphasise the great points you’ve already made and answer the question of why you should be offered a place on the course. 

Read our full guide on How to finish your statement the right way .

Aakriti Labra – MSc Occupational and Organisational Psychology, University of Surrey

Now you’ve written your postgraduate personal statement, you’ll need to do a couple of final things before you submit it. 

  • Have you proofread your personal statement? Don’t just rely on spellcheckers. We’d recommend reading it out loud as that’s a great way to spot any errors as well as checking it sounds like you. 
  • Have you asked for feedback? Ask friends, family or your undergraduate university tutors to have a read through your personal statement and take their feedback on board.
  • Check out our personal statement dos and don'ts Have a look at the common pitfalls against your final draft to make sure you haven't made any obvious errors!

Postgraduate

More advice.

Use the UCAS’ personal statement tool alongside this guide to help you structure your ideas.

Do you want to understand the differences between an undergraduate and postgraduate personal statement? Take a look at our guide here.

Why study a postgraduate course? Find out here.  

What funding is there for postgraduate courses?  

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How to find a job, student finance for postgraduate loans, five reasons to sign up to the ucas newsletter.

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  • Social work personal statements

Personal Statement:Social work 2 - The Student Room

Social work personal statement.

I am a people’s person. I am passionately interesting in listening to people’s problem and finding strategies to help solve them. In everyday life people go through difficulties that make life impossible to them to live. There is a saying that says a service is only as good as the person who delivered the service. I want to be that person who delivered a good service to people who needs it. Through studding subject like psychology, sociology and abnormal psychology I can satisfy my interest in some of the problem that effect people and how society influence people action or behaviour especially abnormal psychology that looks at the way people are charactised in society , what possible behaviour they need to show to get professional help. In society people in various stages of life are facing different problems like abuse, disabilities and mental illness that live in residential home or with their family sometimes struggles to get the right facilities or treatment they deserve as I am currently enjoying my access course it had developed my curiosity therefore I feel it is an excellent preparation to further my studies in university and become a social worker. Currently I am a parent and a support worker for learning disability ,some of my responsibility are ;maintaining individual privacy and confidentially ,supporting them to cope with their daily life , organise daily activities, encouraging them to make quality decision that will enable them to gain more privacy within their home , supporting them to college which helps them develop new skills/improve their skills , communicate effectively with other professional when needed. I was a care assistant for three month assisting elderly people in a residential home in South Wigston, Leicester was also a primary teacher for kids 5-6years in West Africa, Sierra Leone, Freetown taught subject like maths English, Art and Craft, Sport, Rhythms, and Religious education. During those periods some of my responsibilities were setting targets and goals to achieve and complete academic syllabus, organising school trips, preparing note of lesson and make sure that aims and objectives of the lesson are met. However the job can be difficult sometime but because I find my job very interesting and i love every minute of it, so I know it requires commitment and patient on my part. It had also made me discovered my personality and ability which had made me more determine to face challenging situation in work and towards academic life/work

Presently in my access class o was elected as a class representative after given a speech to convince the class that I am capable of the post .However my ethnic origin and cultural awareness had allow me to be very sociably and interactive. I am interested in reading real life stories about children who had been abused by their families or someone outside their family. I go to the gym and church to release some stress however I enjoy the opportunity to make new friends, interacting with people from different background and level in life as it is a different environment. I enjoy socialising with people so much so that when I went to college I became a class representative.

As an applicant I am very respectful, opened minded and non judgmental therefore I believed in equal opportunity and always ready to challenge any unfair discrimination highly motivated, enthusiastic and persuasive towards education especially towards this particular subject as it my dream profession.

General Comments:

The main problem with this statement is the fact that it does not demonstrate that the author is applying for a professional course, and doesn't show their understanding of the role and how they are suitable for it. Some of the comments need to be more detailed/focused on social work, and it would be good to have an idea of what field the author would like to work in.

Comments on the statement:

I am a people’s person.   - this is a very cheesy way to start a personal statement. You can demonstrate this throughout the PS, you don't need to explicitly state it.   I am passionately interesting in listening to people’s problem and finding strategies to help solve them. In everyday life people go through difficulties that make life impossible to them to live. There is a saying that says a service is only as good as the person who delivered the service. I want to be that person who delivered a good service to people who needs it.   - try to avoid lists of statements. Expand on them and make them into a flowing paragraph.  Through stud d ing  - watch out for spelling mistakes -  subject like psychology, sociology and abnormal psychology I can satisfy my interest in some of the problem s  that effect people and how society influence s  people' s  action or behaviour  especially abnormal psychology that looks at the way people are charactised in society , what possible behaviour they need to show to get professional help.   - this should be a separate sentence.  In society people in various stages of life are facing different problems like abuse, disabilities and mental illness that live in residential home or with their family sometimes struggles to get the right  facilities or treatment they deserve as I am currently enjoying my access course   - the two parts of this sentence don't link together, it should be split into two. it had developed my curiosity therefore I feel it is an excellent preparation to further my studies in university and become a social worker. Currently I am a parent and a support worker for learning disability  - there is a word missed out here -  ,some of my responsibility are ;maintaining individual privacy and confidentially ,supporting them to cope with their daily life , organise daily activities, encouraging them to make quality decision that will enable them to gain more privacy within their home , supporting them to college which helps them develop new skills/improve their skills , communicate effectively with other professional when needed  - here it sounds like you are copying and pasting your job description. Put each point into your own words and use examples, analyse and reflect on them, don't just make a general statement. . I was a care assistant for three month assisting elderly people in a residential home in  South Wigston, Leicester   - this information isn't necessary and is a waste of precious space -  was also a primary teacher for kids 5-6years in West Africa, Sierra Leone, Freetown taught subject like maths English, Art and Craft, Sport, Rhythms, and Religious  e ducation. During those periods some of my responsibilities were setting targets and goals to achieve and complete academic syllabus, organising school trips, preparing note of lesson and make sure that aims and objectives of the lesson are met. However the job can be difficult sometime but because I find my job very interesting and i love every minute of it, so I know it requires commitment and patien t  on my part. It had also made me discovere d  my personality and ability which had made me more determine to face challenging situation in work and towards academic life/work  - what challenging situations? Remember that studying social work isn't an academic course, it's vocational, giving a professional qualification.

Presently in my access class  o  was elected as a class representative after given a speech to  convince   - a better word here would be show the class that I am capable of the post .  However my ethnic origin and cultural awareness had allow me to be very sociably and interactive. - if you leave this in, you need to expand on it because it is not relevant as it is  I am interested in reading real life stories about children who had been abused by their families or someone outside their family  - why? Can you give any examples? . I go to the gym and church to release some stress however I enjoy the opportunity to make new friends, interacting with people from different background and level in life as it is a different environment. I enjoy socialising with people so much so that when I went to college I became a class representative.

As an applicant I am very respectful, opened minded and non judgmental therefore I believed in equal opportunity and  always ready to challenge any unfair discrimination   - an example would be good here -  highly motivated, enthusiastic and persuasive towards education especially towards this particular subject as it my dream profession.

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personal statement for postgraduate social worker

The University of Edinburgh home

  • Schools & departments

Postgraduate study

Psychological Research MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Upcoming Introduction to Postgraduate Study session

Join us on the 26th June to learn more about studying at the University of Edinburgh.

Find out more and register

Programme description

This programme provides an opportunity for intensive advanced training in psychological research while giving you flexibility to select courses in the areas of psychology and cognitive neuroscience of most interest to you.

In addition to advanced training in general academic skills and statistical modelling, you will be trained in a variety of specific methodologies, typically including:

  • brain imaging
  • neurodisruption
  • eyetracking
  • clinical case analysis
  • psychometric modelling
  • discourse analysis

Key research areas

Building on the research methods training, you will take topical courses in one or more of the core research areas of our department: social psychology, cognitive neuropsychology, individual differences, psychology of language, and human development.

Your MSc culminates in a research dissertation in a core research area: an original, publication-quality piece of research, undertaken in close collaboration with researchers in the relevant group.

Psychology is rated 3rd in the UK by Times Higher Education for the quality and breadth of the research using the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021).

What will I learn?

You will take courses on the theoretical and methodological aspects of psychological science and conduct an original research dissertation in your area of interest.

You will receive thorough training in advanced academic skills and research methods within psychology, including a comprehensive coverage of statistical modelling and research design using the R statistical language.

Is this MSc for me?

This programme teaches you core research methods and specialist techniques, and you can flexibly choose optional courses to customise your learning in areas you are most passionate about.

It provides excellent preparation for further psychological research, whether you choose to pursue this in a professional setting or as part of a PhD programme. So whether you want to continue in academic research or move into professional training in psychology, this programme is for you.

Reputation, relevance and employability

The University of Edinburgh has a long tradition of research expertise in psychological research. Our large Psychology department is home to academics leading research in the field.

You will benefit from the breadth and strength of the interdisciplinary academic community at Edinburgh, having the opportunity to select option courses and attend research seminars across different disciplines.

Our students’ research projects are often published in academic or professional journals.

Our programme has an excellent reputation amongst employers and educators. Many of our graduates have gone onto PhD training and academic careers, or advanced professional training in psychology.

We maintain close contacts with professional organisations such as the British Psychological Society (BPS).

  • Find out more about our community

The School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences is home to a large, supportive and active student community, hosting events and activities you can join in with throughout the year. As a postgraduate student, you will have access to a range of research resources and projects, state of the art facilities, research, seminars and reading groups.

Programme structure

This programme comprises two semesters of taught core and optional courses followed by a dissertation.

The taught courses and their assessments take place between September and December (Semester 1) and January and April (Semester 2). Planning for the dissertation will take place before April, and it is carried out between April and August.

Core courses

The core courses cover advanced research skills (how to plan for, conduct, publish and communicate research), statistics and qualitative research methods, and provide a grounding in computer programming using the R language.

Semester 1 core courses

  • Psychological Research Skills - General advanced research methodology
  • Univariate Statistics and Methodology using R - Introduction to R and statistical models

Semester 2 core courses

  • Multivariate Statistics and Methodology using R – Advanced statistical modelling
  • Qualitative Methodologies in Psychological Research Methods

Optional courses

The optional course can be selected to tailor the programme to your interests. These are normally selected from the core research areas of Psychology, but may also be selected from associated areas such as linguistics or informatics. Examples of optional courses are:

  • Brain Imaging in Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neuropsychology
  • Psychology of Language
  • Neuroscience of Language
  • Applied Psychometrics
  • Any other course open to MSc students subject to approval from the programme director

Dissertation

The dissertation involves conducting an empirical research project in close collaboration with an expert supervisor, sometimes also working with fellow MSc students.

You will produce a written report, similar to an academic journal article. Indeed, some dissertations are published as journal articles.

You should liaise with potential supervisors and determine your choice of topic in the months before April. It is useful to start thinking about dissertation topics and supervisors early if possible. The empirical work and writing takes place between April and August and it is due in August.

The dissertation can be based on data collected by the student or existing datasets (e.g., from large cohort studies, biobanks or other projects).

How will I learn?

Most courses are taught through lectures, and some include seminars/tutorials and practical sessions. The number of contact hours and the teaching format will depend to some extent on the option courses chosen.

After classes finish in April, you will spend all your time working independently on coursework, exam revision and on your dissertation. When you carry out your supervised dissertation research, you will receive guidance from your supervisor through one-to-one meetings, comments on written work and email communication.

Learning outcomes

This programme provides you with a range of knowledge and skills to prepare you for a variety of career paths. On successful completion of this programme, you will have gained:

  • an understanding of advanced topics, methodologies and issues in the areas of psychological science that are of most interest to you
  • an understanding of the basic and advanced principles of research design and application
  • competency in applying a range of methods and research tools, including statistical models and programming
  • skills in research management, including managing data and conducting and disseminating research in ways consistent with both professional practice and the normal principles of research ethics
  • transferable skills in written and verbal communication, group and teamwork, computing, programming and numeracy, time and project management
  • the ability to work as an independent researcher and as part of a team

Career opportunities

The programme is primarily designed for students who aspire to pursue a research-oriented career in psychological science. However, students interested in careers outside research will obtain a broad range of highly desirable transferable skills applicable to a wide range of modern jobs, such as:

  • research design
  • data science
  • data management and processing
  • critical evaluation and synthesis of scientific literature
  • statistical modelling and interpretation
  • synthesis and communication of complex ideas
  • Careers Service

Our award-winning Careers Service plays an essential part in your wider student experience at the University, providing:

  • tailored advice
  • individual guidance and personal assistance
  • internships and networking opportunities (with employers from local organisations to top multinationals)
  • access to the experience of our worldwide alumni network

We invest in your future beyond the end of your degree. Studying at the University of Edinburgh will lay the foundations for your future success, whatever shape that takes.

Important application information

Your application and personal statement allow us to make sure that you and your chosen MSc are good matches for each other, and that you will have a productive and successful year at Edinburgh.

We strongly recommend you apply as early as possible. You should avoid applying to more than one degree. Applicants who can demonstrate their understanding and commitment to a specific programme are preferred. If you plan to apply to more than one programme, you should discuss your choices with us before you submit your application.

Personal statements

When applying you should include a personal statement detailing your academic abilities and your reasons for applying for the programme

The personal statement helps us decide whether you are right for the MSc programme you have selected, but just as importantly, it helps us decide whether the MSc programme is right for you.

Your personal statement should include:

  • What makes this particular MSc programme interesting for you?
  • What are the most important things you want to gain from the MSc programme?
  • The key courses you have taken and that are relevant for this specific programme.
  • Your experience with collecting empirical data (e.g., preparing and carrying out experiments, surveys or interviews).
  • Your experience with statistical analysis and programming or qualitative research methods.
  • Your experience with writing empirical research reports (including any that have been published).
  • Any other information which you feel will help us ensure that you are a good match to your intended MSc programme.

A good personal statement can make a big difference to the admissions process as it may be the only opportunity to explain why you are an ideal candidate for the programme.

You will be asked to add contact details for your referees. We will email them with information on how to upload their reference directly to your online application. Alternatively, they can email their comments to:

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

  • How to apply

Psychology at Edinburgh

Entry requirements.

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in psychology or a related discipline.

We may also consider candidates with a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in a non-psychology subject if they can demonstrate evidence of their aptitude for research or research methods.

Students from China

This degree is Band C.

  • Postgraduate entry requirements for students from China

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

  • Entry requirements by country
  • English language requirements

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.5 in each component. We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 23 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced ( CAE ) / C2 Proficiency ( CPE ): total 185 with at least 176 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE : ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 62 in each component.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS , TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE , in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

  • UKVI list of majority English speaking countries

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries (non-MESC).

  • Approved universities in non-MESC

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than five years old* at the beginning of your programme of study. (*Revised 05 March 2024 to extend degree validity to five years.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

Fees and costs

Tuition fees, scholarships and funding.

There are a number of highly competitive scholarships and funding options available to MSc students.

Deadlines for funding applications vary for each funding source - please make sure to check the specific deadlines for the funding opportunities you wish to apply for and make sure that you submit your application in good time.

  • Drever Trust Scholarship

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments.

The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on:

  • your programme
  • the duration of your studies
  • your tuition fee status

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

  • UK government and other external funding

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Search for funding

Further information

  • PPLS Postgraduate Office
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 651 5002
  • Contact: [email protected]
  • Programme Director, Prof Martin Corley
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 650 6682
  • Contact: [email protected]
  • Dugald Stewart Building
  • 3 Charles Street
  • Central Campus
  • School: Philosophy, Psychology & Language Sciences
  • College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

This programme is not currently accepting applications. Applications for the next intake usually open in October.

Start date: September

Awards: MSc (12 mth FT, 24 mth PT)

Application deadlines

This MSc programme operates a gathered field approach to applications. This means that all complete applications which meet our minimum entry requirements will be held until the nearest deadline at which point the Admissions Panel will meet to consider all applications received at this time.

Gathered field deadlines for this programme are as follows:

Round Application deadline Places awarded
1 30 November 2023 01 February 2024
2 04 March 2024 30 April 2024
3 01 May 2024 26 June 2024

Applications submitted after the deadline date will unfortunately not be considered.

Please read through the ‘Important application information’ section on this page before applying.

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