Social policy courses

Daniel Higginbotham, Editor
December, 2019

If you're keen to explore the causes of society's problems and how the world's governments seek to address these challenges, studying a social policy course at university could be for you

What is social policy?

As a broad subject, social policy is concerned with global societies and how national governments meet the basic human needs of its citizens spanning the course of their lifetime, all the way from birth through to old age. The welfare state refers to government spending on core economic and social areas including work, health, education and wellbeing.

When you study the subject, you'll be analysing the role that governments play in the provision of social services, considering the legislation, principles and guidelines in place.

You'll also be looking to highlight inequalities and propose solutions to ensure that all social groups - defined by age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability and socio-economic status - have access to the support and services available.

Undergraduate degrees

There are a number of social policy courses at undergraduate level, with the opportunity to go down either the Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BSc) route. Irrespective of the type of degree you choose, many include the chance to undertake a work placement and teach you the research skills required to enter a career in the public services sector.

For instance, the BA Social Policy at the University of Birmingham equips you with the theoretical knowledge and research ability to make sense of and address crucial social issues in the UK and beyond. From prison overcrowding and homelessness to problem debts and an ageing population, you'll get to investigate possible solutions and 'make important things happen'.

In the second year of this social policy degree, you'll get to undertake a work-based placement, while you can also gain work experience in your final year as part of the professional development module.

Another option is the BSc Social Policy from the University of Salford. This research-informed programme focuses on social change. It offers an optional community placement where you'll get to put what you've learned into practice by working for a partner organisation, such as local government or a private social care provider.

Finally, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) has a department dedicated to the study of social policy. Its BSc International Social and Public Policy can be studied on its own or as part of a multidisciplinary approach in combination with politics or economics. With an international approach to the subject, you'll analyse real world issues such as poverty, disadvantage, international development, welfare and work.

Other options include:

All these social policy degrees with a September 2020 start date are usually studied for three years on a full-time basis, with some allowing the course to be studied across six years part time. The fees for 2020/21 are set at £9,250 for UK and EU students.

If you've not applied to university yet but know you'd like to study for a postgraduate qualification, The University of Edinburgh offers seven four-year social policy courses, including the MA in Government, Policy and Society.

Social policy Masters

If you've not applied to university yet but know you'd like to study for a postgraduate qualification, The University of Edinburgh offers seven four-year social policy courses, including the MA in Government, Policy and Society.

In terms of one-year full-time (or two-year part-time) Masters degrees, there are plenty of options at this level. Many of the universities running undergraduate degree programmes - for instance, the University of Birmingham, University of Salford and University of York - also run Masters courses.

Social policy Masters degrees typically combine taught coursework along with supervised independent study. You'll get to develop your research skills and focus on an area of interest.

At the LSE, if you're hoping to concentrate on a specific type of public service, the two-year Master of Public Administration (MPA) would give you the chance to work for a client organisation.

In the first year, you'll study three core courses:

  • micro and macro economics for public policy
  • political science for public policy
  • quantitative approaches and policy analysis.

The second year involves the MPA Capstone project where you'll get to address a real-life policy issue at a client organisation before choosing to specialise in:

  • economic policy
  • inequality and poverty
  • international development
  • international political economy
  • social impact.

Alternatively, the one-year, full-time MSc International Social and Public Policy addresses how states and societies respond to global challenges of social, demographic and economic change, and of poverty, migration and globalisation. It is underpinned by the LSE approach to social and public policy that's explicitly international, interdisciplinary and applied.

There's also the MSc Criminal Justice Policy that provides an opportunity to apply the concepts and theoretical perspectives from criminology, sociology, law and psychology to the subjects of crime, social order and criminal justice institutions.

If you've decided you'd like to go down this postgraduate route, search for social policy courses.

You can also explore your postgraduate study funding options.

Social policy jobs

Once you've achieved qualifications, there are a number of career paths to choose from. The two most common roles are policy officer and social researcher, but other popular social policy jobs include:

If you'd like to discover what others have done after graduation, see what can I do with my degree in social policy?

Find out more

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