Otago Polytechnic

Bachelor of Social Services

Counselling; Career Practice; Social Services

Are you looking for a way to gain the necessary skills to be a capable and confident social services professional working in New Zealand? Want to become a counsellor, career practitioner or work in social services industry? Look no further!

Embrace the opportunity to meet the professional competency standards that are increasingly essential in social services roles during this applied degree programme. Choose from a wide range of social services careers and focus on helping people improve their quality of life. The demand for qualified individuals in the community services industries will remain strong as the world faces a growing and ageing population and a general increase in social problems. Consider employment as a mental health advocate/support worker, disability support advocate/worker, community/social services worker, counsellor or career practitioner. Alternatively, you could continue with further study and pursue a career in academia or policy development.

Gain a solid foundation in various aspects of the field during year one before choosing to specialise in career practice, counselling, mental health or disability support. You must indicate which specialty area(s) you are most interested in at the time of application but you will not be required to formally choose your specialty until the end of your first year. Mental health and disability have the option of an exit diploma at the end of the second year, or can progress into the year three social services specialty.

Build on the concepts and knowledge acquired in the foundation courses, enabling you to develop a sound knowledge base before undertaking valuable work placements. Working with clients is a core component of this programme and will give you the opportunity to gain mastery in professional practice and theory and increase your work-readiness. Benefit from the chance to network with other services and to forge important industry contacts and relationships.

Please note: The Bachelor's includes an exit qualification available after two years full-time, or four years part-time study:

  • Diploma in Social Services (Level 6); Disability Support, Mental Health Support
Skills required
  • Objectivity, responsibility, positivity and approachability
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Patience and a calm manner
  • A genuine interest in helping people
  • Ability to be responsive to clients.
Entry requirements
  • NCEA Level 3 including:  
    • 14 credits at Level 3 or above in three NZQA approved university entrance subjects, and
    • Literacy - 10 credits at Level 2 or above, made up of:
      • 5 credits in reading and 5 credits in writing, and
    • Numeracy - 10 credits at Level 1 or above, made up of:
      • specified achievement standards available through a range of subjects OR
      • package of three numeracy unit standards (26623, 26626, 26627- all three required).
  • A suitable alternative would be a Level 4 certificate, worth 60 credits, that includes English language-rich subjects.
  • You must demonstrate relevant life/work experience.
  • You must submit references and a health declaration.
  • You must declare any criminal convictions and give permission for a police check.
  • International students will be individually assessed to ensure they meet degree-level entry requirements.
  • If English is not your first language, you must also demonstrate English language skills equivalent to an IELTS overall band score (academic) of 6.5, with no band score less than 6.5.

Please note: An application pack will be sent to you and you must indicate which specialty area(s) you are most interested in. 

Bridging options

If you do not meet the entry requirements for the Bachelor of Social Services, the best programmes to prepare you are the Certificate in Human Services (Level 4) (Speciality) or the Certificate in Health (Level 4). These programmes can be studied at Otago Polytechnic.

Additional documentation

You must supply certified copies of proof of identity, academic records, proof of residency (where appropriate), referees' reports and curriculum vitae.

Selection procedure

Eligible applicants will be selected based on academic entry criteria and evidence of personal suitability demonstrated in written work and an interview. Numbers in this programme are limited. Should the number of applicants exceed the places available, a waitlist will be compiled in date order of application.

In addition, the number of students accepted into each specialty will be determined by the number of placements available. Please note that we unfortunately cannot guarantee your choice of specialty.

Additional costs

You will undertake work placements during this qualification and will need to budget for these accordingly. You will be expected to pay for your travel expenses to and from your placement and any meals/accommodation. 

Further study options

Increase your career prospects with postgraduate study at Waikato, Massey or Auckland universities.

Programme specific risks

If you have had experiences of trauma, mental illness, abuse or life events causing emotional harm, you may experience some emotional risk during this programme. The School of Social Services and Otago Polytechnic have services available to support you.

You will study

The Bachelor of Social Services degree is made up of 22 courses in disability studies, mental health, counselling and career guidance for each major completed over three years of full-time study, or up to six years of part-time study. The year three specialty courses are 30 credits each and all other courses are 15 credits.

You will choose one area of specialisation from counselling, career practice, mental health or disability at the end of your first year. Your chosen area of specialisation is designed to build on the concepts and knowledge developed in the core courses during year one and to re-focus your learning into that area of specialisation. This enables you to develop a sound knowledge base before applying that knowledge in the workplace. 

In workplace practice, you have the opportunity to integrate the theory you have learnt into practice. If you specialise in mental health or disability and have successfully completed all required courses, you may choose to exit at the end of year two with a Diploma in Social Services (Level 6), Diploma in Social Services (Level 6) (Mental Health Support) or a Diploma in Social Services (Level 6) (Disability).

During year three (Level 7), you will undertake a further placement where you will work within the scope of the agency and gain valuable experience that will increase your employment potential. Upon successful completion of all required courses, you will graduate with a Bachelor of Social Services, a Bachelor of Social Services (Career Practice) or a Bachelor of Social Services (Counselling).

This overall programme structure allows you to progressively enhance and deepen your understanding which in turn enables you to gain mastery in professional practice and theory. This ensures that, by the completion of the degree programme, you are able to incorporate the knowledge and skills gained into an integrated and intentional model of practice in the area of your specialty.

The exit Diploma in Social Services (Level 6) (Specialty) is made up of 16 courses for each area of specialisation completed over two years of full-time study, or four years of part-time study.

During year one, the required foundations across all major subject areas are laid down.

REAL-WORLD PREPARATION

Gain current and industry-relevant training, along with industry placements, during this programme so you know exactly what to expect when you enter the workforce. You will have placement opportunities during your progression through the programme. If you are a counselling student, studying our approved programme of New Zealand counselling courses, you will have the opportunity to work through the Kowhai Centre with clients during your second year and go on placement in your third year.

Placements are an exciting opportunity for students to work with people in supervised settings, and the School of Social Services appreciates all the support from the community that enables us to provide quality placements to students.

THE KOWHAI CENTRE

The Kowhai Centre is a social service that was established in 2001 to provide counselling support to the community and provide Bachelor of Social Services students with the opportunity to work with people who require supportive counselling or supervision in a learning environment. Students are supported by lecturing staff and counsellors within the community to provide a counselling service which is professional, respectful and accessible. 

CAREER SUCCESS CENTRE

The School of Social Services established the Career Success Centre in 2013. This was set up to provide a career service to all Otago Polytechnic students with strategies to support effective career decision-making, previous training and diversity. Career Guides offer advice and assistance to all students; these Guides are current Bachelor of Social Services students who are in their second or third year of the Career Practice specialty training. The Career Guides are supported by lecturing staff and career practitioners within the professional career counselling service community.

Courses in Social Services degree

YEAR ONE

Interpersonal Communication

Begin to develop interpersonal and micro-counselling skills enabling you to communicate in an effective, safe and professional way.

Personal and Professional Development

Develop personal and professional skills and awareness in order to work safely and effectively with clients.

Researching Skills

Acquire skills for locating and evaluating research, including the conventions of academic communication, information retrieval and critical assessment skills.

Human Development

Gain knowledge of the stages, influences and theories of human development and the impact that this may have within relevant fields of practice.

Social Psychology

Examine psychological approaches and the study of behaviour with emphasis on group dynamics. The histories of major contributing theorists and the influence of social psychological understandings on individual and group behaviours will also be explored.

New Zealand Law and Policy for Social Services

Develop knowledge and experience of New Zealand law and policy relevant to the range of social services.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi: Application and Practice

Explore the Te Tiriti o Waitangi and develop skills for establishing and maintaining working relationships with Māori.

Introduction to Specialty Practice

Be introduced to the concept of a career development journey. Gain an overview of the changing careers and employment environment in NZ, and gain an insight into your own career choices. Providing an overview of the career theories relevant to work in all fields of social services practice, this course will help you to choose your specialty for year two and major for year 3 of this programme.

YEAR TWO

Working with Groups

Explore key principles and theories of group work through participation in an experiential group (integrating theory and practice and developing a coherent process for working with and leading groups) and through facilitation of a group (developing group leadership skills and style).

Research Methods

Develop academic skills for gathering, interpreting, analysing and presenting information for evidence-informed practice.

Working with People with Addictions

If you are majoring in social services or counselling, gain an overview of the addictions field in order to develop useful and culturally appropriate responses for helping people address addiction in their lives.

Contemporary Issues in Career Practice

If you are majoring in career practice, investigate and develop expertise in areas of challenge in contemporary careers. Broaden your knowledge and helping strategies by examining key issues that challenge career progress in the 21st century.

Social Issues and Social Policy in New Zealand

Be introduced to social issues relevant in the New Zealand context and critically examine how issues are addressed through social policy and social service provision.

Wānaka

Develop an understanding of the importance of working with Māori and appropriate protocols necessary for building relationships.

Sustainable Practice

Recognise the need for sustainability in the management of our natural, built, economic and social environment.

Theory for Practice 1 – Area of Specialisation: Career Practice, Counselling, Mental Health, Disability

Develop an understanding of the underpinning theories, research, and models of practice relevant to your chosen field. Build on the skills and strategies which inform practice to begin to develop a framework which supports authenticity and congruency in your practice.

Integrated Practice 1 – Area of Specialisation: Career Practice, Counselling, Mental Health, Disability

Engage in supervised practice with clients and peers through fieldwork placements in your area of specialisation. Participate in individual, small group and peer supervision of your integrated practice and demonstrate your application of theory into practice to provide professional and effective support to people.

YEAR THREE

Working with Families

Become acquainted with theoretical approaches to working with families including Family Development Theory, Narrative Therapy and Systems Theory. The influence of family in relation to clients in the practice domains of social service, counselling and career practice will be explored through experiential and reflective learning.

Practitioner Inquiry

Undertake a systematic review of relevant research material and literature in order to answer a question which has direct relevance to practice in your chosen major.

Supporting Safe Practice

Develop understanding of situations of disempowerment and consider the processes and strategies for identifying and responding to issues of abuse, neglect and violence.

Sustainable Practitioner

Examine issues of sustainability in relation to practice as a counsellor, career practitioner or social service worker and explore how to develop a sustainable practice. You will also have the opportunity to learn how to manage a small business as a self-employed practitioner. The course will include legislative small business responsibilities and Inland Revenue Department (IRD) services.

Theory for Practice 2 – Major: Social Service, Career Practice, Counselling

Further develop your understandings of the underpinning theories, research and models of practice relevant to social service, career practice and counselling. Build on the skills and strategies which inform your practice and further develop a framework which supports safe professional practice.

Integrated Practice 2 – Major: Social Service, Career Practice, Counselling

Engage in further supervised practice with clients and peers within community fieldwork placements and participate in individual, small group and peer supervision of your integrated practice. Demonstrate your application of theory into practice and your ability to meet the membership requirements of relevant professional bodies.

Exit Qualifications

After three years of successful full-time study (or up to six years of part-time study), you will graduate with a social services degree. You can choose to graduate with a:

  • Bachelor of Social Services
  • Bachelor of Social Services (Career Practice)
  • Bachelor of Social Services (Counselling).

After two years of successful full-time study (or up to four years of part-time study), you can choose to graduate with a:

  • Diploma in Social Services (Level 6)
  • Diploma in Social Services (Disability Support)
  • Diploma in Social Services (Mental Health Support).
Your workload

A full-time programme consists of eight 15-credit papers per year; each paper equates to 150 hours of work. This is spread across 32 weeks which works out at an average of 37.5 hours per week.

Qualification structure 

 

Courses

Credits

YEAR 1

(Level 5)

120 Credits

Interpersonal Communication

Personal and Professional Development

Researching Skills

Human Development

Social Psychology

New Zealand Law and Policy for Social Services

Te Tiriti o Waitangi: Application and Practice

Introduction to Specialty Practice

15

15

15

15

15

15

15

15

YEAR 2

(Level 6)

120 Credits

Working with Groups

Research Methods

Working with People with Addictions

Contemporary Issues in Career Practice (for Career Practice specialty)

Social Issues and Social Policy in New Zealand

Wānaka

Theory for Practice 1 (Counselling)

Theory for Practice 1 (Mental Health Support)

Theory for Practice 1 (Career Practice)

Theory for Practice 1 (Disability Support)

Integrated Practice 1 (Counselling)

Integrated Practice 1 (Mental Health Support)

Integrated Practice 1 (Career Practice)

Integrated Practice 1 (Disability Support)

15

15

15

15

15

15

15

15

15

15

15

15

15

15

YEAR 3

(Level 7)

120 Credits

Working with Families

Practitioner Inquiry

Supporting Safe Practice

Sustainable Practitioner

Theory for Practice 2 (Counselling)

Theory for Practice 2 (Career Practice)

Theory for Practice 2 (Social Services)

Integrated Practice 2 (Counselling)

Integrated Practice 2 (Career Practice)

Integrated Practice 2 (Social Services)

15

15

15

15

30

30

30

30

30

30

 

Student loans/allowances

Student loans and allowances are for domestic students only. For information about student loans and allowances please visit the Studylink website. It is important to apply for your student loan/allowance at the same time as you apply for this programme, due to the length of time Studylink take to process. Loan/allowance applications can be cancelled at any time if you decide to withdraw your programme application or if it is unsuccessful. 

Recognition of prior learning

If you have extensive knowledge and skills due to practical experience in this area, enquire about our recognition of prior learning process at Capable NZ. You may have already gained credits towards this qualification through work experience in age support, disability support, mental health, social work or youth work or other relevant community services.

Disclaimer

While every effort is made to ensure that this sheet is accurate, Otago Polytechnic reserves the right to amend, alter or withdraw any of the contained information. The fees shown in this document are indicative ONLY. Both domestic and international fees are subject to change and are dependent on the development and implementation of Government policies. Please note that additional fees may from time to time be required for external examination, NZQA fees and/or additional material fees.

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