Students pursuing social work degrees often complete social work internships or practicums. A social work internship is a professional program offered by organizations to students who are almost finished completing an educational program or to degree holders seeking experience. Typically, candidates are completing their undergraduate or graduate degree. Social work internships for undergraduates focus on relevant, entry-level experiences that mirror job duties, while internships for graduate students prepares them for more advanced job roles. Internships can be paid or unpaid and provide networking opportunities that may lead to a permanent position.
Social work internships for undergraduates focus on relevant, entry-level experiences that mirror job duties
Students should know the speciality field they plan to enter before considering an internship to ensure relevant placement. Students should research nonprofits, public welfare courts, or geriatric systems when considering how to find social work internships.
Social work students must often complete a practicum. This is a type of professional work experience that allows students to study, observe, and document the performance of other professionals in the field. Student participation is limited and supervised. Practicum experiences are paired with a course containing milestone assignments to analyze the experience. Students must satisfy a certain amount of hours, and a professor typically chooses placement.
What to Expect from Your Social Work Internship or Practicum
What Will I Do for My Social Work Internship or Practicum?
Social work internships vary depending on a student's level of education and specialty. Interns perform duties such as preparing agendas and discussing details with directors or field instructors. Other intern duties include case management, evaluation of client needs, and treatment options. Interns may also propose solutions to current challenges. While interns gain practical experience and complete independent tasks at times, they work under the guidance of licensed social workers.
In Which Type of Setting Will I Work?
Students should only consider internships relevant to their career goals as specialty experience hours are necessary for licensure. Social work experience settings include hospitals, social service organizations, schools, government agencies, businesses, correctional facilities, courts, and retirement homes. Distance learners can also complete internships and a practicum. Counselors work with agencies across the nation and email students about nearby internship opportunities.
How Long Will My Internship or Practicum Last?
Internships and practicum experiences vary in length of time. Practicum experiences are typically a semester long due to the course it is linked with. The course syllabus details mandatory hours and requirements. Practicum courses rarely meet to provide students with time to visit their practicum site. Internships vary in length. Some organizations list internship requirements, while others negotiate program hours and length. Internships are more like part-time jobs where students have set schedules.
Will I Get Paid for My Social Work Internship or Practicum?
Interns assume more independent responsibilities and complete tasks that benefit the organization. Therefore, many of them receive some sort of payment. Social work practicums are attached to programs and are typically unpaid.
Will I Get Academic Credit for My Internship or Practicum?
Because a social work practicum is part of a class, students receive academic credit. In some cases, the actual class is worth a certain amount of credit hours and the practicum itself is listed separately with its own credit hours. Class coursework attached to the practicum analyzes what students are learning and tends to build up to a larger project or essay. Internships are often required to graduate.
How Will My Social Work Internship or Practicum Help Me?
In a social work practicum experience, professionals understand that students are there to observe and, in relevant instances, apply their knowledge in a professional setting. Students learn how to identify proper conduct of a social work professional in real-world settings, while implementing the same behavior. Students also learn to identify ethical dilemmas based on their foundational knowledge, understand ethical conflict, and identify assessment processes. Social work practicum students apply critical thinking to support and communicate professional-level judgment.
In social work internships, interns concentrate on autonomy and fulfilling tasks independently. This can be accomplished by demonstrating depth and understanding of theoretical frameworks that determine intervention strategies. Interns also practice leadership skills by advocating for clients in ethically and socially just ways.
While practicum experiences can be listed for professionals with no other experience, internships are often acknowledged on resumes as relevant experience.
How to Find Social Work Internships
Many students wonder how to find social work internships. Universities can help direct students to common, local resources.
Your School’s Career Center
Job Boards and Internship Databases
Social Work Internship Opportunities
This general internship site boasts a social work-specific page where students can find social work internships across the U.S.
Professional organizations use this search engine to post jobs and internships. Interns have access to local and global internships.
This website lists internship opportunities outside of the U.S. and boasts a page dedicated to social work experiences.
While many use this site as a living resume, organizations heavily rely upon LinkedIn. Students can find social work internships across the nation listed on this site.
NASW is one of the most relied upon resources for social workers, providing students with a list of reputable internship opportunities.
For interns interested in working with younger populations, this organization specializes in children and adolescent social work.
- The New Social Worker Since 1944, this magazine has been dedicated to publishing practical and current social work information.