Social Work Internships

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Practicum vs Internship

Field practicum is an integral part of the social work curriculum. The field practicum is the internship portion of the Bachelor social work program. In social work, the field practicum is seen as an integral component of a professional education. Students are given the opportunity to work with experienced social work professionals in a variety of settings to complement classroom theory and research.  Students should consider their practicum fieldwork to be the most valuable and significant part of their social work education. Students are given the opportunity to learn to think systemically and to develop skills of a professional social worker. The entire curriculum contributes to preparation for social work practice, but it is during the practicum that students face the real challenges and are afforded opportunities of professional responsibility and ethical practice.

The “Practicum” is essentially a form of supervised community service.  Agencies are specifically chosen to provide students the opportunity to engage in direct social work practice experiences with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.

The BSW practicum experience is designed to provide students with the opportunity to develop and enhance skills related to social work intervention with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. The competencies that should be possessed by a graduating BSW include assessment, problem-solving, case management, resource development and an ability to engage in theory based practice in work with various client systems at various levels (individual, family, group, organization, and community).

Practicum: A field experience where one shadows, observes, and takes on limited responsibility in order to assist someone else.  Usually takes place one or two days per  week on a part time basis – typically the student is only at their agency for a half day.

Internship: A senior field experience where students use information from all previous coursework,  students often takes a lead role in practice and application of social work skils, supervision, etc., and usually consists of a 32 to 40 hours week.

It is helpful to understand that different disciplines use different terminologies to describe field learning experiences, and the terms that are used depend on the level of the student’s training. For ex-ample, social work programs often refer to learning opportunities beyond the classroom as “ field placements” or “ field experiences” ( Gelman, 2004; CSWE, 2001). Psychology and counseling use “ practicum” to describe field experiences early in one’s career, and “ internship” for more advanced field train-ing ( APA, 2005; CACREP, 2001; Lewis, Hatcher, & Pate, 2005).

There tends to be confusion regarding the difference between a practicum and an internship. Actually, practicums and internships are quite similar. Both are a type of experiential learning where students “learn by doing.” Both practicums and internships require an agreement among the student, the university, and the participating agency; students typically work for an entire semester in an agency for academic credit under the direction of a faculty instructor and an agency supervisor.

The main difference between practicums and internships is the level of formal instruction built into the experience. Both the Junior Practicum and Senior Internship requires weekly classroom meetings to share students’ experiences and to integrate core concepts and theories learned through formal study of the discipline.

Concurrent placements – students usually attend placements on Tuesday and Thursdays in the Spring and Mon-Fri in the summer (half days) and attend classes.

Block placements – students attend field placement five days a week during the summer and four days per week in the fall semester, and attend seminar class one day per week.


Written by tusksowk

April 7, 2010 at 12:53 pm

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