Perhaps the most exciting part of pursuing undergraduate and subsequent graduate degrees in the field of social work, is the fantastic experiential learning methods used and on-site internships provided through schools and universities. Since the field of social work is so vast, there is a wide range of jobs and roles that qualified social workers can play. Many may not have first-hand experience in the field, and may be unaware of the breadth of opportunities that face social workers in current society. It continues to be a growing field, in spite of recent governmental cuts and the always-changing economic front of the country. In fact, times of hardship and change are when the call for social workers is at its greatest; licensed clinical social workers are playing therapeutic roles in some healthcare settings in lieu of more expensive psychologists or psychiatrists, providing direct support and counseling to clients and patients.
The first year of a typical graduate social work degree program surrounds the macro-based field placement. This is a situation, unpaid, that enlists the student’s service in a similar way that a job would. Sometimes, the hiring group will offer to pay the student a stipend which is intended to cover expenses and costs of time spent contributing to the organization. Also, there may or may not be some reimbursements allowed when the student is attending distant events or sites related to the internship. This experience puts the focus on macro-based practice; that is, social work practice with communities rather than direct practice with the individual, which is considered micro-practice.
Micro practice will likely encompass the majority of the second year of full time study and could be a paid position in some instances. Students may be able to practice much as a licensed clinical social worker would, providing client support and therapeutic interventions in private or medical settings. It is likely that the student would be shadowed during their interventions, and a supervising clinician would need to “sign off” on progress notes, dictations, or any documentation that is charted or filed in patient’s record.
Having the opportunity to get a foot in the door at some of the most intriguing and fascinating work settings is a huge perk of the social work internships. Also, the exposure to both community-based practice and direct client intervention gives the student an advantage on resumes and when seeking out desired positions later. This diverse experience gives the student a more informed generalist perspective in their approach to social work practice.