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What Is a Social Work Practicum?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 22 January 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2019
    Conjecture Corporation
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A social work practicum provides direct learning experience by placing students in the field with social service agencies. Many schools of social work require a set number of hours of field work from students before they can graduate. In some cases this may be necessary to maintain accreditation, and graduates must provide proof of completion to apply for licenses to become social workers. This provides a real-world opportunity to engage in social work settings under supervision from mentors with specific training in providing instruction to students.

Students can start their social work practicum after completing some core classes, and may need to receive recommendation or clearance from an instructor. They may be assigned to a specific agency or site, or can apply based on interest. Some programs are split into several parts, where students start out on a general practicum and then apply to focus on a specific topic as they acquire more hours. This provides an opportunity to learn more about a direct field of interest.

Some of the tasks in a social work practicum can include administrative support. Students may review cases, supervise office work, and perform other tasks related to running an agency. This experience is critical for people who need to work as part of administrative teams after qualifying, and who want a thorough understanding of the work involved in different social work activities. Administrative support also provides an opportunity to learn before interacting directly with clients.

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Other social work practicum activities involve working personally with clients. This can include intake interviews, advising, and other forms of assistance to both individuals and groups. Supervisors monitor students to make sure they are comfortable, and people may be more independent over time as they demonstrate their ability to handle a range of situations. Training with supervision provides an opportunity to ask for help, consult people with years of practice on how to proceed, and take advantage of the knowledge of instructors and trainers.

Over the course of a social work practicum, students may have to submit periodic evaluations. These include a discussion of performance from supervisors and mentors who provide information about whether they think a student is progressing appropriately. If there are concerns about a student’s ethics or professional standards, these can be discussed and addressed during the evaluation process. Instructors may monitor students who appear to be having trouble with the program, and can call them in for meetings to discuss options if there are concerns about the ability to complete training.

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