The importance of field placements for social work students

The importance of field placements for social work students

January 11, 2023 0 By Swati

Whether you are pursuing a bachelor’s degree in social work or preparing to obtain your MSW, fieldwork is a crucial part of earning a social work degree. In your field placements, you will be offered the opportunity to put the skills you are learning into practice while simultaneously being supervised and guided by an experienced supervisor.

In social work education, field placements are supervised internships at organizations providing social work services. Although traditional coursework offers a good idea of the situations you might encounter in your work, there is no substitute for real-world experience.

Social worker skills

Every social worker executes a varied set of skills in their field. However, some specific skills come in handy for those working in the area. Here are some examples:

  • Organization: With their many daily responsibilities, social workers must be highly organized. The caseloads and paperwork often add up between calls, networking, billing, and organizing services.
  • Empathy: This allows social workers to see things from their clients’ points of view. Empathy offers social workers a more profound understanding of their clients’ lives and problems.
  • Patience: You will work with various clients as a social worker. Exercising patience and connecting with clients from different backgrounds is a fundamental component of social work.
  • Communication: Social workers must be transparent, clear, and concise with clients, their families, care providers, and coworkers. Assertive communication helps reduce misunderstandings and remove other communication barriers.
  • Troubleshooting: No two cases are identical, and social workers often work toward finding the best solution in a complex situation. An accomplished problem-solver can help clients obtain the best services they need.

What are placements in social work?

As a fundamental component of an accredited traditional online MSW program like the one offered at Florida State University, social work field placements allow students to gain practical training for the workforce. It is worth noting that the three-year traditional online Master’s in Social Work program offered at Florida State University does not require a bachelor’s degree in Social Work for enrollment.

As mentioned, these internships occur at institutions and organizations delivering social work services. They offer students experience in the everyday responsibilities and activities of social workers on the job under the supervision of trained professionals. In-field placements also allow students to apply their social work experience, theory, and classroom learning to real-life situations.

During their fieldwork, students benefit from constructive criticism and evaluation from their field supervisors. Students may then apply the feedback to their work and improve and hone their skills.

Types of field placements in social work

MSW students can immerse themselves in their passions or interests with in-field placements. Aspiring social workers who are still figuring out their areas of interest may use field placements to get a sense of the right path forward for them.

Social work students can complete their experience in several areas of specialization, from geriatric social work to child welfare. With this flexibility, MSW students may choose from numerous organizations to meet their field placement requirements, including:

  • Hospitals and healthcare facilities
  • Schools
  • Hospice centers
  • Rehabilitation centers and substance use clinics
  • Community service organizations
  • Justice centers
  • Child welfare facilities
  • Mental health facilities
  • Violence crisis centers

Is pursuing social work worthwhile?

Is pursuing a career in social work suitable for you? Before settling on any profession, whether it is in social work or a related discipline, you should consider your interests, professional goals, and unique abilities. Your career as a social worker must align with these interests. Consider the following questions to figure out whether a job in social work is a good path for you:

  • Do you spend your spare time overseeing disadvantaged youth or supporting adolescents and children who have faced abuse or trauma at the hands of family members?
  • Are you resilient, and do you look for challenges in the workplace and enjoy thinking of new solutions?
  • Do you receive praise for your professionalism, patience, and aptitude for reading people?
  • Are you driven by diversity, or is your cultural awareness what draws people to you?

The social work career is often viewed as both fulfilling and emotionally taxing. Strong intersocial skills, practicing empathy, and being an efficient communicator, thinker and listener may lead to success in this career.

If you decide to enter a social work career, you will step into a fast-growing workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the social work career is estimated to grow 9% from 2021 to 2031, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.

The importance and advantages of gaining experience in the social work field

Social workers advocate for the vulnerable, tackle poverty, and promote mental health. Few careers provide such an abundance of opportunities to bring about change. Dealing with social issues such as domestic violence and opioid addiction calls for endurance and strength. Here are a few reasons social work is such a fulfilling career.

Practical experience

Student interns take the academic frameworks taught by instructors in the classroom and apply them to real-world situations. When learning from experienced experts, students can critically reflect on and analyze different intervention methods.

When working with clients, social work interns use their theoretical knowledge to ascertain the best way to deal with an individual case and create a plan of action.

Gaining field-related insights

MSW students learn about the characteristics of trauma-related care in the classroom. However, social work interns may have the chance to see the trauma-informed method in action. Students can process their individual experiences with the help of their field instructors, and their speculations are frequently challenged in ways that allow them to evolve in compassion and insight.

For example, an intern may initially see a client as uncooperative, with the client missing appointments and responding to efforts to develop a rapport with rudeness and suspicion. With an expert field instructor, the intern can learn to empathize with clients, identify their behavior and seek alternative ways of meeting their needs.

Specialized skills in specified areas

Experience in the social work field complements classroom courses by allowing interns to develop and evolve specialized skills.

In the classroom, MSW students discover conventional methods for interviewing and speaking with clients. They can also learn to perform strengths and needs assessments. However, each specialist field of social work calls for a unique approach and specialized skills that interns can learn in their field placements. For example, they can learn how to apply the best possible strategy for a specific age group and the best plan for the type of care in question.

Field placements for social work students

When training to be a licensed social worker, you must complete some sort of field placement. This is vital in social work because it teaches students to think and work like social workers. Here are some of the most popular examples of such opportunities:

Healthcare facility

Clinics, hospitals, and other healthcare institutions routinely hire social workers who help patients and their families in various ways. From navigating the often-complex world of healthcare to assisting grieving relatives after the passing of a family member, social workers in the healthcare sector offer various valuable services.

This field placement is an excellent opportunity for those who are planning to work in healthcare after obtaining their degrees. It will offer a clearer idea of what to expect if you pursue work in this sector.

Counseling center

Social work students choose their in-field placements based on their areas of concentration of study. If your main goal is to become a therapist or counselor one day, a field placement at a counseling or mental health services center should suit your purposes. You will work with people from all social strata and evaluate and treat them for various issues. 

Hospice

Hospice organizations always need assistance from social workers. Social workers work with patients and hospice employees in these settings. Nurses and other professionals working in such environments often need help and support to cope with working so closely with those who are dying and their families.

Consequently, social work in a hospice environment is versatile and rewarding. Field placement with a local hospice would be best for you if you expect to look for employment in the hospice sector.

Child, family, and school

Child, family, and school social workers offer their services to children, school faculties, and families, helping them resolve problems. Child, family, and school social workers also help by connecting struggling parents with resources to help them care for and raise their children. These professionals work with teachers and students to tackle bullying and address learning disabilities and other barriers.

Human services organizations

Numerous non-profit organizations assisting various populations hire social workers to deal with essential tasks. These organizations include agencies helping those with autism, Alzheimer’s, multiple disabilities, and other health conditions.

People who are suffering from these conditions and their families need a lot of support and often rely on these organizations. Social workers work next to them to help them accomplish their goals.

If you want to pursue employment in the non-profit sector assisting vulnerable or underserved populations, this may be the right field education opportunity for you.