Frequently Asked Questions about Practicum
1. I work full-time. Can I have a practicum in the evenings and/or weekends?
Think of the social work practicum as you would a medical resident’s internship; you must study under the guidance of someone with the credentials you are seeking. Thus, you must be supervised in your practicum by a social worker with a master’s degree in social work from an accredited program, and a minimum of two years of post-masters experience. Most social workers work Monday through Friday, 8am-5pm. You may need to flex your work schedule to adapt some time for the practicum during the weekdays. On occasion, a social worker may have an evening or weekend program, such as a group counseling session or an educational program, but this may be only once a week or even once a month for maybe two hours. You may want to explore with your employer the possibilities of moving some of your work activities into the evenings and weekends, so you will have some day hours reserved for the practicum. You may also explore the option of shifting to 80% time, keeping your full employee benefits, but working only four days a week and saving the fifth day for the practicum. Additionally, you may want to consider shifting to part-time work during the period you are taking your practicum. Remember that practicum is designed for working 16 hours weekly at the placement site for a total of 225 hours each Fall and Spring semesters and 450 hours total for the academic year.
2. I plan on getting a new job. Can my new job count as my practicum?
An employee and a student have two different roles and obligations and expectations. As an employee, you are required to satisfy the work expectations of the employer. As a practicum student, you are in an academic course with requirements to satisfy the educational expectations in the syllabus and those of your practicum faculty. As a student, you need time to reflect on your practice experiences, perhaps to use some different approaches in your practice than is the custom at the employment site, to challenge some of the accepted practices at your job, and to carry a learner’s size workload. Accreditation also requires that these two roles be clearly separated. If you are employed a minimum of six months by the start of the Fall semester, then you may also wish to explore the possibility of doing an on-job practicum. The guidelines for this option are available at: http://louisville.edu/kent/CURRENT%20STUDENTS/mssw-practicum/on-job-practicum-policy
3. I have several years of social services experience. Can I get credit for that and waive the practicum requirement?
Accreditation standards require that social work programs may not grant course credit for life experience or previous work experience. In a practicum, students will be supervised by someone with a master’s degree in social work from an accredited program and with a minimum of two years of post-master’s experience. This promotes the student’s identity with the profession of social work and encourages the development of values, social work ethics, and the approaches used by this profession. Work experiences of students may or may not have had such supervision guidance, and may not have readily allowed for the student as employee to take time during the work day to reflect on the organization’s practice methods, or to challenge some of the current practices, or to be granted the opportunities to attempt new ways of interventions. All of these are expectations in the practicum when the student can indulge in a learner’s stance to practice under the mentorship of a qualified educational supervisor.
4. Can I do my practicum in the summer?
The practicum and the practice courses are co-requisites and must be taken concurrently. These courses are offered only during the Fall and Spring semesters. The practicum is a two consecutive semesters course, and so taking one part in the Spring and finishing the following Fall semester is not possible.
5. Can I get paid for my practicum?
It is extremely rare to get paid for a practicum. Very few agencies have extra monies available to pay students and those that do are usually advanced practicum sites. Even then, the funds may not be available in any given year due to the economy and changing funding streams. Students may consult with the U of L Financial Aid office to inquire about financial resources. Students may also consult with the Kent School admissions office to inquire about scholarships.
6. How do I apply for practicum? Am I responsible to find my own placement?
- New applicants to the MSSW program, who want to begin their practicum their first semester, will be asked to submit their practicum application to the practicum office once admitted to the MSSW program.
- All current online students and MFT/MFT prep students must submit an application by Friday, January 23rd, 2015.
- All current campus students, including dual degree students and specialization students, must submit an application by Friday, February 27th, 2015.
It is to your advantage to apply for practicum early and avoid the new student rush. Applications for practicum are processed on a first come-first served basis. As students complete their prospective practicum site interviews, and a match is confirmed by the student and the agency, the placement spot is filled. Ramie Martin-Galijatovic or Sheila Cundiff will assist you in finding a practicum that matches your interests and skill set.
7. I am a student in the fully online program, how does this practicum work?
The requirements for practicum remain the same for students participating in the fully online program just as for the students in the oncampus program. Students will be placed in a human service organization in a location close to where the student lives. The student will collaborate with the Field Education office in identifying potential practicum settings near the student’s residence. The student, the agency practicum supervisor and the practicum faculty will meet for all the same scheduled sessions (initial visit, mid-term and final evaluations for each semester) as for the oncampus students, except the meetings will be conducted via videoconferencing through Blackboard Collaborate. The student and supervisor will need to arrange for use of a computer with a camera, mic, and internet connection for those scheduled videoconferences. The practicum orientation for online students will be made available via the internet by their practicum faculty and the practicum orientation for agency supervisors of online students will be made available via the internet.
8. Can I meet with my faculty advisor to help me plan my practicum and other classes?
Of course it is always advisable to consult with your faculty advisor about your career plans and your choice of electives and specializations offered within the Kent School curriculum. Once you have narrowed down your focus area for your studies, then it is most helpful to consult with the Field Education office for available agency sites specific to your interest. You will meet with your faculty advisor at the new student orientation and will retain that advisor throughout your time at Kent School. Prior to the new student orientation, you are welcome to explore your interests with any faculty member at Kent School. You must follow exactly the course listing and sequence of the classes as they are listed on the curriculum plan you chose when you accepted admission to Kent School.
9. Can I start the practicum early, during the summer, to spread out my hours and ease my schedule during the semester when I am taking all the other classes?
The practicum is an academic course, earning academic credit and a grade, just as all of the other courses in the curriculum leading to a degree. Thus, the practicum begins with other courses at the start of the semester. Some agencies, particularly medical settings, require students to complete an orientation to their organization prior to beginning the practicum. This usually is 2-4 days long and is routinely scheduled by the organization at set monthly intervals. In such circumstances, students are permitted to attend their agency orientation prior to the start of the semester and can count those hours towards the total hours required for the semester practicum. Students should first inform their practicum faculty about such required orientations. After completion of the early, required agency orientation, students then wait until the start of the Fall semester to continue in the practicum.
10. When is the practicum class scheduled? It is listed as TBA on the class schedule.
In the master’s program, there is no field seminar or campus-based class for the practicum. Instead, all 16 hours weekly of the practicum are spent in the placement agency. “TBA” represents the assigned placement site.
11. Are there field seminars for this practicum?
There are no field seminars in the master’s program at Kent School. All 16 hours of the practicum are spent in the community at the placement agency. Because the practicum is co-requisite with the practice course, there are opportunities to discuss some activities from the practicum in the practice class too. Of course, there may be opportunities to share experiences from the practicum in other classes as well, which help to integrate the theories and the practice of social work.
12. I know a really good private therapist with whom I would like to study. Can I do my practicum with her/him?
In keeping with the historical mission of social work in serving the needs of a diverse and underserved population, students are placed in public and non-profit agencies for their practicum. We recognize that some students aspire to a career in private therapy and encourage those students to pursue their goal following graduation when their new credentials will better provide for such opportunities.
13. There are no social workers at the agency I am interested in, but some very good supervisors with degrees in other disciplines. Can one of them supervise me in my practicum?
Accreditation requires that students be supervised by someone with a master’s degree in social work from an accredited program, with a minimum of two years post-master’s experience. This ensures that students are taught using the values and ethics and practices of the social work profession. It is helpful for students to be in an interdisciplinary practicum as this provides opportunities for input from various disciplines, and highlights in a way that compares and contrasts the contributions which each professional discipline makes to the services provided. Again, think of your doctor and the internship he/she underwent under the guidance of an MD. Would you want your doctor to have been taught by an RN nurse, or a DMD dentist? It is the same for professional social workers whose code of ethics is different than other disciplines; and social work values and approaches to working with people are different than other disciplines.
14. I have lots of interests. Can I have a different practicum site for each semester?
The two-semester consecutive placement in the same setting provides for students to complete an orientation within their practicum site during the first part of the Fall semester. Then, students begin progressively assuming greater responsibilities in their role and developing their skills and stretching their knowledge. Remaining with one agency over the course of eight months also exposes students to a deeper experience in the “life” of an organization. There are different “seasons” in an organization, (i.e. when grant deadlines are looming, special activities around holidays, fund-raising events, fiscal year budget processes, etc.) that are an important component of the student’s learning. Completing only one semester/225 hours in one agency does not allow enough time for students to move significantly past the orientation phase in their skill development. Some specializations within the Kent School program may involve a component of rotation in the practicum. One example is the advanced substance abuse specialization practicum in which students rotate among programs within a large organization, and work in each program area throughout the two semesters of the practicum.
15. Money is very tight for me right now; do I have to buy insurance for my practicum?
We live in a litigious society and Kent School wants you to be protected in your practicum. You are free to purchase liability protection from any company you choose. We particularly recommend the Assurance Services Inc. (ASI), which is aligned with the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and offers a deeply discounted policy to social work students. You are required to be a member of NASW to be eligible to obtain your insurance from the ASI. For more information on joining NASW go to: www.socialworkers.org and for more information on insurance from ASI go to: www.naswasi.cphins.com. You should be aware that if you have a felony conviction in your background, you may be denied coverage by the ASI. Should that happen, they will refer you to other companies where you may inquire about purchasing liability protection. Also, if you are employed in a social service capacity, you will have to show proof of liability protection for your work before the ASI will provide you protection as a student. You will need to speak with the Human Resource office at your employment site to obtain a copy of your proof of professional liability protection for your job. Be sure to plan ahead to have time to resolve all possible issues prior to the start of the practicum.
Remember, you must join NASW and you must also apply separately for the malpractice insurance. Just joining NASW is not enough. Membership in NASW does not automatically give you professional liability coverage. These are two separate organizations and require separate applications and separate payments. You must do both.
Students who do not provide proof of malpractice insurance coverage to the practicum office prior to the first day of classes will not be allowed to start their practicum.
16. Which level of insurance coverage do you recommend I get?
If you are selecting a medical setting for your practicum, you will be expected to carry the highest level of protection available. Otherwise, you are free to choose any level of coverage that you wish, just as you do for your car insurance, health insurance, etc. You must provide proof of professional malpractice insurance to the practicum office prior to August 1st. You are free to get malpractice protection from any company you want and we recommend getting it from the NASW Assurance Services Inc. (see contact info in the practicum packet on acceptance from Kent School), through membership in the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-ASI). If you are employed in a social service capacity already, you will have to provide proof of your professional liability protection for your employment before you will be granted a student policy for the practicum, so contact your Human Resources office to obtain a copy of that before applying for the student policy. If you have a personal history of felony convictions, you may need to seek coverage from other insurance companies and the ASI can refer you to other resources; be prepared to pay a little higher premium for that protection.
17. When will I know I have an approved practicum?
When you have completed all the interviews for your prospective placement, and you have decided on the one you want the most, you should re-contact the supervisor there and tell them you want to do your practicum with them. When they agree they also want you there, then you send the signed Placement Agreement Form to the Field Education office to finalize your placement. You should then immediately notify each of the other sites where you were referred and notify them that you accepted a placement at another agency and thank them for being willing to consider you. This opens up those slots for other students. A formal letter of confirmation will be sent from the Field Education office to each student and each practicum supervisor with further information about beginning the practicum.
18. Is there an orientation for my practicum?
Yes, the Kent School provides a practicum orientation on the same day as the new student orientation. This is a Kent School orientation and is different from the Graduate School orientation. The Kent School orientations, both new student and practicum, are mandatory attendance; the Graduate School orientation is voluntary.
19. How should I dress for my practicum?
Students should dress in business casual attire unless otherwise instructed by your agency practicum supervisor. This means you should not wear denim, or see-through clothing, no mini- skirts or backless shirts, no low-rider slacks that show underclothing, no flip flops or jogging suits or tennis shoes.
20. When can I register for my practicum course?
After you are accepted by the Kent School, you may register for the practicum course the same as you do for all your other courses. You can register for your courses during pre-registration in April for the Fall semester and in October for the Spring semester. Also, remember to register for all the classes as listed on your chosen curriculum plan. The practice course is a co-requisite class, and you must register for each one separately. Remember, you must re-register each semester (Fall and Spring) for each course as listed on your curriculum plan.
21. Is the practicum considered part of the practice course?
In some programs, students may have service learning or practicum incorporated as part of their practice class or as a lab assignment. In the master’s program at the Kent School, the practicum and the practice class are self-standing courses; each is a separate academic course, with separate faculty, and earning separate academic credit. The curriculum is designed to promote the integration of theories taught in the classroom with real-life practice. The practicum provides the opportunities to do that simultaneously, while learning the various social work theories. Therefore, it is important for students to be sure to register for both their practice class and their practicum course, each semester.
22. I have no prior experience in social work, how do I write my resume?
In social work, all life experiences count. Your resume should reflect the depth and breath of your paid and volunteer experiences. And remember, you are not limited to one or two pages for the length of your resume for social services as you are in the business world. Do remember to give a copy of your resume to each agency supervisor with whom you interview for a prospective practicum. You may also want to review the Guidelines for a Social Services Resume, along with an example of a resume: Resume Sample (.docx).