This information is intended to give you an overview of the social work practicum (TSOCWF 415) and answer some of the most commonly asked questions. It should be used as a quick reference and is not an exhaustive explanation of the practicum process. You will begin meeting with Tom Diehm, Director of Field Education during spring quarter of your first year to start the field placement process. While you should certainly be thinking about field placement options during your first quarters, you do not need to focus on it extensively.
What is practicum?
Practicum is the internship experience of the BASW program. You register and receive credit for practicum, but it does not meet as a class. Your "classroom" is a human service agency in the community that has agreed to accept students as part of its commitment to the education of future social workers.
How many hours do I have to put in?
The undergraduate practicum consists of 440 clock hours spread out over your senior year of the BASW program. You receive a total of 11 credits that are spread out over those quarters.
Your actual work schedule at the agency is determined between you and the agency staff.
Do I get paid for my practicum?
Probably not. Some agencies provide a stipend to student interns, but the vast majority of them do not. Practicum is simply an extension of the classroom into the community and class attendance is not a paid activity. Some agencies provide work-study options for practicum students if you are eligible.
I work full-time. How will I be able to do my practicum?
The vast majority of practicum placements require that you be available during "regular" business hours (Monday through Friday daytimes). Therefore, you should try to make arrangements with your employer to rearrange work hours (e.g., doing four 10-hour days) to fit in your field placement. Placements that offer evening or weekend services are very rare and you should not in any way bank on receiving one. The practicum coordinator will work with you closely to attempt to accommodate your work and field placement, but there are limits to what can be done.
I've been working in human services for a very long time. Can I test out of practicum or get credit for what I've already done?
No. While we know that many of our students bring extensive human service experience with them to the classroom, the standards of the Council on Social Work Education (our accrediting body) do not allow for "testing out" of practicum or allow credit for "life experience."
If I work in a human service agency, can I use my job as my practicum site?
While we strongly encourage experienced students to move outside their comfort zone and explore new areas of human service, we also recognize that sometimes a workplace field experience can be rewarding. It is possible to do your field placement at your agency of employment, but there is a special procedure and criteria for this and you will need to meet with the field coordinator to discuss it. Do not assume that you will be able to use your workplace as a field placement site.
What if I want to do my placement at an agency that UW Tacoma does not have a contract with?
We're always open to establishing new placement sites! We encourage students to let us know about programs and agencies that might provide a good opportunity for students. We will be more than happy to talk to agencies about becoming part of your education. Please note that there must be a degreed social worker on the agency staff in order for us to consider it as a placement site.
How is my practicum arranged?
You will meet with the practicum coordinator during spring quarter of your first year to establish your field site for the following year. This is a collaborative process where you and practicum coordinator discuss past experience, future goals, current work/school/family situations, and develop possible placement sites. You then interview with prospective agencies to determine whether there is a "fit" for both you and the agency (remember, they will be investing a lot of time and energy in your education and want to make sure their efforts will be worthwhile). While we encourage creativity in field placements, please remember that there are some basic goals and objectives that you must be able to accomplish at the agency.
Are there any special requirements for field placement in particular agencies?
Depending upon your field setting, there may be special eligibility requirements. Some placement sites only take (and are only appropriate for) master's level students. If you plan to work in a chemical dependency setting, you must register with the state as a Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor Intern, which requires taking some special classes outside of what UW Tacoma offers. Placement in healthcare settings requires demonstration of certain immunizations and CPR training. Field placements with minors usually require a background check by the agency that is more extensive than that done by UW Tacoma. Students are often responsible for the costs related to these special requirements. If you are thinking about these placement settings, please speak with the practicum coordinator about what you might need to do to prepare yourself.