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One of the best reasons to choose a traditional, residential bachelor’s in social work degree program is the extensive hands-on field work experience you will gain. While fieldwork experiences aren’t exclusive to on-campus programs of study, many of the top residential bachelor’s in social work degree programs in the United States are known for offering students the chance to really immerse themselves in the practical application of social work studies. This experience can be valuable in many regards, from choosing where you want to take your career to boosting your résumé to impress prospective employers.
Fieldwork Requirements at Top Residential Schools
All bachelor’s in social work degree programs accredited by the Council on Social Work Education include a mandatory internship or fieldwork experience, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. However, not all programs have the same requirements or offer student the same opportunities. The quality and extent of their fieldwork experiences is one of the factors that set the top-ranking social work degree programs apart.
When you choose one of these outstanding programs, you should expect to spend a minimum of 480 hours in supervised fieldwork. Some of these bachelor’s in social work degree programs ask students to complete 700 hours of hands-on internship work. While this sounds like a lot of work, it’s also hugely helpful for aspiring social workers.
Part of what makes the fieldwork opportunities at the best residential programs so unique is that they expose you to the practice of social work earlier and with more intensity than you will find at many other programs. For example, the Silver School of Social Work at New York University prides itself on offering undergraduate students “the kind of social work experience usually found only at the graduate level.” Some programs have students spending hundreds of hours in supervised fieldwork during their junior year of college, and gaining even more work experience as seniors.
Where You’ll Gain Your Social Work Field Experience
Undergraduate social work students complete their internships in many kinds of social services agencies. You might work in a mental health agency, criminal justice institution, community agency or county social services agency. You could also find opportunities working in child welfare services or in services assisting older adults. Often, bachelor’s in social work degree programs that require hundreds of hours of fieldwork allow students the opportunity to experience multiple kinds of work settings during their education, not just one single type of agency. While many programs help you arrange work experiences with community partners, others offer on-site internship experiences.
Why Field Experience Matters for Aspiring Social Workers
Social work is a community and social service profession, not an academic occupation. To develop your skills, you need to get out there, get involved, and work with real people in real social work settings. Your potential employers will look at your fieldwork experience when considering you as a candidate. Even graduate schools will want to hear about the experience you already have when they consider you for admission.
Spending a good chunk of your education working in real social work situations will help you make the most of what you learn in the classroom. This experience can help you decide what aspect of social work most appeals to you so you can direct your studies and your career toward that path. While it is important to learn the basics of human behavior, social welfare policy and diverse populations, many students find that the hands-on experiences they receive during their education is the most rewarding and interesting part of their college career.