Field internship learning experiences are essential to the achievement of the objectives of the M.S.W. curriculum. In the M.S.W. program each student has the opportunity for a practicum/internship in two different agency or program settings.
In the foundation year, utilizing the generalist model of practice, students gain practice experience with individuals, families, groups, communities and organizations using a range of intervention modalities. Their learning experiences in the practicum support what they are learning in the classroom. Direct engagement in service activities enables the student to experience the discipline of professional relationships; to apply human behavior, research and social policy curriculum content to the theory and practice of social work; to develop the self-awareness required for a professional level of performance; and to learn to integrate social work knowledge, values, skills and ethics within the context of a professional social work practice setting.
In the advanced year, students practice in agency settings with assignments and activities focused in their chosen area of concentration. Clinical students gain practice skills at an advanced level, learning to differentially apply explanatory theories to the assessment of client systems, to distinguish the appropriate treatment modality for particular client problems, and to differentially apply practice models to treatment planning and intervention. Social Change students learn to differentially apply macro theories to their practice and they gain expertise and skills in social management/administration, social planning and/or policy analysis as macro methods of practice. Combined concentrators have both micro and macro practice learning opportunities, acquiring depth in the methodology of both clinical and macro social work practice.
With some exceptions (e.g. advanced standing students), students complete four semesters of Field Education (over two academic years). Students are in the field placement 16 hours per week in the foundation year (total of 480 hours) and 20 hours per week (total of 600 hours) in the advanced year (up to 24 hours per week for combined concentrators). Most students are assigned to agencies on Wednesdays/Thursdays during the foundation year, and Tuesdays/Wednesdays and 1/2 days on Thursdays during the advanced year. A limited number of flex-time placements are available to part-time students. These placements all require at least some daytime hours for staff meetings and training; many require one eight-hour block of time per week during regular working hours, with other hours scheduled on evenings and weekends. Students should be prepared to travel to and from the practicum either by car or public transportation.
In placing foundation-year students, the Office of Field Education considers their prior experience, interests and educational goals, as discussed in the field application. In the advanced placement process, the Office of Field Education assists students by providing agency information via a Web-based search engine. Students research agencies of interest and appropriate to their selected concentration, submit their preferences to the Office of Field Education and are then referred for interviews. Students in Field Education are required to pay an additional fee for malpractice insurance ($34/year) and to furnish proof of health insurance coverage. Some agencies may have additional requirements, e.g., immunization verification, police clearance or drug screening.
Advanced Level M.S.W.
Advanced level M.S.W. field education and other courses build on, expand, and deepen generalist knowledge and skills. Whatever concentration is selected, the focus throughout is to help the student integrate and apply the knowledge and principles of social work practice at an advanced level within the context of the values and ethics of the profession.
- Clinical students come to Catholic University with a wide range of professional goals, including practicing psychotherapy, leading support groups, serving homeless individuals or individuals with chronic mental illness, providing crisis intervention and supportive counseling, etc. They intern in agencies where they can gain practice skills in these areas at an advanced level. Clinical students with special interest in health may choose our Health Care Specialization, which prepares students to practice clinical social work with an understanding of the roles health and illness play in the lives of individuals, families, agencies, and communities. Clinical students may also choose our specialization in Social Work with Military, Veterans, and their Families.
- Social Change students' goals range from advocating for policy change, to becoming agency administrators, to working in community organizations and international development. In their internships, they gain expertise in social management/administration, social planning, and policy analysis.
- Combined students have learning opportunities for both direct practice and indirect practice in their field settings, gaining experience in both clinical and macro social work practice.