Social Work Internships, Practicums, & Field Experiences

What's the difference?

All three terms, social work internship, social work practicum, and social work field experience, refer to opportunities for social work students to gain hands-on experience in a real-world setting. Opportunities such as these enable students to directly connect their coursework (theory) to client care (practice).

However, there are subtle differences between each label.

Social Work Internships

Internships are often job opportunities related to the discipline of study but are usually at an entry-level of practice. They can be part-time or full-time and are typically a part of an undergraduate experience. In some cases, students will work full-time in an internship for an entire semester, often receiving relatively low compensation or a stipend.

Social Work MSW online students preparing to counsel clients during their practicum field experience.Social Work Practicums

Social work practicums are generally tightly coupled with the actions and duties taken on by fully licensed practitioners. At the UConn SSW, with pre-approval, the practicum requirement can be fulfilled by the hours individuals currently work if their job is at a social service agency. A practicum is a great way to not only practice the knowledge gained in your coursework, it’s also a part of a comprehensive assessment, taken in the final semesters of the program.

Social Work Field Experience

“Field experience” is a broadly applied term that can encompass both a practicum or internship opportunity, i.e., social work practicums and internships are both types of social work field experiences.

So, what's the difference between an internship, practicum, or field experience?

Reality is, all three terms can be interchanged, depending on the institution’s definition of such. However, the above provides some general guidelines and could be a clue concerning what the institution is expecting students to gain from the engagement.