Reform Internship Requirements for Social Work Students
  • Petitioned Council for Social Work Education Accreditation Standards

This petition was delivered to:

Office of the President
Council for Social Work Education Accreditation Standards

Reform Internship Requirements for Social Work Students

    1. Deona Hooper
    2. Petition by

      Deona Hooper

      Durham, NC

Social Work students are paying high tuition cost and are going in debt to work for free. Higher education use to mean a better life, and a better shot at the American Dream. Agencies are benefiting, Schools of Social Work are benefiting, but what about the person assuming all the cost. The purpose of the internship is to provide a place to gain work experience. However, students are not being considered for positions due to lack of paid experience despite working extensive internships for free. Public Sector Social Workers often have to leave paid work in order to intern for free. Current internship requirements deter experienced professionals from seeking higher education.  We simply do not live in an era where loss of income due to unpaid work is feasible.

No other profession demands the amount of hours required by a social work degree for no pay and no guarantee of health insurance benefits for all students.  A profession that requires unpaid internships, if any, is not paying the low salaries social workers will encounter in the job market. Those folks are going to higher paying jobs, and there is a Return on Investment for them somewhere along the way. After making this huge investment, Social Work students are considering not putting their Newly Purchased BMW 745...I mean “Social Work Degree” on their resumes in hopes of becoming wait staff or getting a retail job to avoid losing their homes or feeding their families.

I urge you to identify ways to help social work students to become social workers without driving students and their families to the welfare line. A culture is being created where only those with privilege or who can live with their parents can afford a social work degree. Don't keep out compassionate people without financial means from entering the profession. Reform is needed to restructure internship requirements in order to prevent creating hardships for students and their families. 

Recent signatures

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    1. Reached 25 signatures

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    Reasons for signing

    • Michelle Wassenaar BRIGHTON, MA
      • about 2 years ago

      I absolutely agree with this. As social workers, we should be making things less classist, instead of more. The current internship system helps to reify the classist structures of society, ensuring that only those privileged enough to be able to take on debt - or pay cash - can truly "afford" an MSW. This is not the way to help people help themselves, and it's not the way a profession centered around social justice should be conducting itself. While there may be some benefit to a field practicum, if social workers are working, they should be paid.

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    • Jennifer Wood HAUPPAUGE, NY
      • about 2 years ago

      Agreed. The large "human services" agencies benefiting from the constant influx of unpaid interns to carry our the real work do so with little or no intention of rewarding that work with paid positions. Rather, they provide substandard experience with lackluster supervision or guidance, then offer per diem positions for laughable, unreliable pay and no benefits. Meanwhile, those in the organization's administration receive their raises and bonuses while clients and staff suffer. Social workers have never been more able to relate to their clients than now!

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    • Courtney C............ NORTH LITTLE ROCK, AR
      • about 2 years ago

      I am an MSW student who is going into a lot of debt in order to hopefully land a public policy position. I was never 100% comfortable interning for free but I knew that's what an MSW degree entailed. Interns should be paid.

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    • Nicholas Saine WALLINGFORD, WA
      • about 2 years ago

      This is not only a social work concern, but a human rights concern - People who major in non-profit, social work, education among a host of others have grown to expect low pay for quality work and that isn't what this nation was founded on.

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      • about 2 years ago

      I agree--well said!!

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