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.