Practicum Educators FAQs

  • Practicum instructors must have a Master of Social Work degree and at least three years of work experience post-graduation.
  • Columbia School of Social Work graduates must have two years of work experience post-graduation to become a practicum instructor.
  • We prefer, but do not require, supervisors to be licensed/certified Master’s-level social workers.
  • Practicum instructors must also take Seminar in Field Instruction (SIFI) training, but we may make exceptions on a case-by-case basis for instructors with experience and located outside of New York State.

If your organization provides social services, behavioral healthcare, and/or advocacy, and if it employs social workers and other allied mental health professionals, you could be eligible to host an MSW student. Dedication to student learning and willingness to offer and supervise a robust work experience are musts.

For first (Generalist) year students, organizations should provide broad exposure to the social work profession through direct practice work with individuals, families and groups and, where possible, projects that interface with the community and contribute to program development.

For second (specialized) year students, their selected specialization area will guide the focus of the practicum experience. For example, a student who selects the advanced clinical social work practice specialization will need a caseload of clients in order to hone their clinical skills and provide therapy.

Also, we expect that the student’s time will not focus on clerical or administrative work.

We offer students many study opportunities that include learning clinical practice, administering programs, and developing social policy. The fields of practice we offer include international social welfare, aging and gerontology, school-based and school-linked services, and services to immigrants and refugees or families, youth, and children.

These practices, which prepare students to meet society’s toughest challenges, are taught by professors who are leaders in their fields. Learn more about our program options, curriculum, and fields of practice.

Students spend 14, 21, or 28 hours per week in their practicum depending on their degree pathway.

  1. Part-time Program Students - two days a week (14 hours). Students complete 1,200 hours at two different placement sites over six terms.
  2. Two-year, 16-month, and Part-time to Full-time Students - three days a week (21 hours) for a total of 1,200 hours at two different placement sites over four terms.
  3. Advanced Standing and Transfer students - three days a week (21 hours) over two terms, at one placement for 600 hours of practicum.
  4. One-Year Residency for Working Professionals Program students - 28 hours a week for a total of 900 practicum hours.

Generalist year students attend practicum Monday, Tuesday, and Friday, and Specialized year students are in practicum Monday, Thursday and Friday. The other days are spent in class. Regular work hours for students can be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or another schedule that suits your organization’s hours of operation. Evening and weekend hours are also possible. Students sometimes prefer them so they can manage other weekday responsibilities.

Practicum instructors spend approximately an hour and a half per week. One hour is spent in a weekly supervision session. The rest of the time could be spent on supervision of day-to-day tasks or other work-related projects and reviewing process recordings.

No, students enrolled in the online campus have to meet the same academic requirements as our students in the residential program. The only differences are that students attend class in our live online classroom at the same time every week with other students and professors from around the country, and that they work in their home communities instead of in New York City. Learn more about our online campus.

We do everything we can to prepare and support our practicum instructors, whether they are located in the New York City area or around the country. The SIFI trains instructors on topics such as teaching cultural competency, challenges in Practicum Learning, termination, process recordings, the role of the school in Practicum Learning, and much more. We offer the seminar through our online classroom.

SIFI is 12 sessions for those who have never supervised MSW students, or three sessions for instructors who have taken Practicum Educator trainings from another school of social work. On a case-by-case basis we could consider waiving the SIFI requirement depending on a practicum instructor’s experience and if they are located outside of New York state. Check out our SIFI web page for more details.

We can consider providing an external practicum instructor hired by the school. This supervisor will meet with students weekly for one hour and to review process recordings. We require task supervision by agency staff to support the student.

We embark on a mutual matching process to ensure that a student is a good fit for your organization and that the student has a chance to evaluate your organization firsthand. For Generalist year students, we learn about their study interests and past work experience and then help to arrange an interview with your organization or ask them to apply directly through your process if we believe your  opportunity is appropriate for them.

For Specialized  year students, their study concentration and field practice will focus their selection on a relevant education experience that matches their studies. Again, the interviewing process will determine if they’re a good match, and you are not obligated to accept a student if you don’t believe they would be successful.

Our affiliate agreement outlines our mutual obligations in providing practicum education. Your obligations include following educational guidelines, orienting students, and providing assignments . The school’s obligations include providing liability insurance coverage for students and assigning an academic advisor.  If you cannot sign our agreement, we can consider signing an agreement provided by your organization, after it is reviewed and approved by our legal department.

Yes, we provide coverage for one million dollars per student per incident, and three million dollars in aggregate.

The next step is to fill out our practicum placement request form so that details about your organization can be included in our database in Sonia. Rising Specialized year students use Sonia to evaluate available opportunities, and our Associate Directors  use the information to place students. Then we help coordinate interviews with students who are interested in a placement at your organization or who we think could be a match for your practicum  opportunity.  

When students are accepted by your organization for placement, we confirm the details and assess whether the designated practicum instructor needs SIFI training. We make an effort to finalize student placements in time for the semester start. For Specialized  year students, we kick off the placement process in January/February before the next fall semester starts, and we finalize placements throughout the spring and summer.

As practicum instructor, you must help your student prepare and write up an Education Plan during the first three weeks of practicum for review and approval by the student’s advisor. Then you, the student, and the advisor must sign the plan to signify mutual agreement on the soundness of the plan for the student’s education in practicum. NOTE: As you work on the Education Plan with your student, you may find it helpful to consult with our Social Work Practicum Manual which describes appropriate assignments for CSSW students according to year and specialization.

If you need to talk about a student’s performance, please contact the student’s advisor. Advisors are the social work professionals whom CSSW employs to serve as students’ educational support in both the classroom and practicum. The advisor assesses the student’s performance in practicum and also meets with practicum instructor for input on how to evaluate the student at the end of the term. To get in touch with a student’s advisor, please contact the Advising Office at [email protected].

Evaluations are completed using an online survey tool. You will be emailed a link to your student’s evaluation form toward the end of the semester. Further information about the evaluation process (including previews of evaluation forms) may be found here.