Practicum Learning

CSSW’s Social Work Practicum Course provides you with in-depth experiences with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities, giving you the chance to apply the theories discussed in class to your interactions with clients.

The Office of Practicum Learning matches you with agencies and practicum instructors. We then work to ensure placements meet the learning objectives outlined in your detailed Education Plan.

Information for Practicum Educators found here.

Social Work Practicum Is Vital to Earning an MSW

Social Work Practicum is a transformative experience that will challenge you to bring your passion and skills to the forefront to support people and communities while integrating classroom theory into practice. It marks the beginning of your journey to become a professional social worker and is vital to your social work education.

The typical placement settings include schools, hospitals, courts, substance use disorder treatment centers, prisons, international governmental organizations, and community health clinics.

Learning opportunities include case management, crisis intervention, program development, and policy intervention and administration. CSSW has partnerships with over 1,000 agencies and non-profits throughout New York City, New Jersey, and Connecticut.  We have an equal number of partners in cities nationwide for students choosing the online option.


Placement Determination

The Office or Practicum Learning takes the information you provide on the Placement Request Form alongside prior experience noted on their resumes to determine an appropriate, educationally sound placement.

Placement Assignment

Practicum assignments are finalized before the start of the semester for the full academic year.  In the first (Generalist) year of practicum, you are given Direct Practice assignments and hands-on experience to interact with individuals, families, groups or a combination. You learn social work practice skills including engagement, contracting, assessment, and termination.  In the second (Specialized) year, the focus is on your specialization area: Advanced Clinical Practice, Integrated Practice & Programming, Leadership, Management, and Entrepreneurship in Social Justice, or Policy Practice in addition to the Field of Practice.

Review the Social Work Practicum Manual to familiarize yourself with possible assignments, education plans, process recordings, and the learning objectives for the Social Work Practicum.

Practicum Instructor's Role

The Practicum Instructor is the agency employee responsible for overseeing your training at the placement site. The Practicum Instructor supports learning in practicum, answers questions about interactions with clients and agency employees, and helps you develop direct practice skills.

At the end of the term, the Practicum Instructor evaluates your skill development at the agency and recommends a grade (Pass/Fail) to your advisor, who ultimately assigns the grade.

Practicum Requirements

Each term, you attend practicum for 14, 21, or 28 hours per week, depending on your 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.

Online Student Placement

Practicum provides a variety of experiences for students enrolled in the Online Option. As an Online student, you may suggest potential placements from your community in collaboration with The Office of Practicum Learning. Please do not contact agencies in the NYC metro area. We negotiate all terms with placements and are the final arbiter of placement suitability.  Every effort is made to secure placements that satisfy learning objectives and degree requirements and align with student interests.

The Office of Practicum Learning carefully screens each opportunity, trains practicum supervisory staff, and closely assesses the quality of the placement relative to the student’s learning needs.

Support at Practicum

The Office of Practicum Learning works with each student on their practicum, as described above.  At the placement itself, students have a supervisor who assumes primary responsibility for the practicum instruction, meeting with students face-to-face, once a week.

In addition, students are assigned an advisor from the Office of Advising who supports both the student and the practicum instructor throughout the academic year. The advisor monitors the student’s learning at the agency and is responsible for assigning a pass/fail grade to the student at the end of each term.

For more details on the advisement component, please contact the Office of Advising.

Welcome to Sonia

Practicum Internship Management System for Current Students

What is Sonia?

Sonia is the placement management system used by the Office of Practicum Learning. Sonia’s database is used to manage and track information related to social work practicum - students, practicum instructors, agencies, placements, resumes, forms, and more. Students use Sonia to review and complete practicum-related information and forms, as well as to access information vital to current practicum students.

Sonia Login Instructions

You must have an active UNI to access Sonia.

  1. Click on ‘School of Social Work’
  2. On the login screen, select the appropriate role (‘Student’ is the default.)
  3. Click ‘University Sign In’
  4. You will be directed to Columbia’s CAS authentication screen where you will need to input your Columbia UNI (e.g., abc1234) and password and complete DUO identification.
Issues & Questions Concerning Sonia

Email [email protected] for help with Sonia. In the email use “Sonia Question” as the subject line.

Useful Links

Student Practicum Evaluations

At the end of each semester, practicum instructors complete evaluations for the students they have supervised that term. These evaluations are implemented using an online survey tool. In general, the procedure is:

  1. The practicum instructor receives an email with a link to each student's evaluation.
  2. The practicum instructor completes the evaluation.
  3. The practicum instructor and student receive email summaries of the evaluation; the practicum instructor's email includes a link to revise the evaluation if needed.
  4. The practicum instructor and student meet and review the evaluation.
  5. The student completes a survey acknowledging review of the evaluation with the practicum instructor.
  6. A final PDF summary report of the evaluation is emailed to the instructor, student, advisor, and the Office of Practicum Learning.

Evaluation forms vary by year of practice and specialization area. To preview the contents of the forms, see the following:

Annual Placement Planning Event

The Office of Practicum Learning holds the Annual Placement Planning Event each January. This mandatory two-tiered event includes a webinar featuring student, faculty, and agency panelists, and a virtual fair.

The Virtual Placement Fair allows generalist year students who are starting their specialized year placement in the fall to meet registered agency partners and learn about opportunities.

The Placement Planning Webinar allows students to learn about:

  1. Specialization areas and associate placement experience
  2. Fields of Practice
  3. Requirements for the Specialized Year Placement Process.

The planning event is followed by group meetings and/or individual consultations with Associate Directors to further discuss placement options, address questions, and discuss unique circumstances.

Students also consult with their advisors and are encouraged to talk to faculty and current specialized year students to explore placements of interest.

Practicum Learning Faculty and Staff

James Singletary

Interim Director of Practicum Learning

Kristin Battista-Frazee

Associate Director; Online Program

Hans Bernier

Associate Director; Schools and Schools-based Services

Jenny Crawford

Associate Director; Contemporary Social Issues

Ericka Echavarria 

Associate Director; International, Immigrant, and Refugee Services

Stephanie Gilman

Associate Director of Practicum Learning; Health, Mental Health and Disabilities: Medical Social Work

Amanda Glass

Associate Director; Health, Mental Health and Disabilities: Mental Health Services

Marlene Santana

Associate Director of Practicum Learning; Family, Youth & Children Services

Tonya Ricketts De La Rosa

Associate Director of Practicum Learning; Online Program

Princess Dennis

Department Administrator

Joe Massa

Office Manager

Mary R. Sawyer

Associate Director of Practicum Learning Systems and Reporting; Sonia Management

Questions? Contact Us

Visit us at 1255 Amsterdam Avenue, 5th Floor.

Email us at [email protected]

Call Us: 212-851-2307