MSW students or graduates? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 9 Old 06-07-2010, 11:39 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hello everyone! I have two semesters left of my undergraduate degree and am preparing to apply to MSW programs. I know all programs and students are different, but I'm trying to get a vague idea of what a day in the life of the MSW student is like. Did you find it a lot more intense than your undergraduate work? If so, was it due to the courseload or the field placements? Any thoughts or advice? Thanks!
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#2 of 9 Old 06-14-2010, 12:34 PM
 
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I'm just bumping this for you, FourTrees, because I would love to hear responses to these questions too!
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#3 of 9 Old 06-14-2010, 03:06 PM
 
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curious about this too....
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#4 of 9 Old 06-16-2010, 12:44 AM
 
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I got my bachelors in social work and then went on to get my MSW. The coursework was actually a little easier in my MSW program (state school instead of very very competitive private school, pass/fail instead of letter grades). My MSW field placement was a billion times more stressful, though. So all told, I'd say my MSW was more stressful.

Do you want me to talk more about just life as an MSW student? I can do that too.

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#5 of 9 Old 06-16-2010, 01:11 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for bumping - I'm glad it isn't just me that is curious!

GoGoGirl, I would love to hear anything you can tell me about life as a MSW student! Also, what type of field placement did you have and what about it made it so stressful? Is there any choice in placement typically or are they just assigned?

Thank you so much for your response!
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#6 of 9 Old 06-16-2010, 01:38 AM
 
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Ok, just for some context, I did my MSW before I had kids. I was working a non social work job two shifts a week.

I think with most full time MSW programs, you have class two days a week and your field placement 3 days a week. Honestly, the classes weren't that hard, but you do have to do a lot of reading. In both schools I went to (BSW and MSW) we mostly wrote papers, there were very few tests. The papers are very subjective (usually relate your experiences in field placement to whatever theories you're learning in class) so you can't really get them "wrong." In that sense, the classes were fairly easy.

My first year field placement was doing smoking cessation groups and individual counseling. It was a little terrifying to be doing individual counseling (I was 21, my clients were...GROWN UPS!) without any life experience or even too much book learnin' about it yet. The placement felt easier than my second placement, though, mostly because the agency was more relaxed overall and I didn't have too many responsibilities. I didn't have any choice in this field placement, but the school did take my interests into account.

My second year field placement was doing court advocacy for low income people charged with violent felonies. I worked with their lawyers to advocate for them to get more holistic sentences, like job training, rehab, etc instead of just jail time. This was much more stressful because I was dealing with families in serious crisis. It felt like too much responsibility, sometimes. It broke my heart to have a mom of my 16 year old client call me and say, "You have to get him out of jail, you just have to." It was also more stressful just because of the agency. They were losing funding, all the staff social workers were stressed out, and my supervisor (who is supposed to be your mentor, and you're supposed to lean heavily on them for guidance) was totally awol. I chose this field placement for myself--my school had some suggestions, but I suggested this agency and they ok'ed it.

A full time field placement is supposed to be 21 hours a week (3 7-hour days) but both of my placements wanted me there WAY more than that. I had to very seriously advocate for myself with my supervisors to keep my hours there close to 21. I think they tend to forget that you're not a full time employee, you're an unpaid student with a full course load. I actually ended up doing a lot of work for my second placement at home, when I should have been doing homework.

Does that help? Do you have any other questions?

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#7 of 9 Old 06-16-2010, 10:43 AM
 
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I'm currently in a part time, 3 year MSW program. My undergrad is in Spanish.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FourTrees View Post
Did you find it a lot more intense than your undergraduate work?
The course work in the MSW program is much less intense than the coursework my BA required. As a previous poster said, there is lots of required reading, lots of papers and very few tests. I wouldn't say that the papers are subjective in my case, though.

The field placement, however, is a huge time commitment. At my university MSW I placement is 16 hours a week for 2 quarters (plus 2 classes each quarter for part time students and 4-5 classes for full time students) and the MSW II placement is 24 hours a week (with the same course load as the previous placement). The difficulty of your field placement varies greatly based on where you are placed and your field instructor.

I am placed at a community mental health agency and doing a single placement option (meaning that I did my MSW I placement at the same agency) and I have my finger in a lot of pots, so it can be really intense. I spend 12 hours a week doing crisis and lethality assessments in the ER, 8 hours doing intakes and ongoing therapy with severely mentally ill clients, 3 hours of facilitating an intensive, dual disorder treatment group and 1 hour of supervision each week. I have a great supervisor--she pushes me to my limits but supports me to ensure that I can do what she is asking of me.

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Originally Posted by FourTrees View Post
Any thoughts or advice?
Pick your field placements wisely--I'm learning way more in field than I have in class. Many people in my cohort picked "easy" placements and as a result they are now struggling with the coursework because they never get to see or utilize the theories we learn in class in practice.

You also want to make sure that your internship is in your area of interest if at all possible. One of the ladies in the cohort ahead of me did both of her field placements in children's' services because they had convenient hours and offered a stipend. However, she is most interested in doing medical social work now that she has graduated and she has yet to even get an interview because she has no experience in that area.

Good luck!

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#8 of 9 Old 06-21-2010, 12:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you so so much for your stories and advice - this is exactly what I needed!
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#9 of 9 Old 06-25-2010, 12:21 AM
 
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Thank you social work students for sharing what lies ahead, I'm half done with my bachelors of social work. The placements sounds very time consuming.

"If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere." -Vincent Van Gogh
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