U-M School of Social Work

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Post MSW practice experience for PhD students

Posted: September 09, 2009

We do not require PhD students to get post-MSW practice experience while they are in the PhD program. We only require 1 term of work experience, which can be a GSI or GSRA position. However, we strongly recommend post-MSW practice for two reasons:

One is to meet the Council on Social Work Education requirement that
"Faculty who teach social work practice courses have a master's degree in social work from a CSWE-accredited program and at least two years of social work practice experience."

Two years of full-time practice experience is equal to 4000 hours of work. This work can be paid or unpaid. The definition of "social work practice" is very broad. If you click on the above link and read the current Educational Policy statement, the definition of practice is on pages 3-7. Many of the paid and unpaid activities you engage in while in the PhD program, including work on committees and research, meet their criteria for social work practice.

This experience is important for anyone who plans to teach practice in a BSW or MSW program in the United States

It is important that you keep track of your social work experience and include it in your CV. I suggest that you develop a professional practice portfolio or file where you record your hours of practice, specific activities you do, and any products of your work. It helps to get letters from those you work with or for to verify what you have done.

The other reason is to qualify for social work licensure. This is separate and distinct from the CSWE requirement. Licensure is mandatory if you plan to practice as a social worker in most states. Some schools of social work require their faculty to be licensed in their state. Each state has different licensing requirements and procedures, but all of them require some post-MSW experience. I am only familiar with the licensing requirements in Michigan, which is where I have my Macro and Clinical licenses. It doesn't hurt to apply for and get a Michigan license while you are living here, as it does require 4000 hours of post-MSW practice experience and therefore can verify that you have the experience you need to teach practice
courses. Most schools will accept licensure as proof that an applicant has post-MSW experience.

Information on how to apply for a Michigan license is available here. You should apply for a limited license the day after you receive your MSW. The materials on the application and website are very detailed and informative. They are different from the CSWE requirements, so if you plan to get a license you need to become familiar with them.


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