Practicum Education FAQs

What is the practicum placement process?

The Practicum Placement process is made up of 6 phases:

  • Pre-Placement Phase: Students attend pre-practicum meetings and/or reviewed pre-recording sessions. The Practicum Office prepares for the upcoming practicum placement process.
  • Application Phase: Students will submit online practicum applications by the outlined deadline. The Practicum Office reviews all applications.
  • Interview Phase: Students interview at a practicum agency after receiving approval and directions from the Practicum Office. The Practicum Office works with students to obtain an interview. Based on the interview, the Agency may decide to offer the student a placement or not accept the student. It is strongly encouraged that students also do research on the agency before interviewing. Students are only permitted to interview with one agency at a time. Many, but not all practicum placements require an interview. Some agencies have formal interview processes and some are more casual.
  • Compliance Phase: Students submit outlined compliance (e.g., drug screen, immunizations, TB proof) required by the agency by the outlined deadline. The Practicum Office provides students with compliance requirements after they have been accepted at an agency.
  • Clearance Phase: Students are cleared to start practicum on the date indicated by the Practicum Office. Students may also be required to attend additional orientation/training by the agency. The Practicum Office sends official clearance by email to students.
  • Practicum Experience Phase: Students begin the practicum experience for the academic year. The Practicum Office supports students throughout the practicum placement experience.

For currently enrolled students, the Pre-Placement Phase begins in the Fall semester before placement begins. For example, if you will begin practicum in Fall 2025, you will begin the Pre-Placement phase in Fall 2024 and submit your practicum application in January 2025.

For newly admitted students, it is strongly recommended to make it a priority to begin the practicum placement process and submit your practicum application materials as soon as you can once you are accepted for admission. The earlier in the process you submit, the more choices you may have for placements.

How are students matched to prospective practicum placements?

In order to ensure the placement is a good fit for both the student and the placement site, there are many factors that go into the matching process. These factors include, but are not limited to, student areas of interest, placement availability, placement site requirements, geographic location, etc.

The Practicum Office will review student practicum applications and work to match students for an interview with an agency that is accepting students for placement. In most cases, the Practicum Office will electronically submit the student’s application to a matching agency with capacity and electronically contact the student to follow up with the application within one (1) week and schedule an interview to be considered for placement. Occasionally, a placement site may require an alternative application process, which will be communicated to the student by the Practicum Office.

For more information about the application and matching process, please review the Practicum Education Handbook.

I already know where I would like to complete practicum placement, do I get to choose my practicum placement site?

BSW students and generalist MSW students (first-year of practicum for MSW students) have the opportunity to express their interests in areas of social work and populations they are interested in working with, but do not get to choose a specific placement site. Placements within specific areas of social work and/or with specific populations are not guaranteed.

For the final MSW practicum placement (Specialist-year placement), students may identify specific sites they are interested in, however, placements at specific agencies are not guaranteed.

The practicum placement matching process involves many factors, including student interests, program requirements, and placement site needs. The goal is to provide each student with a high-quality placement that can support their development of social work values, skills, and knowledge at the level of generalist and specialized practice.

Some agencies only accept a certain level of student (i.e. MSW students only), what is the reason for this and can it be changed?

There are many agencies that require advanced practice skills more appropriate to an MSW. These agencies have specifically indicated that they will only accept MSW students or even, only Specialist-year MSW students.

One factor that is often considered by both the Practicum Office and the agency is whether the student would gain knowledge, values, and skills appropriate for generalist practice areas. For example, the Practicum Office would not place a BSW in a clinical setting that requires advanced practice skills.

The practicum placement agency determines what level of student can be accommodated, not the Practicum Office. Therefore, it is unlikely that this will change.

Some examples of agencies that only accept MSW students are: the US Department of Veterans Affairs, clinical placements, many (but not all) hospital/medical placements, and some (but not all) school districts.

Do I have to interview for a practicum placement?

Many, but not all practicum placements require an interview. Some agencies have formal interview processes and some are more casual. 

Will my practicum placement be near where I live?

The location of your practicum placement site will depend on a variety of factors, including which partner agencies are accepting students for placements, the availability of agencies in your area, your areas/populations of interest, and other factors.

For students residing in Charlotte/Mecklenburg County or the immediate surrounding areas, we have a large number of partner agencies across Mecklenburg County and surrounding counties.

For students living outside of Charlotte and the surrounding areas, we are growing our practicum placement partner agencies across the state. If we do not have partner agencies in your area, the Practicum Office will still support you in obtaining a practicum placement within your geographic area.

Students with specific placement goals, for example, those wanting to interview with the Department of Veterans Affairs, will need to consider that they may have to commute farther in order to be at a placement site that aligns with those goals.

While the Practicum Office will take your general location into consideration, placements close to home or the university are not guaranteed.

How many hours per week are expected?

Students must complete sixteen (16) hours of practicum placement per week.

Will I work directly with a social worker?

All students are supervised either by a Practicum Instructor or Task Supervisor at their practicum placement site. A Practicum Instructor is a social worker that has an MSW and 2+ years of post-graduation experience. BSW students may also be supervised by someone with a BSW and 2+ years of experience.

If there is not someone who meets this requirement, you will have a Task Supervisor. A task supervisor is an individual who oversees the student’s tasks and projects at the placement site but either does not have a social work degree or does not yet have 2+ years of post-graduate experience.

Students who do not have a Practicum Instructor at their practicum placement site will be provided with group external supervision. This is provided and organized by the Practicum Office.

Do I get any time off from practicum during the school year?

Students do not have to attend practicum placement during school holidays, days the university is closed for “inclement weather”, or school breaks.

One exception to this rule is for students completing practicum placement in a school setting. If the school’s spring break is different from UNC Charlotte’s spring break, students should attend practicum placement during UNC Charlotte’s spring break and will not attend practicum placement during the school’s spring break.

Can I do employment-based practicum placement?

Students who are already employed in eligible social work based organizations may apply for an employment-based practicum placement. If approved, this allows them to complete their practicum placement at their employer. For more information about employment-based placements, visit our page about Employment-Based Practicum Placements. Additionally, students should refer to the employment-based practicum placement policy in the Practicum Education Handbook.

Are there any paid placements?

While there are some social work practicum placements that may offer a stipend or compensation to students, many placements are unpaid. Paid practicum placements in social work are relatively rare and many of the placements that do provide payment are highly competitive.

Because the decision to provide payment to interns is determined by the agency, the Practicum Office cannot guarantee any paid placements.

Are there any fully virtual placements?

There are a limited number of fully virtual practicum placements. While we are seeing a growing number of agencies that offer virtual and/or hybrid options, the overall number of this type of placement is limited. Additionally, virtual/hybrid practicum placements may not be appropriate for all types of social work practice and there may be limitations to the type of placements that can be completed in a virtual environment.

Fully and/or mostly virtual placements are not guaranteed, however, students who would like this option should note their needs on the practicum application.

Are there any placements with evening and/or weekend hours?

Because many social work agencies work traditional business hours, there are a limited number of practicum placements that offer evening and/or weekend hours. Additionally, there may be limitations to the type of placements that can be completed during evening and/or weekend hours.

Practicum placements with evening and/or weekend hours are not guaranteed, however, students who would like this option should note their needs on the practicum application.

How much time should I expect to dedicate to practicum placement? How will I balance it with my other commitments?

Students should remember that in addition to their coursework and any personal commitments (employment, family, etc.), practicum placement requires a commitment of 16 hours per week to their practicum placement agency. Additionally, students are enrolled in a 3 credit hour Practicum course along with any other coursework they are completing that semester.

Balancing a practicum placement with other responsibilities, such as classes, work, and family can be challenging. Prospective and current students are encouraged to plan ahead for how they will fit practicum placement into their schedule.

Do I need to purchase liability insurance?

UNC Charlotte has secured insurance and this is covered by student fees. This insurance only covers students in their SOWK Practicum coursework.

Where can I learn more about the Child Welfare Education Collaborative?

The North Carolina Child Welfare Education Collaborative (CWEC) includes specialized, in-depth training in child welfare knowledge, values, and best practices.

Learn more about the Child Welfare Education Collaborative.

Where can I learn more about School Social Work?

The UNC Charlotte School of Social Work supports current UNC Charlotte social work students and BSW/MSW professionals in earning a North Carolina Department of Public Instruction School Social Work License.

Learn more about School Social Work Licensure.

Where can I learn more about the Integrated Behavioral Health (IBH) Program?

The Integrated Behavioral Health Scholarship is a HRSA funded training program that prepares MSW students for careers providing behavioral health services in primary care settings. Only Specialized-year students are eligible for IBH placements.

Learn more about the Integrated Behavioral Health Program.

Where can I learn more about clinical licensure?

Graduates of the MSW Program may pursue state licensure or certification. Application for licensure or certification should be made with the state board where the applicant intends to practice social work.

Learn more about State licensure/certification.

Will I be expected to have transportation for practicum placement activities?

Most likely. Most placements require at least some level of in-person involvement and students will be responsible for their own transportation. This could be through a personal car, public transportation, or other means. Occasionally, a student may be in a fully virtual practicum placement that does not require transportation. Fully virtual placements are limited and not guaranteed.

Will I have to complete a background check or any other requirements for my practicum placement?

All students will be required to complete compliance requirements before beginning their practicum placement. Compliance requirements vary by practicum placement site and students should NOT begin completing these requirements until instructed to do so by the Practicum Office.

All students must complete a TB test and Bloodborne Pathogens training prior to beginning placement. Additionally, many students will be required to complete additional compliance requirements. These requirements may include, but are not limited, to the following: Immunizations, Criminal Background Check, Drug Screening, CPR/First Aid Certification, Fingerprinting, and/or any other requirements noted in the agency Affiliation Agreement.

It is the responsibility of the student to cover the cost of all compliance items required by the Affiliation Agreement. Time spent collecting Clinical Compliance does not count towards practicum orientation or hours.

For more information about compliance, please review our FAQs for Social Work Compliance and the compliance information in the Practicum Education Handbook.

How are agencies selected to be practicum placement sites?

The UNC Charlotte School of Social Work is located within a large metropolitan community. As a result, a wide variety of placement possibilities exist within the region. We are also in the process of growing our placement opportunities outside of the Charlotte region. Practicum agencies are selected that serve diverse groups and have the potential for adding to the students’ learning experience around practice in diverse settings. Practicum placements for social work students will be selected to support their development of social work values, skills and knowledge at the level of generalist and specialized practice.

The agency must be willing to provide positive learning opportunities for social work students and have someone who is willing and eligible to supervise the student. Each agency has an onboarding meeting with the Practicum Office, must sign an affiliation agreement with the UNC Charlotte College of Health and Human Services, and any new practicum instructor/task supervisor must attend Practicum Instructor/Task Supervisor training.

The Practicum Office is responsible for selecting practicum sites and discussing the requirements for an Affiliation Agreement. A student may not be placed in an agency unless there is a fully executed Affiliation Agreement between the agency and the College of Health and Human Services.

For additional information about the selection of Practicum Agencies, please see the Practicum Education Handbook.