Is it Important to Complete an Internship with an MSW Degree?

Completing an Internship with an MSW Degree

MSW students are facing a debate within the field right now; this has led to many questioning the importance of an internship at the graduate level. The answer is simple: yes, internships are important, especially in social work. Here are four reasons why every MSW student should endeavor to complete one internship during their graduate degree plan.

Real-World Experience

There is nothing more important than actually getting real-world experience in any field, but it is critical for social work professionals. This is because social work is interwoven throughout the fabric of society and comes in many different forms. Students must have some real-world experience prior to graduation because not going through an internship may make them feel overwhelmed and stressed once they enter the field. This is especially true for pre-service professionals who have moved from their undergraduate degree to a graduate degree without any work experience. Work experience in the form of an internship also provides students with the ability to ask their mentors and supervisors important questions about the job; learning from real-world professionals may make the transition from student to professional much easier.

Meeting High Standards

Social work is crucial in America; many individuals in the country will have at least one interaction with a social worker within their lifetime. This means that these professionals must adhere to high standards for ethical and professional work. For that reason, it is imperative that social workers complete an internship; this gives them the chance to see the standards that are required of them in a real workplace. Concepts and theories are fine in the classroom, but students only understand the importance of their work and the high standards they need to meet when they are in the workplace; this is highlighted by experiencing real caseloads, meeting with clients, and seeing any potential consequences that may unfold if a social worker does not stick to their professional responsibilities.


Many social workers have already begun work in the field as professionals prior to earning an MSW. However, there are many pre-service professionals who will benefit from the networking opportunities that come with completing an internship. Because students will be seen in a real-world workplace, they are far more likely to meet like-minded employers, gain valuable experience from new mentors, and may even be offered a position once they have graduated from their program. While it is possible to network through conferences and research projects, internships provide students with the ability to be seen as professionals within the field, a benefit that cannot be understated.

Specialty Internships

Social work is a vast field that encompasses a variety of population and demographics. From children to the elderly, the homeless to convicted offenders, individuals to families, the field requires different kinds of social workers. Internships provide students who have chosen a concentration to focus their experiences in their chosen cognate area. This is a great way for these students to understand from a real-world perspective how their expertise would be used in the field. Going through an internship may either see a student commit to their specialty or give them the chance to move into another area; this can only be done if a student actually works in the field.

Related Resource: Top 10 Affordable Master of Social Work Online (MSW) Degrees

Social work is an incredibly complex field that encompasses tens of thousands of professionals in different work climates. For example, the Los Angeles Times reported that the number of homeless in the city had surged to nearly 60,000, with most taking refuge in subway stations; the strategy is now to employ social workers to help these individuals find help. For MSW students, an internship is the only way to make them understand how complicated the system can be and how they can be the ethical professionals the country needs.