Before pursuing a career in social work, learning more about the responsibilities, challenges and day-to-day of a social worker can help solidify your decision. Learn more about how social workers assist their clients and communities in a wide array of concentrations and in different geographic locations.
All interviewees were compensated to participate in these interviews.
Interviews on the Unique Problems, Challenges, and Solutions to the Field of Social Work
In this interview series, we discover the unique problems, challenges, and solutions to the field of social work. Covering different specializations, geographic locations, and types of clients, social work instructors from many different universities offer insight into their experience pre and post- social work instruction.
Interview with Dr. Gwendolyn Perry-Burney, Ph.D. –Professor at California University of Pennsylvania | Youth Empowerment Social Justice & Policy Dr. Gwendolyn Perry-Burney’s areas of interest include macro practice, empowerment, social justice, policy, and community transformation, especially with the youth.
Interview with Dr. William J. Koehler, Ph.D., LCSW – Professor at Edinboro University | Mental Health in Children and Adults, Trauma-informed Practice, and the LGBT Community. Dr. William J. Koehler, Ph.D., LCSW is currently a full-time instructor of Social Work at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania after serving as an adjunct professor in 2011. In addition to his role at the university, Dr. Koehler serves as the president of the board of directors for Greater Erie Alliance for Equality (GEAE).
Interview with Dr. David McCarty-Caplan, Ph. D. – Assistant Professor at Cal State University Northridge (CSUN) | Research and Teaching & Macro and Micro Level Dr. McCarty-Caplan specializes in research and teaching related to intersections of macro and micro-level social work education and practice, with a special focus on the health of at-risk youth, support of LGBT populations, social policy, and HIV/AIDS prevention.
Interview with Dr. Wendy Ashley, Psy. D., LCSW – Assistant Professor at Cal State University Northridge (CSUN) | Community Mental Health & Urban Child Welfare Dr. Wendy Ashley currently works as an assistant professor at Cal State University Northridge, maintains a private practice, and provides consultation and training for multiple community agencies.
Interview with Steven Sherry, LCSW – Full-Time Lecturer at Cal State University Northridge (CSUN) | Field Education in an Urban Setting Steven Sherry began his career as an LCSW at a residential treatment center working with children placed by the Department of Children and Family Services, Department of Probation, and Department of Mental Health.
Interview with Dr. Susan Love, Ph.D., LCSW – Professor at Cal State University Northridge (CSUN) | Social Work & Evidence-based Practice Susan Love has practiced in community health, hospital and hospice social work, and independent community practice for nearly 30 years.
Interview with Dr. Ijeoma Ogbonnaya, Ph.D., MSW – Assistant Professor at San Diego State (SDSU) | Macro Practice, Child Welfare & Racial Disparities Dr. Ijeoma Ogbonnaya’s primary research interests are domestic violence, mental health, and racial/ethnic disparities among child welfare populations.
Interview with Amy O’Connor, LCSW – Lecturer and Admissions Coordinator at Humboldt State University (HSU) | Wilderness Therapy & Indigenous Social Services Amy O’Connor earned her MSW at the University of Pennsylvania, where she concentrated on direct clinical practice – specifically trauma-focused psychotherapy.
Interview with Sheila Vakharia, Ph.D., MSW – Assistant Professor at Long Island University | Substance Abuse & Ethics Sheila Vakharia earned her doctorate at Florida International University’s School of Social Work and was most recently employed as a social worker at a grassroots HIV/AIDS and homelessness advocacy organization in Manhattan.
Interview with Stephen Burghardt, PhD – Professor at Silberman School of Social Work (CUNY-Hunter) | Social Justice & Urban Policy Stephen Burghardt earned his MSW and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and has worked as a community organizer, consultant, and trainer in nonprofit and public-sector organizations.
Interview with Carole Cox, MSW, PhD – Professor at Fordham University | Gerontology, Social Policy, and Social Work Abroad Carole Cox earned her Master of Social Work at Virginia Commonwealth University and her Ph.D. at the University of maryland and is interested in the area of human rights and aging, and the ways in which social policies impact the rights of older adults.
Interview with Elizabeth Palley, Ph.D., JD, MSW – Professor at Adelphi University | Social Policy Elizabeth Palley attended a joint MSW and JD program at the University of Maryland. Following graduation, she worked at a nonprofit that addressed issues related to childhood lead poisoning and then as an attorney practicing special education and family law for a year.
Interview with Roni Berger, Ph.D., LCSW – Professor at Adelphi University | Psychotherapy & Trauma in Cross-Cultural Contexts Roni Berger is a licensed clinical social worker in New York, as well as a certified family therapist in both Jerusalem and New York.
Interview with Jim Baumohl, Ph.D., MSW – Professor at Bryn Mawr College | Social Policy & Social Welfare Jim Baumohl earned his undergraduate, MSW, and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California, Berkeley.
Interview with Mandy Fauble, Ph.D., LCSW – Assistant Professor at Edinboro University | Online Learning, Behavioral Health, and Task Forces Mandy Fauble earned her MSW from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in 2002 and became a LCSW prior to completing her Ph.D. in Social Welfare in 2009 at Case Western Reserve university.
When decided on pursuing a career in social work, you should also consider a concentration in your studies and service. In our interviews, with over 30 social workers, you can explore a day in the life of a medical social worker to LGBT social work.
Field education is an essential part of all Master of Social Work (MSW) programs, and is defined as internships that MSW students complete in real social work settings under the supervision of a qualified social worker (also known as a field instructor). Field education provides MSW students with the opportunity to apply the principles and methods they have learned in the classroom to work with actual clients in a professional environment, explore and/or refine their career interests, and develop a strong and flexible skills set that is relevant to their future profession.
Field Instructors: Guides to Students’ Professional Development
Due to the high level of engagement and professional responsibility that is expected of social work students during their field practicums, supervision and guidance are particularly important aspects of field education. Field instructors play a central role in students’ professional development, serving as guides, evaluators, and mentors throughout the practicum experience. Tech Tran, ACSW, a clinical social worker and field supervisor at the Rainbow Community Center (RCC) in Concord, CA, explained in an interview with OnlineMSWPrograms.com:
As a field instructor, clinical supervisor, and student teacher/mentor in the field placement site, I instruct, supervise, provide ongoing feedback, and assess student acquisition of knowledge, skills, and values.
The Collaborative Relationship Between Student and Supervisor
Field instructors typically work with their students to develop a structured plan for skill development and exposure to different professional environments. “As a field instructor I was responsible for creating a plan with the students to have them engage in all areas of the program,” Samantha Roberts, LCSW explained to OnlineMSWPrograms.com, “I met with them weekly for individual supervision, assigned them a caseload, met with their field advisor and reviewed their process recording.” Tech Tran, ACSW also described students’ field education experiences at the RCC. “MSW interns are able to engage in all areas and departments of the RCC, dependent on major factors such as: personal interest, scope of practice, fitness for profession, and alignment with their learning objectives,” he said.
Field instructors also work to help students gain a better sense of their professional and personal selves through regular discussions about students’ experiences in the field and how they relate to their overall goals. In addition, student and supervisor also generally discuss how the student can better understand his/her strengths and weaknesses. Jana Morgan, noted to OnlineMSWPrograms.com:
My clinical supervision aims to help interns with the direct practice piece of their work. I ask them to talk to me about what they are honestly seeing and feeling when with their youth. […] It is supervision but it tilts toward personal therapy, which is my challenge–how to help the interns help their clients first and then develop their new professional identities and increased sense of themselves in a therapeutic manner. The line between personal and professional development is close.
Advice for Students When Completing Their Field Practicums
As field education is such a central aspect of social work students’ professional development, it is recommended that students structure their schedules so that they can truly get the most out of their time in the field and from their interactions with their supervisor. “Field instruction is where you learn the most. As important as classes and papers and exams are, you get hands on experience when you’re in the field,” Samantha Roberts, LCSW noted, “I recommend putting your field placement first when it comes to level of importance.”
Students who wish to get the most out of their field practicums should implement a combination of dedication, self-awareness, frequent and open conversations with their supervisor, and sound self-care practices.
For additional insights on field education and how MSW students can make the most of their internship experiences, OnlineMSWPrograms.com has completed a series of Field Instructor Interviews, which are provided below.