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Securing a School Social Work Internship


Completing an internship placement at a school is a requirement for applying for a Professional Educator License (PEL) with School Social Work Endorsement in the state of Illinois. Here is my experience with securing a school social work internship as part of my Post-MSW PEL program. 

I completed the Post-MSW PEL Licensure program at the University of Illinois-Chicago in 2018-2019. Within a few weeks of applying, I was notified by email that I had been accepted to the program and the next step was to secure an internship placement. 

Check out my post about applying to a Post-MSW PEL Program

What were the preparations for finding a school social work internship? 

On the same day I received my acceptance letter from the Post-MSW PEL program at UIC, I also received an email from the program coordinator informing me that as soon as they received my official acceptance, they would begin supporting me in finding an internship placement in a school for the upcoming year.  

Once UIC received my official acceptance, they provided me with a link to the UIC Jane Addams School of Social Work Field Instruction placement database and began my search for a school-based internship placement. They advised that I narrow down the age range or grade level that I preferred working with. 

It’s important to note that school social work students who are completing their second year of their MSW program typically begin applying for internship placements early on in the beginning of the calendar year. Given that I began searching for and applying for placements in April, I was not sure how many placement opportunities would be left. 

I already knew I had an interest in working with high school students so that part was easy. I had also heard somewhere that suburban schools often provide an internship stipend whereas Chicago Public Schools does not. I was also told by the program coordinator that I could not apply to suburban schools and CPS for an internship simultaneously. 

Because I was worried about placement opportunities being filled, I ended up cold emailing the student services department chair at the high school in the suburb closest to me and asking about school social work internship opportunities as well as what their timeline was for interviewing and selecting applicants. I had gone on this school’s job board and verified that they had a posting for a school social work intern and that they provided a stipend.  

She ended up connecting me with their school social work program coordinator and I was scheduled for an interview with the school and their social work team later that same week. 

What was the process of interviewing for a school social work internship like? 

The interview with the social work team at this high school was a group interview with almost all of their social workers. This particular high school is very unique in that it is well-resourced and had around nine social workers on staff for the entire school. The interview included your basic interview questions and also had an interview portion in Spanish due to them wanting to test my Spanish-speaking skills. The interview was approximately 30-45 minutes. I received my formal placement acceptance within a couple of days and by this time it was mid-April. 

What were the preparations for starting the Post-MSW PEL Program and school social work internship? 

Between late April and late August when classes and internship began, I completed application and other requirements for my placement, UIC courses, and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). These included completing an application, background check and other paperwork in order to receive my intern credentials and receive my stipend from my school-based internship placement. I also worked with my placement and UIC to ensure that the ISBE had all necessary paperwork for me to ensure I was approved by the state to begin completing my internship hours for the PEL Licensure application. Finally, I registered for and paid for my classes at UIC in June and July. 

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Hi, I’m Jessica! I’m a licensed clinical social worker, entrepreneur, and wellness expert with a passion for helping others thrive. Join me as I offer practical tips and resources for fellow students, professionals, and anyone seeking wisdom on improving their well-being.

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