Students may want to consider working in social work internship and assistantships while pursuing their social work graduate programs. Many universities offer assistantships to graduate students in a variety of fields, offering research or work experience related to their discipline of study.
Some social work graduate programs offer a limited number of paid graduate assistantship positions each year, sometimes through the School of Social Work generally, and other times with a specific professor who has received grant/research funding.
These Positions are Competitive
These positions are competitive, and each university offering social work graduate programs will have its own criteria for how paid graduate assistants are selected. However, even if one is not offered the opportunity for a paid assistantship, the benefits of seeking out such work as an assistant to a professor are numerous and invaluable.
Building a Relationship with a Respected Professional
While pursuing your social work graduate programs, you may want to consider working as a graduate assistant to a professor in your school of social work allows you to spend a great deal of time with that professor and truly get to know her and the type of work or research she is conducting.
Offering to work as a graduate assistant to a professor whose work interests you or whose teaching you appreciate will allow you to build a close working relationship with her, which can be helpful in a number of ways.
This professor will get to know you and your capabilities inside and outside of the classroom, making her a great reference for future job searches. She can also act as a mentor to you as the student, teaching you practical skills and offering you new perspectives that might be lacking from your classroom studies or fieldwork experience.
Mentors also assist students in navigating their graduate school careers, and can be helpful in decision-making processes, giving advice or guidance. Developing a healthy working relationship and/or mentor-mentee relationship with a professor is a great opportunity to feel supported during your graduate studies, learn more about your areas of interest, and eventually, advance in your career.
Research Experience for Social Work Graduate Programs
Working as a graduate assistant will almost always include research. Many professors receive grants to investigate specific topics, carry out research experiments, or analyze existing literature. Graduate assistants have the opportunity to learn a lot about social work research and gain hands-on experience in conducting it.
Research experience as a graduate assistant is different from individual research conducted for class assignments because it provides real, professional experience working as a part of research team, often with a funding source or client.
This type of experience is not always available in fieldwork placements, especially those that are clinically-focused, so many students miss out on the opportunity to participate in professional research before graduating.
Various social work jobs will require research experience or ask about the extent to which graduate have participated in professional research, and graduate assistantships are a wonderful way to gain that experience.
All professors must publish their work, and most of them are generally working on articles or books for publication throughout the school year.
Graduate assistants often have the opportunity to assist in the writing of works to be published, with the professor listed as the lead author and the graduate assistants included as secondary authors.
Learning to write for publication in an academic journal is a useful skill, especially for those interested in continuing social work studies and/or working in academia. Being published elevates one status as a social work academic, and is a great distinguishing accomplishment to list on a resume or CV.
Graduate assistantships are a wonderful way to round out your graduate education experience in social work, complementing the learning that takes place in fieldwork and the classroom, and providing additional practical skills and accomplishments to assist in career advancement.
It also gives students the opportunity to really connect with their professors that makes for a strong professional contact within the field. For these reasons, seeking out a graduate assistantship, even if unpaid, is a recommended course of action for students looking to gain these benefits from working closely with a social work professor.