Surviving your social work degree placement

Surviving your social work degree placement: tips from students Current and former students provide some tips on how to avoid potential pitfalls and...

Current and former students provide some tips on how to avoid potential pitfalls and get the most out of your placement (more details on CareSpace)


‘I made an effort to get involved and everything clicked’

I have just finished my level 2 placement of 100 days in a relatively big statutory team. At my mid-point meeting with my practice teacher and tutor from uni there were serious concerns that I might not pass.

After many tears, and a lot of self-examination and reflection, I realised that the main problems I was having were around not fitting into the team and not feeling like a valued member.

After this point (and it took some hard work on my part) I felt like something clicked. I tried hard within the team, even to just have informal chats in the coffee room and to send around emails with links to interesting articles etc. By making myself a little more known, everything just got so much better.

I cannot fault the excellent supervision I was given, both formal (1.5 hours per week) and informal peer support from other members of the team. My university recommended 1.5 hours of formal supervision per week but I know of a lot of other students who weren’t getting it and were afraid to ask.

Any student who feels they need more supervision should check how much your institution says you should be getting, and pass this on to your practice teachers or work-based supervisors.

CareSpace user student1986


‘Just try to enjoy it’

I am just finishing the end of my first year on the BA and also my 80-day placement. Although I understand the relevance of the academic side of the degree, I do struggle with it.

However, everything seems to come together when on placement. My placement in a learning difficulties team has left me with a great understanding of the responsibilities and pressures that are placed on both social and medical staff, both those qualified and those not.

One tip for getting through placements is to enjoy it, or at least try. Of course there are times when things do not go right. Funding doesn’t get agreed, resources are few and far between, and personalisation seems like a dream.

I can recall one day recently when my thoughts were very negative and I was questioning my future in social work and the reasons for me carrying on training. After visiting a service user and listening to her express her thanks for what I had done, reality struck and my reasons for doing what I do returned.

Another tip for anyone starting the BA/MA is to cut off from it all when out of work, or at least try. Of course there are days which are stressful and things play on your mind – I suppose it would be strange if they didn’t. I am committed, but there is also more to life.

CareSpace user Jonny303


‘If you shadow a visit, offer to write notes’

Take every opportunity you’re offered. Go in determined to make the most of it and get as much experience as you possibly can, even if you’re not overly keen on the area or setting. If you have that attitude you will find things to enjoy about it and may actually surprise yourself.

Also be a team player. Offer to help other workers where you can – if you shadow a visit, offer to write the notes. If someone needs some research doing regarding a service user’s history, offer to do it. Listen and support other workers who are having a difficult time or have had a hard visit. Be willing to make the tea!

If you show you’re enthusiastic and willing to work, you will be given more opportunities, people will want to give you responsibilities, you’ll improve your reputation, and later – when you’re applying for jobs – you’ll be remembered, as well as getting lots of experience and developing your skills and practice.

CareSpace user QueenB


‘Universities should guarantee placements in duty and assessment teams’

I’ve finished my three-year social work degree in Birmingham and I’m finding it quite daunting looking for a social work job seeing as neither of my placements involved a social work role.

My big tip would be for universities to guarantee social work students a placement in duty and assessment or care management and the likes – what could a student possibly learn from a placement at a day centre?

I’m stuck considering a job in the tough sector of children and families duty and assessment. Even after a three-year social work degree, I have no experience in the one sector where social workers are needed the most. It has definitely put me off and has pretty much scared me before even applying for the job.

CareSpace user sannah


‘Don’t be afraid to ask questions’

If you don’t understand something, ask for clarification. There is nothing worse than going along with something and then about 10 minutes later, still not really understanding what is going on. Also, if you don’t agree with or understand something a practitioner has done then ask, in the most tactful way possible, why they did this. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, speak to your practice tutor/work-based supervisor.

Make the most of your placement and the colleagues you work with. I learned so much from the people I have worked with and the placements I have been on. Being in lectures enables you to learn the theory, but it is the placement where you see what real social work is all about.

Enjoy it because soon you will be out in the real world and that is a lot more hardcore!

CareSpace user Hovis


For more tips and advice from fellow students go to CareSpace

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