Loyola University Chicago

School of Social Work

Frequently Asked Questions

BSW and First Level MSW Internship Questions

The following are common questions of BSW and First Level MSW students as they begin the internship placement process for the first time. If the answer to your question is not listed below, please refer to the Internship Coordinator or your Academic Advisor for a more specific answer to your situation. 

The first level internship is a generalist internship. This internship is designed to provide you with the basic skills that will prepare you for your second level field placement. You will be exposed to the first 4 of the 10 core competencies that define and characterize social work:

  • Competency 1: Identify as a professional social work intern and conduct oneself accordingly;
  • Competency 2: Apply social work ethical principles to guide professional practice;
  • Competency 3: Apply critical thinking to inform and communicate professional judgments; and
  • Competency 4: Engage diversity and difference in practice.

For those older students who may be career changers, a first level field placement should broaden and enhance your knowledge and experiences in the social work field. This may mean an internship in an area outside your desired career path. 

Previous experiences and interests, while valuable, are given greater credence when it comes to the second level field placement. Although not ideal, first level field placements place a good deal of focus on the proximity to where the student resides and whether or not the student has a vehicle. Students with vehicles may receive an additional referral or two as they are able to travel. Most of the field placements are accessible via public transportation. It is important to keep in mind that the first level field placement is a GENERALIST placement and as such may not be related to your ultimate practice area.  

The Career Development Center is a great resource for all things related to the internship and job search process, including cover letters. They have a guide that you may find here.  A basic cover letter should include three parts:

  • Introduction: Who you are, what position you are interested in, where you heard about it, and why you are interested in that position
  • Body: A series of connections between your experiences (from resume) and the demands of the position you are interested in.
  • Wrap-up/Thank you: Summarize your qualifications, offer your contact information, and thank the reader for their time and consideration.

Additionally, there is a Resource Tab in Sakai to the left of the FIRE-UP self-guided tutorial wherein you may find additional resources. 

For your interviews, you want to look professional and polished. This means wearing nice pants/skirt/dress and a nice shirt. You should look neat and put together. Do not wear jeans, even “nice” jeans, nor excessive jewelry, excessive perfume, or inappropriate clothing. Use your best judgment, and always dress more professional than you might think appropriate. 

You should follow-up with a thank you within 24 hours of your interview. This will likely be via email, but it can also be via phone call if that is more comfortable. The thank you should be brief and genuine. It is an opportunity to make you stand out from other candidates and to reiterate your interest in the internship position as well as to highlight the qualities you possess that make you an ideal candidate. 

Students who are on Academic Probation cannot begin the placement process until they are no longer on Academic Probation. However, students are able to submit field work applications while on Academic Probation, if they know when their probation will be lifted. Once a student’s Academic Probation status has been lifted, the student may inform the Internship Coordinator and request referrals to begin the process to secure a first level field placement. 

All students are to complete an application (either BSW or MSW) accessible via a link found here. However, students will not be provided with referrals until they are in the Chicago area. The student must be present in order to go on interviews. The partner agencies that the School of Social Work works with prefer to meet with students face to face rather than via Skype or Facetime or telephone interviews. Some students who reside within a reasonable commute to the area may elect to schedule interviews and travel to town for the interviews and relocate to the Chicago area at a later date. 

The process itself does not differ for part-time students. All the requirements of the internship remain the same. However, when you choose to start the internship process may differ. Most full-time students begin their first level internship during the first or second semesters. If you are part-time, you may choose to delay the start of your first level internship beyond the first two semesters. This decision is best made with the counsel of the student’s Academic Advisor. All students benefit from mapping out their course plan with their Academic Advisor. 

This information can be found via LOCUS, under the “Academics” tab. 

If you don’t hear back from an agency after 10 business days have elapsed, follow up via a professionally crafted email inquiring about the status of your letter of inquiry/application. If you still do not receive a response after 3-5 business days, please inform the Internship Coordinator who will intervene on your behalf. You may also consider carbon copying (CC:) the Internship Coordinator on your follow up email. Many Field Instructors respond quicker when they see that the Internship Coordinator has been copied on the email. 

If you don’t secure a placement from your initial 3 referrals, contact the Internship Coordinator as soon as possible to request additional referrals. If you are unable to secure a field placement after having received 4-6 or more referrals, the Internship Coordinator will reach out to set up a meeting to collectively explore your process. In some cases, the Internship Coordinator may refer a student to the Career Development Center for practice via a Mock Interview.  

This is a great position to be in. If you receive an offer from more than one referral, you may request additional time to consider the offer. You want to be specific with the amount of time requested and when you will follow-up (i.e. Can I please take 5 business days and get back to you next Monday, May 7?). You may also inquire as to when they would like a response/reply. This is reasonable as the field sites are interviewing several candidates and they are aware that you too are interviewing with other agencies. As you work to make a decision and consider the offers, reflect upon about how you felt at the site and during the interview. Did you connect with the people at the site? Were you interested about the kinds of things you would be expected to do?  Did you get a sense of whether or not the site would be a good fit and a good balance between what your strengths/skills and what you still need to learn in the field of social work?  You may wish to consult with a classmate/peer/friend, loved one or the Internship Coordinator for another perspective if necessary. Then, formally accept and/or decline the offer(s) via email. 

If a site offers you a placement and you want to accept, you may do so. Following accepting that placement, you would need to inform the other agencies of your need to cancel the interview as you have accepted an offer from another agency. Other options would be to request a specified time frame to consider the offer or be transparent and inform the agency that you have other interviews scheduled and you would like the opportunity to explore your options. These are reasonable and demonstrate thoughtfulness.

LUC only requires one application to be submitted in order to receive referrals. However, some agencies require an additional application, while others do not. The Internship Coordinator will indicate when providing referrals whether or not the agency requires that you complete an application as part of the internship process.  

You will receive 2-3 referrals from the Internship Coordinator. Students that indicate on their application that they have a vehicle may receive additional referrals. 

Social Work is an eclectic profession, and people come from a variety of professional and/or educational backgrounds with varied experience. The first level field experience is designed to be an introductory, generalist experience in the field of social work. Everyone has to begin somewhere and those people that bring more experience in the social work field were at one time novices in the field of social work. 

Although confidence is important, you do not need to have prior experience in the field of social work to obtain or excel in a first level internship. Placement sites are aware that students have a variety of previous education and work experiences, and will provide adequate training for you to succeed. Your eagerness and curiosity to learn may be your best assets!

The Internship Coordinator will provide you with an estimated date of when you may expect to receive referrals when you receive a reply that your resume and field application have been received. 

You often will not know this until you begin your field placement. There is no way to guarantee this upfront. Trust that you will be trained by your Field Instructor (agency supervisor) and that you will have the support of a Field Liaison as you navigate your first level field placement. 

The internship referral and placement process is neither self-service nor self-selected. However, if you have an agency that is not currently a partner with Loyola nor has trained Loyola student interns previously, you may provide the Internship Coordinator with the contact information of the agency. The Internship Coordinator is always interested in widening the options for students and will reach out and vet the agency to make certain that the agency has personnel on staff with the appropriate credentials to train Loyola student interns. The requirements for a Field Instructor to provide supervision to our students are set by the Council of Social Work Education (CSWE) which is the organization that provides accreditation to Schools of Social Work. If you live out of the greater Chicago area, and are looking for a placement closer to home, please consult with the Internship Coordinator to find a site that can help you fulfill the requirements of the internship. 

The Internship Coordinator provides the referrals to students. The internships are dictated by their availability.  Therefore, there is no control on the part of the student

The School of Social Work collaboratively works with students, faculty, and the Student Accessibility Center (SAC) to ensure accessibility in and out of the classroom. The implementation of academic accommodations is a shared responsibility between the student, faculty, and SAC. Please contact the SAC to discuss accommodations for internship placement. We recommend that you contact SAC prior to applying for your 1st or 2nd level internship. 

The best way to prepare for the field experience/internship is to adjust your life to accommodate the rigors and requirements of the program. This may mean adjusting a work schedule, etc. Another great way to prepare is to do a little research on your placement - what types of services do they provide; what is there population primarily; what types of professionals are in the building, etc. This will give you a knowledge base from which you can start and grow while in the placement. Lastly, you can be relaxed and be open to the new experience.

Students may complete a field placement at their place of employment. However, there are strict guidelines and requirements in order for a student’s workplace to become an approved partner agency. The student must first submit a detailed proposal. In addition, the agency/place of employment must complete an application to become a Field Partner. Please see page 30 of the School of Social Work Field Education Manual for additional information.  

Overwhelmingly, first level field placements are unpaid with 2-3 exceptions. This does not mean that paid internships are not allowed. 

Typical first level internship hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays during regular business hours. First level field placements are designed to be completed over two 15-week semesters; 240 hours the first semester and the remaining 240 hours for the second semester for a total of 480 hours. 

Flexibility of schedules and days is site specific. Loyola has no control over what times and days you complete your internship, so if a flexible schedule is required, please discuss with internship sites. Full time first level BSW/MSW students are generally in their classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday and in their field placements or internship site on Tuesday and Thursday. 

First level field placements are generalist placements. As such, they are not typically clinical in nature. However, the degree of clinical experience offered at a first level placement depends on the site. Please inquire during interviews. Many aspects of social work are clinical in nature. It is important for a student to broaden his/her conceptualization of what is considered clinical. 

Internship sites may be found throughout the greater Chicago area and students can expect to travel up to 1 hour, one way, to and from internship. However, geographic location is a factor considered prior to giving internship referrals. Additionally, Loyola University Chicago students receive an unlimited ride CTA Ventra pass during any spring or fall semester in which they are enrolled full-time. Any other travel expenses outside of CTA are not covered by LUC.  

It is impossible to guarantee safety as this is a matter of personal responsibility. There is no such thing as a crime free or safe area. However, safety concerns do exist and students are strongly encouraged to explore their concerns during the interview process. Often times the Field Instructor is no stranger to such an inquiry from a student and are able to provide suggestions for students to maintain the highest level of safety. For example, schedules may be adjusted during Daylight savings time when traveling via public transportation. In the event there are several interns at a site, it may be suggested that interns car pool or commute together or travel as a group to and from public transportation.  

Unless there is a significant concern or a significant conflict that cannot be resolved, internships cannot be changed. Your Field Liaison is a critical resource to help manage any challenges that may arise during the first level field experience. 

Supervision is a meeting between student and Field Instructor (supervisor) which includes case consultation, discussion of the student’s concerns and questions, and any other relevant discussions about the student’s learning and progress at the site. These meetings are typically weekly, but this may differ based on site set-up and Field Instructor.


Students are encouraged to first approach their Field Instructor about their concerns. This is often difficult for a first level student (or any student for that matter) as the student may be concerned about repercussions or receiving a poor evaluation. However, this is the recommended course of action and students are encouraged to report their concerns as a preface to discussing inadequate supervision. When students are unable to approach their Field Instructor, the next resource is their Field Liaison. The role of the Field Liaison is to be a bridge between the student and their Field Instructor and to foster the learning and engagement of the student and to support the Field Instructor to provide an optimal learning environment for the student.  

Balancing internship and school requires planning and is best done before applying to the program. It is the responsibility of the student to adjust their life to accommodate the requirements of the program. 

The only required course to take con-current with a first level internship is SWFI 530S. However, to stay on track in the program, most students take a few courses over the summer. Please discuss your academic plan with your Academic Advisor regarding which courses you should take. 

The balance between internship and any outside employment can be difficult. The first level internship requires 16 hours per week (for Fall and Spring start terms), and the second level internship increases to 24 hours per week (for Fall and Spring start terms). Your outside employment will have to be flexible to allow these hours, if they can be. Loyola cannot be flexible in its program requirements and is required to comply with the requirements of the accrediting body, the Council on Social Work Education or the CSWE.

Internships can be excellent networking opportunities. Although no data exists to answer this particular question, the connections you make at your first and second level internships are invaluable for the job search following graduation. Some students are offered employment opportunities upon graduation and/or completion of their field placement. This occurs more often with second level field placements versus first level placements. 

This is strongly discouraged and happens only in rare circumstances. Each student believes their situation is unique and rare but more often than not, it is not so and therefore, this does not occur. Internships are almost always at different placement sites. Each level internship has different requirements, and it is unlikely that one site could offer both internship positions for one student. Additionally, the purpose of the student completing two internships is to have exposure to two different populations all the while learning and developing new skills and greater exposure to the 10 core competencies that characterize social work.