Is There Really A Need for More Macro Field Placements?



I have been contacted by Master of Social Work students with a macro concentration who are unable to secure macro field placements for internship/practicum. I love supervising interns but have also heard from many students who are not getting the professional experience their tuition pays for. Because the request for my assistance has increased, my brain immediately goes into program-solving on a larger scale.

On various social media platforms and in various social work groups on those platforms I posted the following:

“Macro social work students must be supervised by a licensed social worker. Many macro social workers aren’t licensed.

Macro placements are often scarce or lacking.

Many clinical social workers and private practice therapists need administrative support including with resource development, referrals, and billing.

Getting more macro social workers licensed isn’t the only answer.

Getting more clinical social workers to supervise macro students reconnects the profession and allows macro students more practicum placements as well as more diverse career opportunities.

There is untapped value in macro social work students!!

As a social work field supervisor, I’m willing to answer questions about how to create a mutually beneficial macro/micro internship opportunity.”


The various responses to the post further highlighted the inherent problems.

  • Students chimed in and confirmed they could not find macro placements.
  • Clinical social workers said they didn’t know this was an issue and would be willing to supervise students.
  • MSW field supervisors and professors disagreed that social workers must be licensed to supervise interns.
  • MSW field supervisors confirmed their school requires licensed social workers, but professors step up to fill in the gap
  • Some social workers questioned why anyone would be unlicensed.
  • Other social workers questioned the type of work that could be done.
  • Some social workers said all the macro social workers they know are licensed which is different that what other social workers find in their professional circles.
  • The list goes on…

My Take: Different schools and states having different supervision and licensing requirements harm students and the profession.

My Advice: Clinical social workers should get involved to help macro students with placements.

There is no one size fits all option.

This short social media post could not solve all problems, but the post did what I wanted it to do which is start a conversation. Some people were curious enough to ask questions. Others went to research how they could get involved. Students had their frustrations heard. Win-win in my book.

The approval process to supervise macro interns is not unlike the approval process to supervise macro interns.

  • Internship supervisors and field placement sites must be approved by each school of social work.
  • There is usually a mandatory orientation that covers host expectations, and the work cannot be strictly administrative.
  • Social work competencies must be met and learning contracts must be approved.

Macro social work skills include, but aren’t limited to, community organizing, partnership development, policy analysis, needs assessment, program planning, curriculum development, and grant writing. All of which can be of benefit to direct service agencies and private practice clinicians.

There are too many opportunities and possibilities in macro social work for me to list all the ways macro students provide value. More importantly, each agency/practice is different and has different needs as well as staff with different levels of experience. I listed things that I know are universally understood and would not scare folks away.

My hope is that social workers continue the conversation but quickly move into action because macro students should not encounter additional barriers because of the social work path they have chosen. Micro, mezzo, and macro social work are all social work – no area is more important than the other. The narrow definition of social work being perpetuated is detrimental and divisive. All three areas can work together to advance the social work profession and advance humanity at the same time.

Yes, I’m still willing to discuss how to develop a social work internship program in your agency or practice or how to expand your program to welcome macro social work students. Schedule a chat.



Nicki Sanders, MSW, supports high-performing women of color in social work leadership in developing careers that feed their hearts, minds, and wallets. As Founder and CEO of Nicki Sanders Leadership Consulting, her mission is simple – to eliminate toxic workplaces by developing skilled, empathetic, and goal-oriented leaders who have the vision, support, and resources to create a culture where business prospers, and employees thrive individually and collectively. Nicki has an extensive background in nonprofit management leading high-functioning, multi-disciplinary teams, volunteer recruitment and retention, and social impact programming. She is an accomplished professor, coach, trainer, and group facilitator who has combined her gift for authentic relationships, Master of Social Work degree, and over 20 years of diverse work experience to create a life and career aligned with her values and purpose. Nicki is a lover of cupcakes, travel, and 80’s hip hop and R&B music.

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