You can get social services work experience by volunteering at a mental health clinic, substance abuse treatment center or children's foster care home. Other ways to gain social services work experience are to assist at homeless shelters, soup kitchens and free clinics. The work is very demanding at times, in part because of the sheer number of recipients of the services. If you have a degree in social work, you might qualify for an internship with a local agency. You might also be able to gain experience by securing a temporary position with a social service agency and will be able to gain hands-on experience while being closely supervised by a more experienced social worker.
One of the most difficult components in gaining social services work experience is that it requires you to work with real clients. Unlike other jobs, any misstep while working with a client could result in very detrimental situation and severe repercussions. This is why many social service positions require one to two years of experience as a volunteer or internist before beginning unsupervised work. Periodic training and testing make certain that a worker is keeping up with his or her training requirements and skills.
Many social service agencies welcome volunteer workers who want to gain social services work experience. Working with children, families and individuals; assisting in securing housing; helping to register a person for government assistance programs; and driving a shuttle to hospital appointments are usually all volunteer positions. This can be good work experience for a beginner or someone who is in the process of earning a degree in social work. Often, substance abuse programs require the assistance of volunteers to run and oversee group meetings, which can lead to valuable social services work experience. You can simply contact agencies where you want to work and volunteer your services.
Churches are another very good place to gain social work training. Many churches hold substance abuse classes and domestic violence classes, and some offer domestic violence shelters for battered women and their children. These are all good places to receive training and gain real-world experience in the social services industry. Other places to gain experience in the social services field are nursing homes and veteran's or children's hospitals. Many programs offer the opportunity for you to begin working and gaining on-the-job experience without any education or experience in the social services field, if you agree to become certified within a certain time frame.