Frequently Asked Questions
What do I need to enroll?
To enroll in the Social Service/Mental Health (SSMH) program you should have a passion for helping others, because this is known as a "Helping Profession." Getting enrolled in this program is the same as for many other programs at Pierce College:
- Apply for admission to the college.
- Meet with the program coordinator of SSMH for advising and, if the program coordinator is not available, meet with an advisor who will guide you in selection of classes for this program.
- Each subsequent quarter after that you will see the program coordinator of SSMH for advising.
Do I need to have experience?
No. You need to have a passion for helping others. You will gain experience by being in this program and learning how to work with others who need various kinds of assistance. You will learn all about the laws and ethics of this field, and even fulfill a minimum of one work-based learning experience in the field.
When can I start?
You can start in the program at any time. Though there are only a few specific SSMH courses, you will also be taking related coursework throughout your time at Pierce College to fulfill degree or certificate requirements.
Is there a waiting list?
No. Pierce College registration is based upon longevity as a Pierce College student and current enrollment status. Those that are current Pierce College students with the most credits get to register first.
Can I challenge or substitute any of the SSMH courses if I have already worked in the field or taken courses at another college?
We understand that students coming back from working in organizations and agencies for retraining may not need training in certain areas. For cases like that, credit may be earned through the creation of a Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Portfolio. If a person coming in from organizations or agencies can show skills that map to one or more of our courses they can earn up to 25 credits for those courses. Creation of a PLA does not guarantee credit will be granted. However, if a student has taken related coursework at another college, it is highly probable that course substitutions will be granted, but only by the authority of the Program Coordinator of SSMH.
Will I be required to complete fieldwork experience?
Yes, if you complete a certificate, you will be required to complete one fieldwork experience course. If you complete an Associate in SSMH, you will be required to complete two fieldwork experience courses. There is required paperwork for this course. Two contract forms are due shortly after the course begins (Responsibility Agreement and Learning Plan Agreement), and three contract forms are due at the end of the course (Time Log, Evaluation by Employer, and Self-Evaluation).
You will be responsible for selecting and securing a site for your fieldwork. The position can be paid or volunteer. Plan on at least 120 hours of experience during the quarter in which you are enrolled in the fieldwork course.
Where can I find a field site and what qualifies as an approved site?
Students must secure a field site on their own. The Job and Career Connections center is a great place to start to seek field locations. Remember, Google is your friend. You can use search words, such as "Social Service agencies in Pierce County" or other related wording. You will see many suitable places to do your field experience. It is your responsibility to call or email them to inquire about volunteer availability for 8 - 10 weeks of time. Ask the SSMH Field Experience professor or the program coordinator if the site is appropriate.
May I work at more than one site during the same quarter?
Yes, some students need to do this option, because they cannot get enough hours by being at one site alone. However, another set of contract forms needs to be filled out and submitted.
May I start working toward my 120 hours before class begins if I have already secured a field site?
Technically, no. However, once you are registered in the course, and have paid for the liability insurance, you may start your hours shortly before class begins. Students need to remember that the entire point of doing these hours is that learning objectives are in place and a conscious effort is made to meet those objectives during the 120 hours. This is a course with academic assignments and goals to complete during the quarter. It is not just volunteering anywhere for 120 hours.
May I use my regular job as my field site?
Yes, you can use your regular job as your field site with a couple of conditions. The field site must have a social services "identity" or focus. Students are to learn three new things that are different or beyond what they usually do or know at the job site.
May I do SSMH 201 and 202 in the same quarter?
It depends, though it is not recommended. If a student registers for two field experience courses in the same quarter, they must have the understanding that they are to complete 240 hours of field experience by the end of the quarter in order to receive a grade. In some cases, especially for students who are using their job as their field site, obtaining 240 hours is feasible.
What do I tell field sites that ask what their role will be in supervising my field experience?
Students can show the field sites the contract forms that pertain to their role (Responsibility Agreement, Learning Plan Agreement, Time Log, and Evaluation by Employer). These will give the field site a good idea of what's involved to monitor and oversee the student, etc. Students can also download a brochure to give or email to a prospective field site, which describes the field experience course and the field site’s role.
What if I have a felony on my record, can I still do fieldwork experience and work in this field?
It depends. Pierce College is open to all and will not limit access to the program. However, many companies may not be willing to hire a person with certain felonies on their record.
Some students may wish to apply for the Affiliated Advisor Credential (aka: Agency Affiliated Counselor) with the Department of Health for the State of Washington, before seeking fieldwork experience. This application will run a background check and confirm or deny employability.
In particular, crimes against people are more severely frowned upon and will limit access to working with children. Prior Child Protective Service (CPS) incidents may also limit employment with the state.
It is recommended that you ask the employer of your desired career path about any felony limitations.
Is there insurance to cover me when I do fieldwork experience?
Yes. The SSMH Field Experience classes offer two policies. See the Field Experience Checklist for information about purchasing this liability insurance. One costs $15.00 and is for professional liability and the other is for general liability, which costs $3.00.