Some of the most important learning that occurs during the completion of your Masters of Social Work program happens outside the classroom. Field education, also called practicum, fieldwork or field experience, is the hands-on training portion of your BSW and more importantly MSW program. It is a chance for you to test the waters, to make mistakes in a supportive learning environment and find your niche within the diverse array of social work career options.
Field placement is not a job — it is a professional opportunity where one learns how to ‘think and act like a social worker.’ Students need to comprehend what it means to become a professional in the workforce, which includes demonstrating professional conduct as well as absorbing the expectations of the role they play in a host setting.”
Some MSW students spend their practicum days at hospitals or community health agencies. Students interested in school social work may complete their hours at a school or school-community partnership. You may find yourself working for a government agency, such as the department of social services or a correctional facility.
The intent of field education is to connect the theoretical and conceptual contribution of the classroom with the practical world of the practice setting. It is a basic precept of social work education that the two interrelated components of curriculum — classroom and field — are of equal importance within the curriculum, and each contributes to the development of the requisite competencies of professional practice. Field education is systematically designed, supervised, coordinated, and evaluated based on criteria by which students demonstrate the achievement of program competencies.
MSW students complete a generalist field education experience in initial semesters that allows students to learn and demonstrate core competencies (e.g., utilizing ethical principles to conduct practice) and then an advanced field experience in the following semesters that allows students to demonstrate competence in advanced generalist or clinical environments. We follow established social work fieldwork norms and guidelines in terms of:
- Selecting field placement settings.
- Monitoring students while on-site.
- Maintaining communication between the field placement site and the faculty
- Evaluating student progress.
- Evaluating the effectiveness of the field settings.
- Criteria of qualified field instructors.
These guidelines ensure that, regardless of where in the world students are earning their MSW fieldwork internship, they are receiving a consistent, high-quality experience in the on-the-job portion of their social work training.