Field Education: Translating Pedagogy Into Practice

Social worker conducting group therapy

Field education is the cornerstone of social work education, both at the undergraduate and the graduate levels. For MSW students, the field practicum enables them to translate their advanced coursework to actual social practice in a supervised environment. The field practicum is one of the most intensive aspects of an MSW program, wherein students integrate all the concepts, skills, and methodologies they have learned during their program to real work with clients. Because of its importance in social work education, most MSW programs have a field education director and team that are dedicated to helping students with their practicums.

As the sole accrediting body for social work degree programs in the United States, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) sets the guidelines for social work education at the bachelors and master’s levels. As field practicums are considered the signature pedagogy of the discipline, field education requirements feature prominently in all CSWE-accredited bachelor of social work and master of social work programs. For students who are interested in earning their MSW, it is important to note that the CSWE requires all accredited MSW programs, regardless of their offered specializations and whether they are campus-based, online, or hybrid programs, to have in-person field education requirements.

This guide discusses in detail the different ways in which MSW programs approach field education, which range from matching each student with a practicum site to requiring that students arrange their own practicum location and supervisor (also known as a field instructor). In addition, it describes the difference between MSW students’ first-year and second-year practicums (including important information for bachelor of social work (BSW) graduates starting an advanced standing MSW program), outlines common field placement sites to illustrate for prospective and current MSW students the range of possibilities for practicum settings, describes the role that field instructors play in students’ success, and also explains how online programs handle field education requirements.

This guide also briefly discusses how field education placements vary based on MSW specializations and important considerations for students who intend to pursue licensure in clinical social work post-graduation. Finally, to help students successfully complete their field education requirements, this guide includes an advice section outlining in detail the key steps to making the most of one’s field education experiences (jump to the advice section below).

MSW Specializations and Field Education Requirements

In general, there are three main types of specializations students can pursue in an MSW program: advanced generalist MSW programs, direct practice or clinical social work MSW programs, and community practice or macro social work programs. Typically, students complete field placements in settings that match their specialization. For example, students in a clinical social work program complete placements where they can gain experience working directly with clients (individuals or small groups) in a clinical setting using therapeutic modalities to help their clients cope with mental, emotional, or behavioral challenges. Conversely, students interested in macro social work might complete field education placements in settings that focus more on social service on a broader scale. Such settings include but are not limited to political advocacy organizations, agencies that work on program planning and development, and research institutions that conduct studies to inform the social work discipline or shed light on human welfare or social justice issues.

Students in advanced generalist MSW programs often have the opportunity to explore both clinical and macro social work placements. This can be advantageous for students who are unsure of where they would like to specialize. However, clinical social work is a field that is regulated by state licensing boards (see below), which may require students to complete field placements in specific settings. Therefore, independent of their chosen specialization, it is best for students to discuss their field education options with their program director(s) to ensure their placements align with their professional goals.

Field Education and Social Work Licensure

Social workers who would like to run their own private practices providing clinical social work services directly to patients must be licensed in their state of practice. Licensing requirements are controlled at the state level by social work licensing boards and requirements for licensure are different for each state. States also have different types of licenses depending on educational and work experience (for example, Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) is distinct from Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)). States may also use slightly different naming conventions (for example, LCSW vs. Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW)).

MSW students who plan to pursue licensure in clinical social work after graduation should review licensing requirements in their state of residence before starting their field education. This is due to the fact that some states may require students to complete specific types of placements working with specific populations as part of their licensing requirements. It is possible that some placements (for example, placements involving macro social work) may not meet these requirements. This is especially important for students who are eligible for advanced standing MSW programs (see below) who typically only complete one field education placement during their graduate program.

MSW Field Education: Traditional vs. Advanced Standing Programs

MSW students talking outside of class

Traditionally, for students who enroll full-time, an MSW program can be completed in two years. For a two-year MSW program, students typically complete more general coursework and field education during the first year before proceeding to more advanced coursework and field education during the second year. This second year of an MSW program is often referred to as the advanced standing year. Students who completed a BSW program accredited by the CSWE may be eligible to enter an MSW program as advanced standing students, whereby they are able to waive the first year of a “traditional” two-year MSW program.

(Note: Many MSW programs now offer students the option of completing their program part-time. Part-time MSW programs may also offer traditional and advanced standing tracks.)

MSW students’ field experiences differ depending on whether they are enrolled in a traditional or an advanced standing MSW program. Traditional MSW programs require between 900 and 1200 hours and students typically complete two different field placements. Advanced standing programs typically require 500 to 650 field education hours, which students complete through one field placement. This difference has key implications for students in advanced standing versus traditional MSW programs. For detailed descriptions of the differences between the field practicum experiences for traditional and advanced standing MSW programs, see below.

Field Practicums for Traditional MSW Programs

For traditional MSW programs consisting of two years (full-time) of coursework, field practicum hours are typically divided into a “generalist” year and a “specialized” year. The generalist year practicum focuses on providing students with foundational skills in social work practices and principles, and may not be directly related to their desired academic specialization. The aim of the generalist practicum is to give students the experience and skills they need to succeed in their more advanced, specialized field experience in their second year. Students’ second-year practicum is typically focused on their desired area of study and practice. As such, students must begin preparing for this field practicum well before the start of their second year.

Field placements for traditional MSW programs vary depending on a number of factors, including: the program, available practicum sites, and (for their second year) students’ specializations. Students’ experiences in their practicums also depend on whether they attend a clinical/micro social work, advanced generalist social work, or macro social work program.

Field Practicums for Clinical Social Work MSW Programs

For clinical social work programs, the generalist first year placement introduces students to the fundamental principles and skills that are essential to direct social work practice. During this year, students learn how to work closely with individuals, families, and small groups, as well as organizations and communities to support them using a variety of therapeutic modalities. They also learn how research can be used to enhance and evaluate direct practice, social service programming, and client needs.

Due to limited availability of field practicum sites, and the fact that students might not have selected their desired concentration yet, students’ first-year field practicum may not necessarily be in a setting that aligns with their precise area of interest within clinical social work. For example, a student who wishes to specialize in psychiatric social work might complete his or her generalist practicum at a child welfare agency to get experience in direct work with patients, before commencing their specialized practicum in a psychiatric social work.

In the second year of a traditional MSW program, students complete their advanced field practicum, which is typically tailored to their chosen concentration within their graduate degree. Clinical social work MSW programs often have specializations for students in areas such as trauma, substance abuse, children and families, geriatric care, psychiatric social work, medical social work, and other areas; these specializations help inform the selection of students’ field practicums. For example, a student concentrating in medical social work generally will work in a health-care related setting for their practicum, while criminal justice social work students will typically work at an internship site that focuses on individuals who are vulnerable within the criminal justice system, such as a prison, a criminal rehabilitation center, or a hospital that treats incarcerated people or individuals on probation. During this practicum, students are expected to complete more advanced tasks and to be able to develop interventions for their target demographic, whether that is children struggling in a foster care system, adults seeking outpatient behavioral health services, or patients who need support navigating social and medical services.

Field Practicums for Macro Social Work MSW Programs

In contrast to clinical social work MSW programs, macro social work MSW programs prepare students to work on research, large-scale interventions and programs, and/or policies that support human well-being and advance social justice at the community, state, national, or international levels. Specializations for macro-level MSW programs may include areas such as policy, administration, community practice, program development, social systems, and entrepreneurship for social change. As such, field practicums for MSW students specializing in macro-level social work might be in settings such as political advocacy organizations, community health centers (where they might focus on community program development or assessment), government agencies and think tanks, research institutions, and non-profits or for-profit companies that focus on large-scale solutions to problems affecting people’s mental, physical, financial, or social well-being.

In students’ first-year practicums, they typically observe the work of their supervisors and other professionals, while completing tasks that help build their skills in research, data and/or policy analysis, as well as program design and evaluation. For their second-year, specialized field practicum, students work in a macro social work setting that aligns closely with their desired area of work. For instance, a student who wishes to work in political advocacy should try to obtain a specialized practicum at a government, policy, or advocacy/human rights organization. On the other hand, a student who is more interested in conducting advanced research that leads to insights to improve social work practice might want to complete their field education at a research institution that focuses on social justice or human welfare. Students complete more advanced responsibilities during their specialized internship, in order to prepare for the work they expect to complete in their jobs post-graduation.

Note: Students who specialize in macro-level social work might be assigned or choose to complete a direct practice or micro-level social work field practicum during the generalist year. Reasons for this may include a student’s desire to get experience working directly with vulnerable individuals to inform their later macro-level practice, or a shortage of macro-level social work or social justice settings that are able to take on MSW students.

Field Practicums for Advanced Generalist MSW Programs

Advanced generalist MSW programs consist of a mix of both clinical (micro) and macro social work. As such, students of these programs may complete one field practicum in a clinical setting, and another in a macro social work setting. Advanced generalist MSW programs typically allow students to tailor their curriculum through electives in areas that cover both macro and micro social work topics. As a result, there may be more variance in the practicums students of advanced generalist MSW programs complete in their first and second years.

Advanced generalist MSW students should consider the specific skill sets they wish to develop and work with their field education director or office to determine suitable practicum sites. For example, for an MSW student who wants to work both in a clinical capacity with children, families, or the elderly, while also conducting academic research on social work best practices, a field practicum at a research institution and another practicum in a social work agency setting might give them the skills they need to excel in both of these areas professionally.

Field Practicums for Advanced Standing MSW Programs

Advanced standing MSW students generally only complete the advanced field practicum, as they already completed field education hours during their BSW program. In fact, the curriculum for advanced standing MSW programs is generally comprised of the second year of a traditional MSW program, though some students might have to take additional courses from the first, generalist year if not all of their BSW course credits successfully transfer (for more information, please see our advanced standing MSW programs page).

As advanced standing MSW students have completed a foundational field education experience during their BSW program, they are expected to be able to engage in their specialized field practicum immediately upon enrollment in a program. As a result, advanced standing MSW students should know what type of placement they want to have, as this will be directly relevant to their job post-graduation. For programs that match students to placements, students should also be highly proactive and work with their program’s field education office to ensure that they get a field placement that is optimal for their career goals, whether those may be in clinical/micro social work, macro social work, or a combination of micro and macro social work (see below for more information on how MSW programs determine field practicum sites). For some advanced standing MSW programs, students are expected to secure their advanced field practicum site and supervisor several months before the first term of their enrollment in the program.

The Structure of Field Education

Full-time MSW programs often have students begin their field practicums in the first semester of their MSW program. In such programs, students take classes concurrently while fulfilling their practicum hours part-time. In general, students are expected to devote 16-20 hours per week to their field practicums, working under the supervision of a social work professional to complete responsibilities that prepare them for their future careers.

Some full-time MSW programs have students complete their second year’s practicum as a full-time work experience (30-40 hours per week). Students in these programs complete a full semester of coursework prior to their advanced practicum, after which they do not take any courses and devote themselves to their field education (however, students in such programs might still be expected to attend a weekly practicum seminar wherein they discuss their field experiences with peers and an instructor).

For part-time MSW students, their timeline for completing their field education may differ depending on their work and family obligations and how they arrange their program of study each semester. On rare occasions, some part-time MSW programs allow students to complete 8-15 field education hours per week, versus the 16-20 often expected of full-time students (though often in these cases the program asks students to send a formal application explaining why they cannot commit to 16-20 hours of field practicum weekly).

Regardless of whether their field education may be spread out over more semesters, or concentrated in one full-time semester, students must plan well in advance (at least a few months prior) of their field practicum to ensure that they have an approved site and supervisor before the term during which they must complete their placement. This is especially important for students enrolled in programs that do not match students to placements (see below for more information). Part-time students should also keep in mind that while their internship hours per week might be reduced, they are typically still expected to fulfill their practicum hours during normal working hours, from 9 am to 5 pm, as that is when most supervisors are typically available to oversee students.

Note: While it may be possible for students to find a night and/or weekend placement, the majority of students complete their field practicum during normal business hours Monday through Friday. Also, while some placement sites may provide students with a stipend while completing their field education hours, the majority of placement sites do not. Therefore, students should not expect to be paid while completing their field education and should make sure they have a financial plan in place before starting a program.

How Different MSW Program Approach Securing Field Placement Sites

As mentioned previously, depending on the MSW program in which they enroll, students may be required to find their own field placement sites and field instructors, or they may be assigned a site and supervisor by their program’s field education staff. In rare cases, students who are working as social workers may be able to get their place of employment approved as their practicum site. However, these types of placements typically have restrictions on what students can and cannot do to fulfill their field education hours. There must be a clear delineation between a student’s normal job responsibilities and their field education. Below is a brief description of how the field placement process works for each of these two pathways, and important considerations for students of each type of program.

MSW Programs That Match Students to Their Field Placements

For programs that match students to their field practicum sites, the placement process begins during the term before students begin their practicum. Programs typically interview students or have them complete a questionnaire to determine their preferences and learning goals; this information enables the program to match students with a practicum setting that will provide them the opportunity to learn skills and experiences that are directly relevant to their desired position post-graduation. Once a program has identified a site for a student, the student typically must complete an interview with his or her prospective field instructor to ensure a good match. Students should treat these interviews with the same level of preparation and professionalism as a job interview.

The primary benefit of a program that matches students to a practicum site is that it saves students the time and effort they would otherwise need to devote to the lengthy and at times challenging search for a practicum site. Especially in more rural areas with a lower concentration of social service and advocacy organizations, it can be challenging for students to independently seek out and contact potential sites within their area. It is important to note, however, that MSW programs that match students to practicum sites and supervisors cannot guarantee that students will receive a practicum placement that fully matches their learning goals and preferences, especially if there are limited opportunities for practicum placements in a given region.

For students whose program matches them with sites and supervisors, being proactive and advocating for their ideal placement is highly important. MSW field practicums are intended to prepare students for advanced work in a more specialized area of social work. Therefore, if MSW students have a particular type of work setting that they would like to gain experience in, they should voice that desire to their advisor.

Finally, depending on a student’s location with respect to potential field practicum sites, students may be expected to commute up to an hour (or sometimes more) each way to their field education site. This is more common for students who live in rural areas or who live in areas where there are multiple on-campus MSW programs with numerous students completing for practicum sites. Students who do not have access to transportation or who have difficulties commuting should inform their field education office as early as possible before they are matched to a practicum site.

MSW Programs that Require Students to Find Their Own Placements

Many MSW programs require students to find their own field practicum sites and supervisors. Students enrolled in a program that handles field education in this manner must begin the process of searching for possible sites several months before the start of the term during which they must complete their practicum. The process for locating suitable practicum sites can be time consuming and competitive, as there are often a limited number of organizations that are able to take on students. Students generally have to contact numerous organizations and interview with possible practicum supervisors before finding a suitable match.

Once students have found a practicum site and supervisor, they must submit an application to their program’s field education office to receive approval for their practicum selection (assuming a current or former student has not already completed field education at the agency or organization). As this process can take time and is not guaranteed to result in an approval, students should submit their practicum site applications well in advance of the term during which they must start their internship, so that they have time to find another site and supervisor if their first option is not approved.

The primary benefit of a program that requires students to find their own practicum sites and supervisors is that students can seek out organizations that are of interest to them, and have a somewhat greater degree of control over their field education. That said, due to the limited number of suitable field practicum sites in a given region, it can be difficult for students to secure their first choice of field practicum placement. Many programs also have field education directors or advisors that provide support to students in finding their field placements; in some cases, these offices have helpful partnerships with regional social service agencies and similar organizations. Programs may also have databases of social service and advocacy organizations, their work and mission statement, and their contact information, which can help save students time during the search. It is also common for programs to ask alumni of the program to be field instructors for current MSW students.

Requirements for Field Practicum Supervisors/Instructors

Field supervisors, otherwise known as field instructors, are of primary importance in students’ practicum experience. The relationship between student and field instructor can be highly rewarding and productive. By observing their supervisors engaging in multi-modality work with clients, completing needs assessments, and advocating for their clients through multiple avenues ranging from grant writing and fundraising to program development, students witness the nuances of advanced social work. Field supervisors show students how to connect their classroom lessons to real-life interactions with clients, orient students to the policies and procedures that are integral to social work agencies, teach them how to design interventions and incorporate multiple modalities into their work, and guide students as they develop their own professional identity.

To qualify as a field instructor, an individual must have earned an MSW from a program that has been accredited by the CSWE. He or she must also have fulfilled two or more years of professional experience after having earned their graduate degree. Many MSW programs also provide training and/or other support services to field practicum supervisors in order to help them serve the pedagogical needs of their students while also balancing their own professional obligations. Finding a field instructor with whom one can communicate well is extremely important given the integral role that the student-mentor relationship plays in the learning outcomes of the student.

Examples of Field Placement Sites

There are numerous organizations that can qualify as a field practicum site for MSW students. Among them include not only traditional social service agencies, but also hospitals, schools, political advocacy centers, community health centers, outpatient and inpatient mental health facilities, care and resource centers for veterans, hospice centers, women’s health centers, and more. There are also placements that allow students to engage in both micro/clinical social work and macro social work. Below are several examples of common types of field practicum sites, and the kind of environment and responsibilities students can expect from these settings.

Direct Practice or Clinical Social Work Settings

  • Family and Child Welfare Agencies: Child welfare agencies support children and their families who are experiencing social, economic, domestic, or mental/behavioral hardships. Social workers in these settings intervene in the event of domestic violence or neglect, and also provide counseling to children, parents, and caregivers. They also help children and families apply for community resources such as food stamps, Medicare/Medicaid, and affordable housing. Students who complete a field practicum in a family and child welfare agency shadow professionals completing these and other responsibilities, and also engage in the development and implementation of interventions aimed at protecting children and building a constructive environment within families experiencing challenges.
  • Hospitals: Social workers are a key element in the team-based and interdisciplinary practice of patient care within the hospital setting. They support patients and their families with all of the non-medical aspects of their care, including providing counseling services to patients grappling with difficult diagnoses, assisting them in applying for medical benefits, and connecting them to support groups. Hospital social workers also communicate with doctors, nurses, and medical assistants regarding the mental, emotional, and social needs of their patients. Students completing their field practicum in a hospital setting will learn how to serve as a liaison between doctors, nurses, and their patients, receive an introduction to the different systems within a hospital setting, and also help patients connect with the organizational and community resources that are available to them and their families.
  • Outpatient Behavioral Health Centers: Outpatient behavioral health centers provide individualized counseling to people in need of mental, emotional, or behavioral support. Social workers in these settings typically use a combination of different modalities, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy, to help their clients cope with life challenges and work constructively towards solutions. Students in an outpatient behavioral health center for their practicum receive an introduction to counseling techniques that can help clients manage anxiety, depression, relationship issues, professional challenges, and more.
  • Schools: School social workers work with children and adolescents who are encountering mental, behavioral, social, or familial challenges that are impacting their ability to perform well in school. They provide individualized student counseling, small group counseling, and conflict management services. They also work with parents and teachers so that students in need of support have a comprehensive support system. School social workers can also spearhead school-wide social and behavioral health initiatives, such as anti-cyberbullying campaigns and drug prevention educational programming. Student who are completing their field practicum in a school setting learn about the social worker’s role within the overall school system, as well as the techniques for working with students and parents to resolve complex issues.
  • Community Health Centers: Community health centers are government-funded clinics that typically provide primary care services, such as physicals, immunizations, reproductive health care, and other preventative care services to patient populations that may not have health insurance or cannot afford more expensive care at private medical offices or hospitals. Social workers at community health centers function similarly to those in hospitals, in that they help manage the social, financial, and mental/emotional pieces of patient care. In other words, they help patients and their families navigate the at times complex health care system, assist them in applying for health benefits, counsel and support them through difficult health situations, and connect with doctors and nurses to help them provide more comprehensive care. Students in this setting for their practicum will generally learn how to navigate the public health care system, counsel patients, and help them and their families make the most of the benefits available to them.
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Centers: Substance abuse treatment centers provide targeted physical, mental, and emotional health support for individuals struggling with substance abuse and addiction. Social workers in these settings provide counseling using therapeutic modalities proven to help clients manage their addictions and the underlying emotional and mental struggles that perpetuate substance abuse. Students who complete their field practicum in this setting will typically learn the social work modalities that are most effective in helping populations struggling with substance abuse, as well as their families.

Macro Social Work Settings

  • Social Justice Research Institutions: For students who are interested in conducting research that furthers the social work discipline, human welfare, and social justice initiatives, research institutions that focus on these areas can provide them with experience in qualitative and quantitative research, data analysis, and scholarly writing and presentations. Students who complete a practicum in a research setting may assist in the gathering and analysis of data, conduct literature reviews, and/or evaluate the outcomes of controlled studies and their relevance to social work practice.
  • Social Justice Advocacy Organizations: Social work students who want to impact policy that affects human services, public health, social equality, and social justice may intern at an advocacy or human rights organization. In such settings, students may participate in campaign design and implementation, help with program development and assessment, and engage with vulnerable communities and other stakeholders in pressing social issues. They might also contact members of local, state, or federal government departments to try and further their organization’s social justice mission.

The social work settings described above represent only a fraction of the possible practicum sites that students may be able to find and receive approval from their program. In addition, while the examples above are grouped by clinical or macro social work practice, it may be possible to find both types of placements types in many of those settings. For example, community health centers may provide students who are interested in macro social work that relates to community/public health with an opportunity to help design and implement larger-scale health education and medical care programs.

To gain a broader, more comprehensive view of the diversity of social work practicum settings that they can explore, MSW students should contact their program’s field practicum office and director. In addition, alumni of MSW programs can also provide great insight into the variance of social work and social justice-related settings at which they completed their own field requirements.

Field Practicums for Online MSW Programs

Online MSW programs generally approach field practicums in the same way that campus-based programs do. Due to the stringent field education requirements set by the CSWE requires, MSW programs that offer their coursework 100% online still require students to complete their field practicums in person at a regional social service agency or other relevant social work setting. For MSW students who are taking their classes in an online or hybrid format in order to continue working while completing their degree, the terms during which they must fulfill their field practicums may require them to significantly reduce their job hours or take a sabbatical; students should prepare their employers well in advance for any expected changes in their available hours.

A recent innovation that some online MSW programs have started to use is the virtual field practicum (VFP). Virtual field practicums do not replace in-person practicums, even for the programs that offer them. They also do not involve telemedicine, rather, they are an opportunity for students to practice the types of work they will be completing in their in-person practicum in a simulated and controlled environment. Students participate in counseling sessions with trained actors over video discussion. In general, programs that offer VFPs only allot around 200 field practicum hours to this format, and the rest of students’ field practicum hours are reserved for in-person work within a real agency setting.

The Key Steps to Successfully Completing MSW Field Education

Social workers smiling while volunteering at a food bank

While there is variance in how different MSW programs handle the field practicum, there are several key steps that all MSW students typically take to succeed in their practicums:

  • Discuss Practicum Learning Goals with the Field Director: Several months before they are due to start their practicum, students should meet with their program’s field practicum director, who oversees all field placements and serves as the liaison between students and their practicum supervisors. For some programs, field directors are the individuals who match students to their practicum sites, while for other programs, field directors provide invaluable support to students as they seek their placement sites. Field directors can also point students to useful resources that the program has in place for field education, and help students during the completion of their practicum.
  • Find or Get Matched To a Practicum Site and Supervisor: As mentioned previously, MSW programs either match students to their practicum site and supervisor or require students to find their own field placement location. Regardless of how their program handles field education, students must play an active role in the field placement process either by proactively seeking out social service organizations or by discussing their learning goals with their field director and advocating for a placement that matches those goals.
  • Complete an Interview with Supervisor: All students, whether they are matched with their field placements or find their own, typically must interview with their potential practicum supervisor to ensure a good match. Students’ practicum supervisors teach them how to apply class theory to real practice, and also provide students with their practicum grade, so it is important that students can communicate clearly and constructively with their supervisor.
  • Take and Pass Drug Test and Background Check: Due to regulations around professionals who work in social service settings, all MSW students must pass a drug test and background check before starting their field practicum experience.
  • Meet with Practicum Supervisor to Discuss and Define Learning Goals: At the outset of their practicum, students typically meet with their supervisor to discuss their learning goals. Both student and supervisor must then draft a learning agreement that details what the responsibilities are of the student and the supervisor for the duration of the internship. This learning agreement is often reviewed by the field director of the program.
  • Shadow and Collaborate with Supervisor to Support Clients: During their practicum, students fulfill a combination of shadowing their supervisor in the workplace and taking on progressively more responsibilities.
  • Meet Weekly to Discuss Performance and Learning Outcomes with Supervisor: Both student and field supervisor have regularly scheduled discussions to review challenges that the student has faced, successes he or she has achieved, and any questions he or she may have about their internship. These meetings are also a chance for both student and field instructor to refer back to the agreement throughout the term to ensure the student is making sufficient progress.
  • Attend a Practicum/Integrative Learning Seminar: In addition to regular meetings with their field instructor/supervisor, students are typically required to attend a seminar with other students completing their field practicums. During these seminar sessions, students have discussions with their peers under the guidance of a faculty instructor, wherein they talk about their experiences in their internships and complete reflective assignments.

While the field practicum is one of the most important aspects of an MSW program, and is often viewed as a daunting endeavor, students have numerous avenues for support, primarily from their field instructor and field director. Social work is an inherently collaborative discipline, and as such teamwork between students and the many mentors they have at their disposal is a cornerstone of their internship experience.


Field education is a challenging yet essential part of MSW students’ social work education. They can be completed in many different types of social work settings, although a student’s option may be limited based on the availability of placements sites within commuting distance from where they live. Field practicums require careful planning and a willingness to commit significant time and effort to advanced responsibilities in a real social work setting. Even with the advent of online MSW programs, students are still reviewed to complete their practicum hours in-person at an approved agency.