Field education is an essential part of completing a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree, and comes with many positive benefits for both hands-on education and future career prospects.
The field education practicum is a core part of a Master of Social Work (MSW) program. Field education is when a student is placed in a professional setting, under the guidance of an experienced social worker, to gain direct practice experience in applying and integrating knowledge, skills, and values that were acquired in the classroom.
What is Field Education?
Field education at Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) is a collaboration between the student, field instructor, and a faculty liaison.
Using the framework established by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and its Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards, along with guidance from the field instructor and faculty liaison, students complete an education plan and bi-weekly supervisory logs that enables them to document their progress and reflect on their learning activities.
Field instructors have an MSW from a CSWE-accredited institution, plus a minimum of two years post-MSW social work experience. They guide the student in developing an education plan, direct learning activities and events, and conduct weekly face-to-face supervision sessions. They also review and sign the student’s bi-weekly logs and participate in virtual site visits with the faculty liaison and the student throughout the internship.
The Benefits of Field Education
OLLU online MSW student Joseph De Luca said he believes his internship brought benefits that studies alone could not provide.
“Being able to write is important for a social worker, but it is not as beneficial as applying skills in your internship through real-time experience,” he said.
“At my internship, I have had to use different theories with the clients. There is not one theory that fits all clients. … I am constantly learning new theories and incorporating them into my individual client sessions or in my group sessions. An internship gives you the opportunity to be a true social worker through application."
For fellow OLLU MSW student Monica Romero, looking at her field education as an avenue for employment after graduation was highly motivational. "If an intern goes into placement demonstrating a high level of professionalism, the agency is more likely to notice and the intern is more likely to be considered for a job opening," she said.
Romero found that asking plenty of questions was a beneficial strategy during her internship. "This tactic gave me a plethora of knowledge about the agency’s programs, rules and regulations, processes, and funding."
"Overall, my practicum gave me a wealth of knowledge and enhanced my skills as a social work student. The experience allowed me to learn more about myself as a person and a professional. More significantly, it helped me to recognize my strengths, weaknesses, and biases, so that I can become an effective social worker to the population I will serve in the future,” she concluded.
Field Education Time Requirements
Foundation students complete 450 hours over three academic terms (150 hours per term), completing an equal number of hours each week.
Advanced Standing students complete 500 hours over three academic terms (167 hours per term), completing an equal number of hours each week.
A minimum of 50 percent of internship hours must be spent in direct practice with individuals, families, or groups.
Find out more about the benefits an MSW, and its field education component, could bring to your career by downloading our free infographic.