While working to complete their Master of Social Work, students in the OLLU online program learn many valuable lessons from highly qualified instructors. It is in fulfilling the field education requirement, however, that students get the chance to apply what they learn in the program to real-life situations. It is an opportunity to get hands-on experience in circumstances that students can expect to face regularly once they begin their careers.
Field education gives students the chance to step into the shoes of a professional social worker and find the niche that best suits the student and what he or she wishes to focus on. Students can spend their field hours at a school, hospital or community health agency. Others may choose to work at a correctional facility, help to provide mental health and substance-abuse counseling, or with job- and life-skills training.1
The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), which is responsible for accrediting all U.S. social work schools, describes the intent of field education as a chance to connect the conceptual and theoretical contributions of the classroom with a practice setting in the real world.
There are two different kinds of field education taught in OLLU’s MSW programs. Students may work on what’s known as foundation placement where they become adept at skills such as clinical interviewing and evaluation and psycho-social assessment. During this period, students can expect to spend as much as 50% of their time interacting with others and learning how to professionally handle clients of all ages from all walks of life.2
In the other aspect of field education, known as concentration placement, students pursue a more focused agenda. Instead of applying skills to general social work, students work in a field setting targeted toward their own goals. Someone with an MSW, for example, may wish to become a child advocate. If so, he or she may work in a youth center, adoption agency, hospital or other place that works with children.
Your work in the field will ultimately allow you to put into practice the academic theories you learned in the classroom. For example, when meeting a new client, you can put to use an engagement technique you were taught. In the field, you have the chance to establish yourself as a professional and make contacts with others in the area.
If you would like to help others and such field experiences sound intriguing, a master’s in social work may be the right path for you. Before you know it, you can be putting your classroom knowledge to work in a fulfilling, real-world environment.