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Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research
300 Airdale Road
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010-1697
Phone: 610-520-2600
Fax: 610-520-2655

Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research

Field Education - Real World Experience

Field Education is an integral part of the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research’s Master of Social Service (MSS) and Master in Public Health (MPH) curriculum. The Field Education component of the curriculum provides students with both observational learning and practical “hands-on” social work experience in preparation for professional social work practice.

Field Education is designed to assist students to integrate the theoretical and conceptual knowledge acquired in the classroom with the direct application of the practical knowledge in their field settings. Field Education prepares students for advanced practice through the mastery of the core competencies augmented by knowledge and practice behaviors specific to a concentration. (2008 EPAS, EP 2.0) This competency-based approach is based on the measurement of specific practice behaviors. Students will be able to demonstrate the integration and application of competencies in their field practice.

Social work direct services and clinical interventions with clients, community practice, policy and advocacy take place under the supervision of a professional social worker or in some instances, a masters level behavioral health, legal or public health or legal professional. Students are afforded valuable exposure to the full range of social work macro and micro-level functions, diverse populations, clinical and community practice interventions, nonprofit management strategies, evidence based practice, challenges and opportunities of contemporary social work.

Students will utilize different methods and modalities of assessment and intervention, developing plans and evaluating services. At the core of the field experience, students will also encounter and strategize practical ways to advocate for human rights and social and economic justice while applying social work values and ethics. Foundation-year placements socialize students to the profession of social work, enabling them to engage clients, assess client and community needs, and provide direct service interventions to individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities.The advanced-year placement builds on the foundation skills of the first year. Students in the Clinical concentration will be able to demonstrate advanced understanding of clinical, ecological, developmental and socio-cultural theories to inform and improve clinical practice. Students in the Community Practice, Policy and Advocacy concentration will focus on policy analysis and reform, community organizing, nonprofit management, research and evaluation and the development of knowledge of the policy making process.

Field placements may occur in a variety of settings. This may include but are not limited to inpatient, outpatient or partial psychiatric settings and areas such as community based mental health, child welfare, health care, employee assistance programs, juvenile justice, adult corrections, addictions, education, family services, housing, legal services, policy or research institutes, maternal and child health, neighborhood organizations, physical rehabilitation, public welfare, domestic violence programs and after-school programs to name a few.

Generally, field placements are found within 1 hour of a student’s geographic location. A student’s previous work and volunteer experience, professional interests, leadership competencies and agency needs are taken into consideration for matching purposes. In some instances, field placements may be highly competitive.


All full and part-time students MUST complete either three or four semesters in their field placement. This is determined by their advanced standing, part-time or full-time status.

Advanced Standing MSS Students are required to complete 3 semesters of field education within a one year period. This occurs in the summer, fall and spring semesters. Advanced Standing Students will complete 22.5 hours per week for a total of 225 hours in the summer semester. For the Fall and Spring semester, Advanced Standing Students follow Year 2 hour requirements as outlined below.

Foundation-Year 1, MSS students are in the field the equivalent of two 8 hour days/week, 7.5 hours/day of which are counted towards a total of 15 hours per week or 225 hours per semester, for a total of 450 field hours in the first year.

Clinical or Community Practice-Year 2, MSS students are in the field the equivalent of three 8 hour days/week, 7.5 hours/day of which are counted towards a total of 22.5 hours per week, or between 315 and 337.5 hours per semester, for a total of between 630 and 675 hours.

Students are generally expected to be available during regular daytime/weekday hours for field placement. Some second year placements may require evening hours.

Agencies may require students to apply for clearances and/or background checks as a requirement of the practicum. Some agencies, especially those serving children or serving individuals in health care settings, require child abuse and/or criminal history, including state and FBI clearances. In some instances, agencies also require physicals, spcific immunizations and drug screenings. Students must be aware that having criminal backgrounds or negative findings on screenings may delay start of placement or prevent them from being placed in agency settings. This may also impact their ability to obtain licensure as a professional social worker. The student is responsible for all costs associated with these clearances and tests.

In assigning field placements, the GSSWSR considers the student’s previous experiences, interests, academic and professional goals, along with the GSSWSR’s knowledge of agency resources and appropriate learning opportunities. It is the GSSWSR’s policy that potential field placements are to be investigated, negotiated, and arranged by the Field Education Office. Students are referred to only one field placement setting at a time. Students do not arrange their own placements and agencies do not interview students in advance of contact with the Field Education Office.
Students have an opportunity to list specific learning goals as they relate to both agency services and professional standards. Field setting preferences will be considered, keeping in mind that there are numerous complex factors that go into the field placement matching process. These factors include, but are not limited to, the agency’s competitive interviewing process, a student’s prior experience working in human service agency settings with clients, and a student’s interviewing and professional skills.

Placement in a student’s employing agency is the exception rather than the standard student option. Students may use a current employment site as a field education setting, subject to approval by the Field Office. In these instances, the GSSWSR works closely with the agency and student to establish a learning experience that recognizes the complexity of the Student-employee role while providing educationally rich advanced learning opportunities for the student to apply the principles, knowledge, and practice skills learned in courses. Students are encouraged to have a non-worksite field placement for one of the two years. Students cannot use employment hours for field placement hours. Students must have been employed by the agency for a minimum of 6 months prior to proposing a worksite field placement.