Field Education FAQs
When does the Field Placement begin and end?
The Field Placement is carried out concurrently with your two (2) year-long practice courses. Similar to the practice courses (Foundation Practice I and II, Clinical Social Work I and II, or Community Practice, Policy, and Advocacy (CPPA) I and II), the Field Placement begins during the first week of fall semester, and ends the third of fourth week in April, the following year. For students entering the program as part-time students, your Field Placement begins in the second year.
If you are an Advanced Standing student your Field Placement begins with the regular field calendar for Advanced year (Advanced Clinical or Advanced CPPA), ending the following spring semester toward the end of April.
Students have a different year-long field placement in each of the two years.
Please refer to the Field Education calendar for specific dates and other pertinent information.
What can I expect of the field placement experience?
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 learn to 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 field 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 field 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.
What supervision is provided in the Field Placement?
The development of knowledge and skills in the provision of social work direct services, clinical intervention with clients, and community practice, policy and advocacy takes place under the supervision of a professional social worker or, in some instances, a masters- or doctoral-level behavioral health, public health, or legal professional. Students placed in agencies where supervision may be provided by a master’s- or doctorate-prepared individual in a related discipline are provided the social work professional perspective through participation in a weekly seminar held at the School.
Where does the Field Placement take place?
Field placements occur in a variety of settings. These may include, but are not limited to the following: inpatient, outpatient or partial psychiatric settings such as community-based mental health, medical and/or psychiatric hospital-based in- or out-patient settings; child welfare services, health care, employee assistance programs, juvenile justice services, adult corrections, addiction services, educational settings, family services, housing services, legal services, policy or research institutes, maternal and child health services, neighborhood organizations, physical rehabilitation program, public welfare programs, domestic violence programs and after-school programs, among others.
What is the Field Placement process?
The Field Education Office assigns students to their field placement, working in conjunction with students to ensure that their field experience will support their academic coursework and enhance their professional growth. Your field placement is a significant part of your academic record and, as such, must originate from GSSWSR’s Field Education Office; students do not arrange their own placements and agencies do not interview students in advance of contact with the Field Education Office.
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. Students are referred to only one field placement setting at a time.
For students entering the Foundation Year and/or first year in the field, the Field Education Office meets individually with each student and reviews students’ background, experience, and areas of interest to match students with agencies. Continuing students entering the Advanced Year in September begin the process of securing their placement in January-February of their Foundation or first year in the field; Advanced Standing students begin this process immediately upon enrollment in the program.
While potential field placements are investigated, negotiated, and arranged by the Field Education Office, students may suggest a new agency for the School’s consideration, and the Field Education Office will explore whether the agency meets the requirements for a field placement.
What are the requirements for an agency to become a field education site?
Agencies seeking to provide a field placement must demonstrate the capacity to provide: a sufficient number and variety of assignments to develop student knowledge and practice skill in each of the CSWE EPAS core competencies; supervised in-depth experiences with individuals, groups, families, organizations and/or communities; ample time for field instruction to permit individual and group (where appropriate) conferences with students; field instruction from individuals with a master’s degree in social work (preferable) or related discipline, and a minimum of 2 years post-master’s experience; adequate space and administrative resources to support student work; and, congruence between the student’s field assignments and assignments in the practice course taken concurrently with the field placement.
Can I carry out my Field Placement where I work?
In order for a work site Field Placement proposal to be considered by the Field Education Office, the following is required: The student must have been employed at the agency for at least 6 months and have passed the probationary period prior to proposing it as a potential field placement site; the proposed Field Placement must involve assignment different from that required by the student's regular employment at the agency, in terms of work with a different population, program, or agency project; and, the proposed Field Instructor for the hours dedicated to your field placement must be different from the student's supervisor for their reular employment.
Students are encouraged to have a non-work site field placement for one of the two years.
What are the time requirements for field placements?
In the Foundation, or first year in the program, students are in the field two full agency work days/week, in both fall and spring semester. In the advanced or second year, students are in the field three full agency work days/week.
What days of the week am I in field placement?
Student schedules are arranged by the student with the agency Field Instructor and are based upon both agency need and student class schedule. Field placement begins and ends commensurate with the fall and spring academic (class) semester schedule, and, for Advanced Standing students, commensurate with the Integrative Practice course in June. Please refer to the Field Education Calendar for specific field calendar dates and other pertinent information.
Are weekend and weeknight placements available?
Field placements generally occur on weekdays during regular business hours. Field placement agencies are usually not able to accommodate interns on weekends, and the availability of a field placement occurring only during evening and/or weekend hours is not guaranteed. Applicants are admitted with the understanding that they must be available for a minimum of one full day during the work week (Monday through Friday, 9 am – 5 pm) as part of their full time requirements for field (two days a week for Foundation year, and three days a week for Advanced year).
Are there any specific requirements that may impact my choice of a field placement site?
Some agencies require flexible work hours and/or days, including availability for some 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 individuals in health care settings, require child abuse and/or criminal history, including state and FBI clearances. In some instances, agencies also require physicals, specific 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.
Occasionally a car for travel is required.
Some agencies state that skills in language(s) beyond English would be beneficial for a successful placement experience.
If I am a part-time student, how many hours a week will I need to commit to field placement?
Part-time students begin in the field in their second year of the MSS program and complete a different field placement in each of their second and third years. Part-time students may elect to carry out the same number of field days/hours as full-time students (the equivalent of 2 full agency work days/week in the first, or Foundation, year and the equivalent of 3 full agency work days/week in the second, or Advanced, year), beginning in field in at the start of fall semester and ending in late April/early May of the following year. Alternatively, part-time students may elect to carry out the equivalent of 2 full agency work days/week in both their Foundation year and Advanced year in field. Part-time students who elect this option begin field the Foundation-year placement in September and continue through to the end of June, and begin their Advanced-year placement in early August and continue until the end of April/early May of the following year.
Will I receive a grade for field placement?
Yes. The Field Education final grade (Satisfactory, Unsatisfactory, or Incomplete) is given at the end of each semester by the Field Liaison and is based on the student’s professional conduct and full participation in field learning at the agency placement, completion of required time in field, submission of learning agreement, process recordings/journals, participation in individual and field-site meetings with the Field Liaison, and the Final Field Evaluation completed by the Field Instructor.
If I do not have a car, how will I be assigned to a field placement site?
The Field Education Office takes into consideration whether students have their own car or will require the use of public transportation to their agency. Students who do not have a car are expected to utilize public transportation. Generally, field placements are found within 1 hour of a student’s geographic location.
If I am planning to live outside of Pennsylvania and commute for classes, can I be placed in an agency near my residence?
The Field Education Office offers opportunities for placements in several states. Students are encouraged to discuss plans to be out of state early in the placement process so that a strong placement opportunity, if available, can be secured.
Will I have the opportunity to interview at my field placement?
It is the expectation that students will interview at their field sites before they are accepted for placement. Although an in-person interview is recommended, some agencies may be agreeable to phone or Skype interviews for students who are unable to interview in person due to geographical distance prior to beginning in the program.