Field Program

Field Placement FAQ

Q: Why do social work students have field placements?

A: Your field placement is an integral component of the curriculum in social work education. It engages you in supervised social work practice, facilitates the development of an awareness of self in the process of intervention, provides opportunities to apply classroom learning, and allows you to practice skills and to learn the values and ethics of the social work profession while enhancing the well-being of people.


Q: When will I learn about how the field placement process works?

A: If you are reading this then your learning has already begun! You can expect to be contacted by your field coordinator in the middle of the semester before you are scheduled to start your field placement. When you are contacted you will be able to schedule an individual appointment to discuss your preferences.


Q: How can I prepare for my Individual Appointment?

A: You will be asked to complete a Field Practicum Application and upload a copy of your resume into the IPT Data System prior to the appointment. You should also be prepared to discuss your learning needs, your social work skills and previous experience, your field placement interests, and your eventual career goals. You will be asked to identify your top five (5) areas of interest, so be prepared!


Q: Then What Happens?

A: Following your field placement interview, your field coordinator will select agencies that are a good match for your skills and learning needs and make contact with the agencies to see if they can take a student. Once it is confirmed that the agency is willing to interview the student you will be contacted and instructed on what to do next. Students are not allowed to contact agency's directly to arrange field placements


Q: Who makes the final decision on where I will do my placement?

A: Your field coordinator has the final responsibility for selecting and determining your field placement. Before the decision is made, you must interview with the potential agency Field Instructor who will determine if there is a good "match". You will be assessed on your educational background, your professional experience and your interests.


Q: How many placements will I get?

A: USF uses a single placement model for the entire field placement experience for both BSW and MSW students. BSW students complete a Generalist placement and MSW students complete a Clinical Placement. Many of the agencies we use are large and offer a variety of different services so it may be possible to negotiate working in more than one program at your assigned agency. This arrangement is up to the student to negotiate with the Field Instructor and can only be offered by those agencies that have the resources available to provide it.


Q: What is the definition of a clinical placement?

A: The term clinical placement means that students will be providing direct services to individuals, families and groups while they are interning in the placement. The primary goal of the student practitioner is to enhance the bio-psychosocial-spiritual functioning of their clients through culturally competent strengths-based practice, using a person-in-environment framework to assess, diagnose, and treat client concerns.


Q: Is it possible to do a field placement where I am also employed?

A: Yes. Your field manual contains the guidelines/procedures under which a work-study proposal will be considered and accepted. The Director of Field Education will review and approve or deny your proposal based on the criteria outlined in the field manual.


Q: How many hours are required for my field placement?

A: The required field hours are as follows:

  • B.S.W. students must "clock" a minimum of 460 total hours to complete their degree. USF uses a block placement model which means that the student is in placement 32 hours per week for 15 weeks in their final semester.
  • BSW students must have a minimum GPA of 2.75 in their social work classes to be eligible to begin their field practicum.
  • Traditional M.S.W Students must "clock" a minimum of 900 hours of field placement. The number of required hours per week varies depending upon your status as a full-time or part-time student.
  • Advanced Standing M.S.W Students must "clock" a minimum of 600 hours of field placement. The number of required hours per week varies depending upon your status as a full-time or part-time student.


Q: Can I vary my schedule?

A: Your schedule must be decided upon in conjunction with your field instructor and you must put in the required hours. Any variations of your schedule must be approved by your field instructor prior to implementation! Each student is responsible for keeping a log of their hours in field. At the end of each semester you will ask your field instructor to sign off on your log to verify the hours worked. You may choose to work over University holidays and breaks with the approval of your Field Instructor.


Q: What if I can't finish all my required hours within the semester?

A: We understand that students have many roles in life besides just being a student. Occasionally it happens that a student can't get in the required number of hours within the required timeframe. Field hours are always associated with a course, therefore when the hours are not completed, the course is not completed. When this happens the student should follow the University Guidelines for incomplete grades. The faculty person who gives the incomplete must be the person to change the grade once the missing hours are complete. Remember, as with any field schedule change the student must work with their Field Instructor to make a plan for when the hours will be made up. The student should communicate the plan in writing to both their Field Instructor and Field Seminar instructor.


Q: What forms do I need to complete?

A: There are several important forms that must be completed in order to earn a passing grade in field. Each form can be found on the field program web page. Briefly, the Agency Interview Form must be completed and turned in to your Field Coordinator once you have completed your agency interview. The Agency Interview Form is due prior to the start of the semester you begin field. This form contains detailed contact information for the agency based people involved in your placement.


Q: What about transportation?

A: Transportation to and from your field placement site is your responsibility. Be sure to inform your Field Coordinator of any special circumstances you might have. Efforts will be made to meet your geographic preference but we cannot guarantee a local placement site. Many agencies may require you to use your own vehicle during the course of your placement. We ask agencies to reimburse you for mileage as they do their employees, but we cannot guarantee that is occurs in every placement. If you will be using your car for agency related business, YOU MUST HAVE A VALID DRIVER'S LICENSE AND CARRY INSURANCE ON YOUR VEHICLE! If you are involved in an accident in the line of duty while in your field placement, your insurance will be the first place a claim is made. Be sure to ask about the requirements and expectations of you, and the use of your vehicle, during the initial interview with your field placement agency.


Q: Who are all the different people involved in my field placement?

A: Typically there are two University based people involved in coordinating your field placement. Who they are depends on what program you are in and what campus you call home. Your first contact will be with your Field Coordinator. This is the person that will conduct your field placement interview and assist you in the process of finding an agency match. The second person is your Field Seminar Instructor. This is the person who teaches your class. In addition to the University based people involved in your placement, you may have one or two agency based people involved in your placement. The field instructor will guide your experience at the agency.


Q: How are field instructors selected and trained?

A: Your field instructor must have a social work degree. Since field education is a requirement for both BSW and MSW degrees you can be guaranteed that your Field Instructor has been a student learner at one time or another. Many field instructors volunteer to become a part of your professional field education because they want to give something back to the profession. In other situations, agency administrators decide if their agency can devote the time and energy towards student training, and field instructors are asked to volunteer. Field instructors are mentored and trained by Field Coordinators and the Director of Field Education. Evaluation of field instructors occurs at the end of your program.


Q: I asked to do my placement at a specific agency and it was denied, why?

A: There are a variety of reasons why USF chooses not to use some agencies or Field Instructors. Sometimes it has to do with the agency lacking qualified staff or a history of problems occurring in past placements with the agency. Some agencies provide very specific services and it is the opinion of the University that the experience is not broad enough for our students.


Q: What is the procedure for changing my placement if I don't like it?

A: Sometimes what you want and what you need are not always the same. Field placements are an opportunity to "stretch" beyond what you already know, to take risks in developing your professional sense and style and, utmost, an opportunity to learn. Often, this type of learning process can be uncomfortable and occasionally, your discomfort can be mistaken for dissatisfaction in the placement. Your Field Seminar class provides a forum to discuss any concerns you may have. Occasionally, a student may need to request a change in their field placement. Guidelines for initiating this process can be found in the field manual.


Q: If I have a problem, what do I do?

A: First, remember that problem solving abilities are important skills that all social workers need to develop. We understand that following the problem solving process can be difficult, but learning how to resolve problems effectively may be among the most important learning experiences you get out of your field placement.
The problem solving process is outlined in more detail in your field manual. Briefly, if you are having a problem, you should talk to your Field Instructor first. If you need additional consultation after this, talk to your Seminar Instructor. Your Seminar Instructor is the person who will help you facilitate the problem solving process if the problems cannot be resolved between you and your Field Instructor. The Seminar Instructor will contact the Director of Field Education if appropriate.
If you experience problems with your Seminar Instructor, first talk with them and then you may contact your Field Coordinator. If the problem cannot be resolved, the Director of Field Education will intercede.


Q: What do I do if I have a class assignment on a case and I don't have one yet?

A: USF knowingly uses some field sites that do not assign cases to students in their first semester. If you are placed in an agency with this policy, tell the faculty person teaching the class and arrange a time to discuss other options to the case assignment. Some ideas include using the agency as the client, reviewing someone else's case, interviewing an agency executive, shadowing a co-worker and using their case for your assignment. It is always good to share your syllabi with your field instructor so they can fashion experiences around your academics.


Note: You should begin to become familiar with the National Association of Social Worker's (N.A.S.W.) Code of Ethics. This code dictates your practice as a social work professional in a human service agency. You will be required to uphold the standards of this code so familiarize yourself with its contents. If you would like more information about becoming a member go to the National Association of Social Workers' website Opens in a new window.