Field Education in Social Work: What’s it all about?

Field Manual (PDF)

Field education is essential in social work and the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) mandates that every student earning a bachelor’s degree in social work complete a minimum of 400 clock hours in a supervised agency setting before graduation. The field placement exposes students to a structured and supervised direct practice experience, thereby providing a vehicle for:

  1. application of theory,
  2. integration of knowledge,
  3. use of skills which will equip them as beginning generalist social workers, increased self-awareness
  4. development of professional comportment.
  5. opportunities for direct work with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.

In this planned and educationally directed, coordinated, and monitored experience, social work students participate in actual service delivery to the client system via casework, group-work, or community organization. In this hands-on experience, the senior social work student should experience growth as a reflective, self-aware, and knowledgeable individual and social worker.

Not only does the field experience serve to integrate classroom knowledge with practical experience, it also provides an opportunity for the student to assess his/her personal reaction to the actual work, and commitment to the profession. He/she is exposed to the hard facts regarding agency and service delivery limitations and has an opportunity to assess their problems and potentials, with encouragement to think of creative alternatives. The student, while considering his/her basic commitment to the profession, also has the opportunity to clarify his/her own professional direction, by dealing with different intervention modalities within the given delivery system of the placement.

The field experience is vital to developing social workers who are dedicated to the profession and its values. In addition to supporting the knowledge, value and skill base for generalist social work practice, the field experience fosters self-evaluation and a commitment to lifelong professional growth. The field education program provides generalist practice opportunities for students to demonstrate social work competencies with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities and is made possible by agencies and institutions that are committed to the ethical practice of social work values and services. Their investment of time and resources, and especially the dedication of the social work supervisors, are the keys to ensuring the professional education of our social work students.

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