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School of Social Work

McNeill Hall, Room 3101
601 South College Road
Wilmington, NC 28403-5979
Phone: (910) 962-3872
Fax: (910) 962-7283



BSW Field Education

About Field Placements

Field placement is also preparation for practice.  It provides the student with opportunities to learn, use, and test social work skills.  Placement provides an arena in which the student can test her/himself and her/his commitment to social work attitudes and values, noting both the consistencies and inconsistencies between classroom and agency. In addition, the placement helps the student to increase self-awareness when confronted with situations that challenge her/his attitudes and values.

Field education provides opportunities for individualized learning to an extent, which is generally impossible in the classroom.  There may be only one student in the agency, and work assignments are made according to each student’s interests and abilities.  This individual focus can challenge the student to develop a sense of identity in a way not possible in the classroom.

In order to help bridge the transition from student to worker, there is a weekly integrative, strengths-based seminar that accompanies field placement.  Participation in this seminar is a vital component of placement, because it is here that students discuss their field experience. Seminar content is developed around issues which every student experiences and copes with in placement.  In addition, there is a series of written and oral assignments.  Students should refer to the BSW Field Manual for information about course content and criteria for admission into the field practicum courses.

The BSW field program has a commitment to the quality of field instructors selected to foster learning opportunities for each BSW cohort.  Every effort is made to recruit qualified field instructors who hold the BSW with a minimum of two years of practice experience.  On those rare occasions when there is an excellent agency practice that will afford quality learning opportunities without a qualified social worker on staff, an alternative plan is developed to assure appropriate on-site task supervision and outside supervision by a credentialed BSW-level social worker with years of practice experience. The on-site task supervisor supervises day-to-day activity. The outside field instructor meets weekly with each student to provide supervision and collaborates regularly with the on-site task supervisor.  The field instructor works with the agency to understand client and practice issues as well as to create an opportunity to foster interdisciplinary collaboration at the agency.  

Some students may be employed in a human service agency and want to continue working there while completing their social work education. While efforts will be made to try to accommodate these students by creating a placement within the agency of employment, it is essential that the student understand that CSWE standards of field education receive first priority.  The agency must provide the appropriate learning opportunities essential for BSW field education, consistent with CSWE Standards and UNCW Field Education Policy, to facilitate a paid internship.  If the agency is unable or unwilling to provide work release time, the student must acknowledge that requirements for field education may need to be pursued in non-paid hours to meet the learning objectives of field education. Employment hours cannot be substituted for field hours if they do not meet the BSW learning requirements.  In addition, the student must complete the Learning Contracts and Evaluation Forms and establish learning tasks and evaluation criteria consistent with the UNCW field expectations.  The field faculty must also identify suitable supervisory personnel for field training as the student’s work supervisor cannot serve as the field instructor.  Finally, no student will be given field credit for work completed prior to enrollment in field education or work completed for volunteer or service-learning experience.

Should a student be offered employment (either part-time or full-time) while serving as an intern, s/he must provide the Field Education Coordinator with a copy of the job description to determine the job duties which are appropriate for field learning and suitable hours that meet placement requirements if the student wishes to earn field credit for the employment experiences. 

Once again, the BSW field program works closely with students who desire an agency-based practicum, as well as their agencies, to identify unique learning opportunities that meet the requirements of CSWE and the UNCW BSW Program. All tasks undertaken for field credit must fulfill the requirements of the learning contract and be different from the student’s regular position. As a result of some of the challenges of this kind of placement, only two students in the history of the UNCW BSW Program have completed a field placement at their employing agency.

Field Placement Options

Students enrolled in SWK 496/497 have a wide range of options for field placement settings and populations with whom they work.  Examples of the types of agencies and organizations available include schools, departments of social services, medical settings, hospice organizations, correction institutions and agencies, mental health agencies, agencies for the physically and mentally challenged, hunger and homelessness organizations, nursing homes, senior centers, government organizations, and other settings deemed appropriate by the Field Education Coordinator.  BSW students work with diverse populations, including children, elderly, people with mental and physical challenges, the ill and dying, immigrants, the homeless, people who are incarcerated or under court supervision, and many others.

Course Description

Field Education/Placement (SWK 496-497)

Field Work is a bridge between student and worker, and between classroom learning and the practice setting.  The field education courses (SWK 496 and  SWK 497) provide the student with an opportunity to practice social work in an agency setting under the supervision of a qualified professional. The student has an opportunity to apply concepts and knowledge from the classroom to actual work with the client population which the agency serves.

BSW Field Manual (PDF)

Field Contacts:

Jeanne Denny 
Field Education Coordinator


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