School of Social Work

MSW and BSW FAQs

MSW and BSW FAQ’s

Field Placement Process

Q:  What is the purpose of field education?
A:  Field education is an integral part of the School of Social Work curriculum.  In the field, under the instruction of a degreed social worker with practice experience, students learn to integrate and apply the theories they learn in classroom with actual practice with individuals, families, groups, and larger systems. This requires students to be knowledgeable about, and develop skills to intervene, at micro, mezzo, and macro levels.

Q:  How is the placement determined?
A:  Students complete and submit a field application and then meet with the Field Coordinator to be matched with appropriate referrals. Students are expected to adhere to the placement procedures as outlined in the BSW and MSW Field Manuals.

Q:  How do I apply for field placement with an agency?
A:  Students complete and submit a field application, through the Field Database, to the field coordinator early in the spring semester prior to the beginning of the field placement practicum the following fall. The field coordinator will email students with field application instructions and link to the field application.  The application must be fully completed and submitted by the due date. This application is an essential part of the process, and placement efforts cannot be initiated without the application and resume.   The timely submission increases the opportunity for placements in preferred settings.

Q:  Can I arrange my own field placement?
A:  No. It is the policy of the School of Social Work that all referrals of students to fieldwork sites must be made by the Field Coordinator. Students may provide a suggestion about a field site, but may not pursue a placement on their own. Field placements independently obtained will not be approved.  For detailed instructions on obtaining a field placement please refer to the BSW and MSW Field Manual.

Q:  I am already employed at a social work agency. Can I do my field placement there?
A:  Students who are interested in completing an employment-based field placement must get prior approval from the Field Coordinator. Students who are proposing to use their place of employment as their field site must follow the procedures which are outlined in the Employment Based Field Placement Policy which can be found in the BSW and MSW Field Manuals.

Q:  Can I change my placement after I have already started?
A:  No student has the authority to resign from a field placement.  Any change requires the approval of the Field Coordinator.

Q:  When does my field placement begin and end?
A:  Field placements typically begin the first week of classes in the fall and end in early May when classes end.

Q:  Can I begin my field placement in the summer?
A:  No, we do not have summer placements hours.  Students in field work take a practice class concurrently. Practice classes are only offered in the fall and spring semesters.

Q:  Can I do my field placement with all evening and/or weekend hours?
A:   It is expected that the majority of placement time will be completed during regular business hours, although arrangements for some placement hours on weekends and evenings may be possible as long as a supervisor is available.

Q:  What happens during school breaks/snow days other holidays?
A:  The academic calendar lists the holidays and school vacation days during which students are not required to be in field placement. Please review the BSW or MSW Manuals for more detailed information regarding the Policies related to holidays, vacations, illness and inclement weather.

Q:  How do I document my field hours?
A:  Students document field hours using the Attendance Sheet form located in the Field Database. Attendance Sheets will be assigned to students at the beginning of their first semester in field seminar. It is up to the student to track their own hours for the duration of the field placement. Your field faculty liaison will ask for completed attendance sheets at the end of each semester.

Q:  Will I be able to find a placement close to my home?
A:  The Office of Field Education offers opportunities for placements in several geographic areas in Maine. Students should indicate their preferred area in the Field Application.

Q:  Will I get to interview at my field placement?
A:  Each student is expected to have a pre-placement interview at their field site before they are accepted for placement. Some agencies are agreeable to phone interviews for students who are unable to interview in person due to geographical distance. Students should consider this a professional interview: dress appropriately and bring a resume.

Q:  How many internship hours are required?
A:  BSW students typically work in the field 16 hours per week and are required to complete 240 hours per semester and Foundation year MSW students, 16 hours per week or 240 per semester. Concentration year MSW Students normally work in the field 20 hours per week and are required to complete 300 hours per semester.  Students weekly schedules are negotiated between the student and agency field instructor.

Q: Will I be placed with the population of my choice?
A: Possibly, the purpose of the BSW and MSW first-year placements (foundation) are to expand your generalist social work knowledge base and offer you an area of learning that may be different from your past experiences. In the MSW second year (concentration), you will participate in selecting your own field placement with the population you’d prefer to work with. 

Q:  What should I do if I have problems in my field placement?
A:   If you have problems with your Field Instructor or others in the placement, you are encouraged to handle concerns directly on your own in the field placement, and involve the Field Faculty Liaison and Field Coordinator as needed. Please follow the problem-solving steps found in the BSW & MSW Field Education Program Manuals.

 

Field Performance Expectations

Q:  How often should I meet with my Field Instructor for supervision?
A:  CSWE accreditation standards mandate that you have a minimum of 1 hour of weekly face-to-face supervision with your  BSW or MSW Field Instructor.

Q:  Can I work extra hours each week and complete my field placement early?
A:  No. In order to maximize the educational experience by balancing classroom and field experiences, students work through to the end of the academic year. 

Q:  Will my field placement have an organized, structured set of tasks lined up for me to practice all of the required social work competencies?
A:  Some agencies will, others will not.  You will be challenged to enhance your own learning needs by working with your Field Instructor to identify tasks that will address the competencies.  Your Learning Agreement will guide you in this process.

Q:  How many of the CSWE competencies do I have to demonstrate to be considered successful in the field placement?
A:  You must demonstrate satisfactory mastery of ALL competencies by the end of the second semester of the field placement.

Q:  Do I have to follow all of my agency’s policies, even though I’m a student?
A:  Yes, you are expected to follow ALL policies and procedures of your field placement agency.

 

Field Education Course

Q:  Do I have to attend a Field Seminar class?
A:  Yes. The Field Seminar is a mandatory core component of the field education process and provides an integrative process where you join your peers to discuss your learning experiences, examine the connection of the classroom material to practice, and reflect on your personal and professional development.

Q:  What is a Learning Agreement?
A:  The Field Learning Agreement is a student assignment that outlines practice opportunities allowing  you to demonstrate the identified core competencies and behaviors or tasks of your BSW, Foundation or Concentration year that are mandated by the Council on Social Work Education.

Q:  How am I evaluated by my Field Instructor?
A:  At the end of each field semester, your Field Instructor will complete a student Field Evaluation. that measures your performance. This evaluation is one component of your semester grade. 

Q:  Will I receive a letter grade for the field seminar?
A:  No. You will receive a grade of Pass, Low Pass, or Fail. It is possible to fail the field course if you are not able to effectively demonstrate the skills, knowledge, and values for every competency.

Q:  How is my seminar graded?
A:  Your grade is given to you by your Field Faculty (field seminar instructor). The following criteria are used: 1) your field evaluation as completed by our Field Instructor; 2) seminar attendance, participation, engagement, and contribution in the field seminar; 3) your completion of the required hours; 4) your timely submission of forms and other required assignments;5) your adherence to all policies and procedures in the field manual and as identified by our field setting.

Q:  How will I manage classes, field placement, my job, and life in general?
A:  There is no doubt that good time management is the key also with utilization of supports such as family, friend, peers, and instructors to help you manage what can be a very stressful year. The Field Education Field Coordinators and Field Faculty Liaisons are here to help you.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to any of us.

 

Low Residency MSW Online Field Education

Q:  I would like to apply for the Low Residency MSW Online Program.  What are the requirements for field work in the Online program?
A:  Currently, field placement requirements for our Low Residency Online MSW program are the same as regular field education. 

Q: How will Low Residency MSW students be placed in field settings?
A: The USM SSW Field Coordinators identify all field sites and secure all placements for students. To do this, they work with students individually to choose a field placement that is both a good fit for the student and meets the criteria for a sound training experience.  If students are interested in placements at sites not currently affiliated with USM, they must contact the field coordinator about this and not approach the agency independently.

In the Low Residency MSW program, field placements will run from Fall through Spring semesters of the second and third years, with no field placements in the summer. The placement process will begin in January (for September 1 start date).  The process is initiated with an email contact to students by the field coordinator. The placement process involves scheduling a meeting with the Field Coordinator to discuss areas of interest (face to face or via use of distance technology). Students then follow through with arranging interviews at sites identified as viable options. It is critical to engage in the field placement process promptly, both as an important piece of your professional development, as well as to ensure you secure a suitable placement.

Q: Would I be allowed to do a field placement in my place of employment?
A: Students may use their employment for one of the two required field practica, if training standards are met. Field placements are intended to expose students to a new learning experience and environment, thus a student’s employer may not be able to provide this. There are situations when this does work well if the expectations and roles of work and field placement are clearly differentiated. The field placement component must be educationally focused rather than centered on agency service. If a student is interested in pursuing a field placement at their place of employment, the first step is to contact the field coordinator to make this request as early as possible (as the approval process can be lengthy).

 

For questions regarding USM School of Social Work Field Education, please feel free to contact the Coordinator of Field Education at stacia.fitch@maine.edu or 207-780-4107