One of the most rewarding aspects of Widener's online MSW program is the field placement. Field placements provide you opportunities to apply what you've learned in the MSW curriculum in an agency setting, and is central to advanced social work education. It may also introduce you to new areas of social work practice. In fact, many of our alumni flourish in careers they hadn't considered or even known about prior to their field placement.
The field-experience requirement is also the most challenging aspect of the MSW curriculum. You'll need to be disciplined and self-motivated in your approach, and have the perseverance to see it through. However, by graduation, you're ready to be an active clinician and take advantage of the high demand for advanced social workers who have hands-on supervised experience.
Discover the Many Ways Widener Guides and Supports You
As a social work student, the time and financial investment you've made to further your education demonstrates your continued commitment toward helping people and communities thrive. Widener is dedicated to your success and the field placement component of the program is no exception.
The Widener MSW field team understands that the demands of work, a personal life, and the requirements to fulfill an advanced degree are challenging. For this reason, we employ a collaborative approach in planning for your field education experience. This is evident in the one-on-one support and guidance offered by our field directors. These professionals are dedicated to your success and will help you navigate the field experience.
Professional Field Instructors Guide You
All of our agency field instructors are required to have an MSW from an accredited social work program and at least two years of post-graduate social work experience. Under their supervision, you will continue to grow professionally in the program and emerge with a firm foundation to embark on the next steps of your social work career.
You can download our field placement guide for more details.
Field Education Hours
Over the course of the program, you will complete two separate internships - one in generalist social work and the second in specialized clinical social work practice. For most students, field education hours will start after students complete core MSW courses that ready them for field education, usually in their 5th semester. This ensures they are properly prepared and positioned for success in the field.
- Generalist Year: 16 hours a week over two consecutive semesters for a total of 450 hours
- Specialization Year: 20 hours a week over two consecutive semesters, or with the extended field option, 14-16 hours over the course of three consecutive semesters, for a total of 560 hours
Widener’s field policy requires that students make one day per week during regular business hours available for field education. While our team will work with students on exploring placements that occur during non-traditional hours (evenings/weekends), only agencies that can provide appropriate supervision and learning opportunities during these hours will be approved.
Some agencies allow students to complete hours during the evening, when supervision is available
Students may be expected to continue field hours over breaks
Specialization year extended field option: Intern shorter hours weekly over a longer period of time (three semesters)
Options to complete field hours
Some agencies allow students to complete hours during the evening
Students can expect to continue field hours over breaks
Specialization year option: Intern shorter hours over a longer period of time
Field Education Assignments
There are many areas of social work practice that provide excellent supervision and learning opportunities. With the guidance of your assigned field director - who has experience placing students in the particular region where you reside - you will be an active participant in the process.
Field Placement: Discover the Details of this Critical Requirement
Coursework fills your social worker toolkit with the theories, skills and interventions you need to succeed as a social worker. The Generalist and Specialization Field Placement allows you to practice using those tools, and the concurrent field seminars give you a place to unpack your experiences and reflect on them while gaining valuable professional feedback.
Take less than 10 minutes to listen in as our director of field education walks you through the in's and out of field education including the number of placements and hours of each, ideas on how to fit them into your busy schedule and getting the help you need to secure field placements that support your career goals and more.
So I'm going to take a couple of minutes to talk about the field education components of our MSW program. Field education provides students with the opportunity to integrate all of the material from coursework, all the coursework that Jen just discussed, into actual practice under the supervision of an MSW with two or more years of experience. We often refer to the coursework as filling our students' tool bag with theories, skills, interventions. Students then take that tool bag out into the field and practice.
The field seminars that coincide with the hours spent in the field provide space for students to come back and unpack their experiences with a focus on self-reflection and feedback from instructors. Advanced standing students, as Jen mentioned, come to our program with a BSW and only complete one field placement with Widener. All students in the regular MSW program will complete two distinct field placements. The first is the generalist. Just as it sounds. That's our foundation: field placement.
The second is the specialization. As Jen had mentioned, our only specialization or concentration at Widener is clinical. So all students can expect their specialization, your field placement to have a clinical focus. Both placements take place over two consecutive semesters at a single agency. Typically, unless you've had transfer credits or other changes to your program ladder, most students can expect to begin their first field placement in the fifth semester of our program.
So a little more details about the field placements that you'll be expected to complete while at Widener. The generalist field placement requires a total of 450 hours, which is broken down to 16 hours per week with a minimum of six direct client contact hours weekly. The specialization field placement requires a total of 560 hours, which breaks down to about 20 hours per week with a minimum of nine direct client contact hours.
Many students will certainly get more than the minimum direct client contact hours. But what that does is leaves room for all of the work that we do as social workers. As Jen mentioned, it's not just the clinical practice, but it leaves time and space for some of the more macro tasks that students will need to complete while they're in field. For the specialization field placement, we also offer an extended field option, which allows students to complete that placement over three consecutive semesters, usually breaking down to approximately 16 hours per week. This is a good option for our students who come to our program perhaps who work full-time and have other obligations and see the 20-hour a week minimum as maybe a barrier to completing the degree. So by completing one extra semester, which has a one credit fee only, students can complete the required field hours and maintain their well-being, which is a really critical piece for us at Widener.
We are currently prioritizing in-person learning opportunities for field. However, if an agency is functioning in a hybrid format, we would consider that for student learning. Likewise, if we were to experience another increase in the pandemic requiring agencies to shift to virtual work with their clients, we would look at that on a case by case basis as well.
Matching students with a field setting that provides rich supervision and learning opportunities appropriate to the field year, generalist or specialization, is the goal of the field placement process and requires significant preparation and planning. Each student at Widener is assigned to an assistant director of field who is familiar with their geographic area and works one-on-one with the student during the planning phase. We do engage students in identifying potential options, but we do not require that students find their own field placements. The task of identifying agencies of interest is purposeful, as it requires the student to demonstrate an understanding of either generalist or specialization agency-based social work tasks, as well as their ability to identify resources in the community where they reside.
Widener requests or requires that students make one full business day available for field. In the event that students do not have this availability, we will work with them to find placements offered during evenings and weekends. However, I have to be transparent and say that this is challenging, and we cannot guarantee, as we don't have the authority over agencies that we work with. So keep in mind that while some agencies function 24/7, such as hospitals and residential facilities, they do not all provide services with MSW supervision during these off hours. That's a component that's really critical to the field education requirements.
In the event that a match is not made due to a student's availability, we do have the flexibility in our program to delay the start of field and continue planning until we're successful. We strongly encourage students to consider at the start of the program how they will incorporate the field education requirements into their already busy schedules. There is a lot that we can offer flexibility on in this program, but due to accreditation standards, field hours and requirements are not among those that we can change or flex very much.
Some students who work in the field do complete their field education requirements at their agency of employment. This can sometimes be done by focusing on a subset of their existing clients or tasks through their work as long as the agency can provide a separate MSW field instructor, which is an accreditation standard through CSWE. Other times, students might identify other programs within their agencies to complete their field education requirements.
I recognize that there's a lot of information packed into these two slides and many requirements related to the field education component of our program. Keep in mind that CSWE, our accrediting body, has designated field as our signature pedagogy for the MSW degree. Despite the challenges and barriers that we might face, this is the part of the program that many students enjoy the most, remember the most, and this is the time where many students truly connect with the material and blossom into-
In some cases, field hours may be completed at your current place of employment. If this is an option, it is important to adhere to the guidelines outlined by the Council on Social Work Education that the work provides opportunities for an educational focus with a field instructor who is not responsible for your supervision as an employee. Your field director will help you with this planning.
Your field director can help identify various opportunities in an area of social work practice in which you may have interest and that is local to you. Widener's MSW program is made up of students from all over the country, which is why we're dedicated to helping you find an exceptional field placement in your local area.
Potential Options for field placements
- Skilled Nursing Facilities
- Primary Care Physician Offices
- Home Health and Hospice Agencies
- School Districts *
- Centers for Child Advocacy
- Homeless Shelters
- Child Welfare Agencies
- Domestic Violence Centers
- Probation & Community Service
- Mobile Crisis Response
- Child Welfare Agencies
- Homeless Shelters
- Community Mental Health Agencies
- Senior Centers/Adult Day Programs
- Outpatient Drug & Alcohol Facilities
- In Patient Behavioral Health Facilities
- Residential Drug & Alcohol Facilities
- Partial Hospitalization Programs
*You may need to schedule your field placements during fall and spring semesters when schools are in session.