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Master of Social Work

Field Education

Contact Master of Social Work  

Master of Social Work

West Chester Campus

Anderson Hall 
725 S. Church St 
West Chester, PA 19383

Phone:  610-436-2664

PASSHE Center City

701 Market Street, Concourse Level 
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Phone: 610-436-2664


Field Education, a core component of the MSW curriculum, allows students to apply theoretical concepts learned in the classroom to an agency setting. Students gain direct practice experience with individuals, families, and communities through supervised field placements in a wide variety of settings such as hospitals, schools, substance abuse treatment programs, child welfare agencies, advocacy and policy organizations, and agencies that serve older adults, veterans and military families.

The unique Field Education experience through WCU’s MSW Program provides:

  • A personalized placement process in which our directors of field education collaborate with students to identify field sites
  • Two, nine-month placements that promote growth in students' competence and independence over time
  • A platform from which to measure student's learning and application of social work skills
  • Integrated Practice classes that enhance students’ experiential learning

In accordance with the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), all students must complete at least 952 hours of field experience to graduate. Hours are completed through two separate field experiences, the first totaling 448 hours and the second totaling 504 hours. West Chester University's MSW Department partners with hundreds of agencies in the region, allowing us to meet students' diverse interests within the social work profession.

All field placements are arranged by the department's directors of field education, rather than by students. It is recommended that individuals apply early to receive the broadest availability of placement opportunities.

As prescribed by the CSWE, academic credit cannot be given for life or work experience, or for internships outside of an accredited graduate social work program.

What criteria is used to select partner agencies?

The Directors of Field Education meet with agencies across the region and select for Foundation Year and Concentration Year placements based on the site's ability to provide students with opportunities to:

  • Practice social work with individuals, families and communities, including groups and larger organizations for Foundation field students, and advanced practice opportunities for Concentration field students
  • Engage in social work practice that is consistent with the values, ethics, principles and theories of social work and the mission of West Chester University Graduate Social Work Department
  • Learn through assignments and activities so that the student can achieve the competency behaviors identified for each semester of field practicum
  • Practice non-discrimination with regard to gender, sexual orientation, race, color, ethnicity, age, religion, or disability in providing services
  • Provide orientation to the site services, procedures, human resources policies and guidelines, including safety policies and procedures
  • Provide a qualified Field Instructor who has adequate time to supervise the student and meet with the faculty liaison; Completion of the Seminar in Field Instruction series is strongly encouraged for new Field Instructors
  • Field sites must also sign an Affiliation Agreement  with West Chester University.

Typically, Foundation Field Placements are in programs that provide such services as case management, intake, assessment, co-facilitation of groups, resource gathering and discharge planning. Concentration Field Placements are those that offer more advanced opportunities, such as carrying an independent caseload, facilitating groups, working with multiple stakeholders, and complex case management. Some sites offer Concentration field opportunities for more systems-oriented, administrative placement activities, such as program evaluation, community and program planning, capacity-building, and system of care coordination.

What is the procedure for matching students with field sites?

The identification of a field placement is a collaborative process between the student and the Director of Field Education. Students submit a resume and complete an application providing information about career goals, experience, strengths, challenges, and other details that guide the placement process. These documents, in combination with the student's Personal Statement submitted with the MSW application, are thoroughly reviewed.

The Director of Field Education discusses possible placements taking into account the student's:

  • learning needs and professional interests
  • level of professional development based on life and social service experience
  • course work in the program
  • geographic location and available transportation
  • unique circumstances

The Director of Field Education meets with each student individually to explore placement possibilities. Students are asked to be flexible and open to a variety of learning opportunities.

Evening and weekend-only placements are not available. Students are required to have some weekday hours at field sites to participate in learning activities that are only available during the day such as case consultations, staff meetings, and professional training.

Students who have satisfactorily completed their foundation field practicum are required to update their field practicum application before meeting with the Director of Field to guide the selection of a second field placement. They must also renew their liability insurance. All students completing a field placement must fulfill any additional requirements specific to the site where they are placed.

Can I complete my field placement hours where I work?

Employment-based field placements may be approved if the workplace is able to offer the student:
  • New assignments different from the student's role as an employee, which will meet the student's learning needs
  • A Field Instructor who has an MSW and is someone other than the student's work supervisor
  • A signed Affiliation Agreement  with West Chester University

To maintain the integrity of the student/Field Instructor relationship, dual relationships should be avoided. For example, the student and field instructor should not be friends or socialize outside of the work environment.

The student, in consultation with the employer, must submit a written plan  to the Director of Field Education for review.

To ensure that all parties are in agreement about the employment-based field practicum and that there will be no conflicts of interest between a student's field practicum assignments and work assignments, or between a student's Field Instructor and work supervisor, the plan must be signed by the:

  • Student
  • Student's employment supervisor
  • Proposed Field Instructor and proposed Task Supervisor (if applicable)
  • Director of Field Education

The proposed plan must be submitted to and approved by the Director of Field Education prior to the start of the semester. The plan is also submitted to the student's Faculty Field Liaison as an attachment to the student's Learning Agreement.

Can I reduce the number of hours per week I am at my field site?

Students who are employed full-time or have other extenuating time commitments that prevent them from completing the standard 16 or 18 hours per week of field, may be approved for Extended Field hours. Extended hours enable students to complete the same total number of required hours, but over more weeks, to reduce the average number of hours per week. A written plan for extended hours must be negotiated with the placement site and submitted to the Director of Field Education for review.

What will extended hours look like?

Foundation Year

  • Total of 224 hours per semester for field practicum courses (SWG 596 and SWG 597)
  • Field practicum hours:
    • An average of 16 hours per week over 14 weeks = 224 hours per semester
  • Extended hours:
    • Average of no fewer than 12 hours over 20 weeks = 224 hours (includes field hours over breaks, including winter break between semesters and/or after the end of spring semester)

Concentration year

  • Total of 252 hours per semester for field practicum courses (SWG 598 and SWG 599)
  • Field practicum hours:
    • An average of 18 hours per week over 14 weeks = 252 hours per semester
  • Extended hours:
    • Average of no fewer than 13 hours for up to 20 weeks until 252 hours completed
    • Student can participate in graduation ceremonies but will not receive a diploma until hours are complete and a final grade is posted for SWG 599

Field Education Policies

Field Education Policy

Students in the MSW Program must earn a B or better in all field practicum courses (see below). Any grade of B- or lower in a field practicum course must be repeated with remediation. Only one field practicum course may be remediated and a grade of B or better is required before continuing on to the next field practicum course.

  • SWG 596: Practicum I: 3 Credits
  • SWG 597: Practicum II: 3 Credits
  • SWG 598: Practicum III: 3 Credits
  • SWG 599: Practicum IV: 3 Credits
  • Total Credits: 12

Field Placement Policy

If an MSW student is referred to three field placements and not accepted due to unprofessionalism, the program reserves the right to suspend the placement process. The student may reapply for field placement in the next academic year.

Field Dismissal Policy

Students who are dismissed from field by their placement agency for violations of Academic Integrity may immediately receive an F for the course, be removed from field and dismissed from the Graduate Social Work Program.

Please refer to Graduate Catalog for the official policy.

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