Field Education is a significant part of your preparation for professional social work practice. The BSW Program at West Chester University provides field practicums with concurrent course work designed to provide instruction and the opportunity to integrate theory and practice. During the spring semester of junior year, students attend a weekly one-hour field practicum class in order to facilitate professional development.
Field practicum experience is required of all social work majors: 224 hours in the spring of junior year and 224 hours per semester in their senior year. Social Work settings providing practicum opportunities are located in urban, suburban, and rural communities. Students are placed at different field settings for the junior and senior years to ensure a broad and varied experience in the field.
For more information about field practicums, please contact:
, MSS, MLSP, Director of Field Education - West Chester, at 610-436-2801 (o) or 484-753-5109 (c)
, MSW, LSW, Director of Field Education - Philadelphia, at 267-386-3015 (o) or 484-753-5139 (c)
The placement process begins after students have completed required liberal arts foundation and social work courses. Prior to being placed in the field, students must be accepted into Candidacy, successfully completed the required pre-requisite courses, have a minimum GPA of 2.5, and have no outstanding or incomplete grades for social work courses.
During the fall semester of junior year, the Director of Field Education meets with all eligible students to inform them of how the placement process will proceed. All matters concerning the process are discussed and student questions are answered as completely as possible.
Each student is required to submit a field practicum application and resume. The information gathered from the field practicum application, resume, the meeting with the student, and faculty input are all used to determine which practice sites to contact to explore the availability of field experiences. The Director of Field Education contacts prospective field sites to determine if they are accepting students that semester or year. Students are not to make the initial contact with potential field sites.
Once a potential field site is identified, the Director of Field Education notifies the student. Within one week of being referred, the student is expected to contact the field site to schedule an interview with the perspective field instructor or agency designee. In preparation of the interview, the student should review the perspective field site’s website and gather some basic information about the population with which the organization works. The student is expected to dress professionally for the interview. They are encouraged to bring a resume and a list of questions they want to discuss so that the interview will be a two-way process, i.e. similar to a job interview. If after the interview, the student has concerns about the placement and/or would like to be considered for a different field practicum, the student must submit those concerns and/or request in writing to the Director of Field Education for further discussion and to determine whether to pursue other field site options. Since students are expected to go to urban, rural, and suburban placements, refusal of practicums based on location is not acceptable nor meets the standards of NASW. Students are expected to complete their interview and finalize the placement by the conclusion of the fall semester for a junior field practicum and by the conclusion of the spring semester for a senior practicum. If a student is turned down by more than one potential field site, the student needs to meet with the Field Director to assess whether the student can go forward into the field.
When a student demonstrates a need for an evening or weekend practicum, the Undergraduate Department of Social Work will attempt to accommodate the need. However, due to the difficulty in finding appropriate social work learning experiences and supervision during the evening and weekend hours, the Undergraduate Department of Social Work does not guarantee an evening or weekend practicum. In addition, if a student is placed in an evening or weekend field placement, they must be available a minimum of four (4) hours each week during the regular working hours of the agency (this is not in addition to their other hours, but a portion of the required weekly hours).
If a student is currently working in the social services field, one of their two field experiences can be employment-based. Students must complete a proposal and submit it to the Director of Field Education for approval.
For junior year, employment-based field placements may be approved if the workplace is able to offer the student: 1) opportunities that will allow the student to use a social work framework to perform their work assignments; and 2) a field instructor who is qualified to assist the student with integrating social work theory with practice, and is someone other than the student’s work supervisor.
For senior year, employment-based field placements may be approved if the workplace is able to offer the student: 1) assignments completely separate from student’s work responsibilities that will meet the student’s learning needs and curriculum requirements; 2) a field instructor who has a BSW/MSW degree plus a minimum of two years post graduate experience, is qualified to assist the student with integrating social work theory with practice, and is someone other than the student’s work supervisor; and 3) the workplace signs an affiliation agreement with West Chester University.
We recognize that many students are driven to social work out of the passions of their personal experience. For example, persons living with mental illness may have an ultimate desire to work professionally in service to others living with mental illnesses. At WCU, we value the power of lived experience. However, as social work educators, we are ultimately dedicated to imparting strong ethical practice habits and providing an educational experience of excellence. Therefore, we reserve the right to deny requests by students for practicum experiences where they may be at risk for harmful dual relationships in which roles of student and consumer of services may be blurred or where there is the likelihood that a student’s lived experiences will negatively impact their ability to meet the expectations of field practicum.
For more information about Field Education, please view the BSW Handbook/Field Manual.