Field Education Program

The Field Education Program at the Boston University School of Social Work provides students with the opportunity to apply theoretical concepts and principles and research evidence to practice with individuals, families, groups, communities, and organizations.

The objective of field education is to prepare students for competence in advanced social work practice by helping them develop the knowledge, skills, and values they will need to assume a range of professional roles in a variety of settings.

All students, with the exception of Advanced Standing and HSE (online only) students, have both a foundation and an advanced field placement experience. To foster the integration process, each field placement is taken concurrently with practice courses. Advanced Standing and HSE students have an advanced placement of 1,000 hours.

The foundation placement teaches students basic social work knowledge, values, and skills and provides assignments in a range of social work roles. Ideally, the foundation placement gives students the opportunity to work in settings and with populations or social issues that differ from previous work or volunteer experiences.

The advanced placement offers students in-depth experience in their primary method (clinical or macro) and in a setting or with the population of their choice. Placements are seen as a bridge to the students’ career paths, helping them develop competence and a network of colleagues and resources to call upon after graduation. The School of Social Work is affiliated with more than 1,000 agencies in New England and around the country.

Field Education Course Offerings

  • SSW FE 800 Integrative Field Seminar
  • SSW FE 801, 802 Field Education I, II
  • SSW FE 803, 804, 805, 806, 807 Field Education III, IV
  • SSW FE 818, 819, 820, 821, 823 OL Field Education
  • SSW FE 825 OL Capstone Course for HSE Track

Field Education Structure

The foundation placement is 16 hours a week for a total of 480 hours and the advanced placement is 24 hours a week for a total of 720 hours. Both are typically scheduled from early September through early May. Advanced Standing students do one placement for 1,000 hours from June to May. Online students in the HSE track have schedule options in terms of how they complete the 1,000 hours for their internship.

Students in the Online Program who qualify for the Human Service Experience (HSE) option do one internship of 1,000 hours.

Several alternative scheduling options are available for part-time students. Among these options are the summer block program (offered if there is sufficient enrollment) for qualified students to do the foundation placement (32 hours/week for 15 weeks) and the calendar-year option for the advanced placement (16 hours/week for 12 months). Students may have the option to do one of their placements at an agency at which they are employed, if the agency and proposed placement meet specified criteria (available here).

The Placement Process

Placement assignments are made by the Field Education Department based on an educational assessment of the student’s learning goals, work and volunteer experience, educational background, and career aspirations, as well as the requirements of the particular agency setting.

Incoming full-time students entering their foundation placement in September are oriented to the assignment process through small group meetings held in spring and early summer. Continuing part-time students entering the foundation placement receive this orientation through a seminar taken during their first year of part-time study. Advanced Standing students work with Field Education staff in the late winter-early spring to secure a field placement that begins in September.

Students receive their foundation placement assignments during the spring and early summer and then interview at the agency. Students play a more active role in deciding the type of setting where they wish to have their advanced placement by working collaboratively with their advisor and the Field Education Department.

All field placement assignments must be arranged by the Field Education Department.

Field placement assignments for off-campus students are made by the program directors in conjunction with the students’ advisors. Field placement assignments for online students are made by the Online Program Advising and Field Education staff in conjunction with each student and the regional advisor.

Field Instruction, Advising, and Integrative Field Seminar

In their field placement settings, students receive two hours a week of supervision from qualified field instructors who are agency employees. Primary field instructors must have an MSW degree and at least two years of post-master’s degree social work experience.

Students are also assigned to a Boston University School of Social Work faculty advisor who serves as both the student’s academic advisor and as the liaison between the School and the field placement agency. The advisor is available for consultation, problem-solving, mediation, and advocacy on a range of learning issues and needs.

Charles River Campus students in foundation placements participate in a required integrative field seminar taught by a member of the Field Education Department staff.

The seminar meets several times each semester and covers topics such as learning contracts, recordings, supervision, evaluation, and preparation for the advanced placement.

Off-campus and online students have integrative seminars that span the three years they are in the program. The focus of each seminar depends on the year of the student’s program.

Field Education Agencies

The School is affiliated with more than 1,000 agencies in New England and around the country, so students have internships that closely meet their interests in a particular population, social problem, and field of practice. To review a list of these agencies, please visit