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 Human Service Experience (HSE) and Advanced Standing students, have both a foundation and an advanced internship. To foster the integration process, each internship is taken concurrently with practice courses. Advanced Standing and HSE students have one advanced internship of 1,000 hours.

The foundation internship 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 practice major (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 Capstone Course for HSE Track
  • SSW IS 100 Professional Development Seminar

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. Internships for Charles River Campus and Off-Campus students are typically scheduled from early September through early May. Advanced Standing and Human Service Experience students do one placement for 1,000 hours from September to July.

Several scheduling options are available for part-time students. Among these options is 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.

Students are oriented to the placement process by the Field Education staff. These orientations may take place in small groups, individual meetings, and online and telephone conversations. Students who wish to be placed in New England may not find their own placements and should discuss their interests and goals with the Field Education staff.

All field placement assignments must be arranged and approved 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 placement assignments for students in the Charles River program are made by placement coordinators in the Field Education Department.

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 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 their advisor. The seminar is held bimonthly in the fall semester and monthly in the spring semester.

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.