MSW Field Placement Requirements

What is a Field Placement?

The field placement is the “signature pedagogy” of MSW education. The field placement in the UNC Charlotte School of Social Work is based on a concurrent model with classroom education and allows each student the opportunity to integrate classroom knowledge and skills with actual practice in a human services agency.

The field practicum in the foundation year provides students with a generalist practice experience. Students are placed in an affiliated agency for two (2) days a week (Mondays and Tuesdays) for a minimum of four hundred and sixty four (464) hours for the academic year. The Field Placement will begin the first day of classes and will end on the last day of the spring semester. The foundation field experience seeks to provide the student with a broad range of generalist practice situations such as: interviewing, case-planning, shadowing professional staff, developing reports, attending policy meetings, conducting research, and participating in professional supervision. Each student will be evaluated at the end of each semester and must demonstrate competencies in the knowledge, values, and skills of the 2015 Council of Social Work Education Policy and Accreditation Standards in their practicum placement by the end of the academic year.

Students are placed in an affiliated placement agency for two (2) days a week (Mondays and Tuesdays) for 464 hours for the academic year. The Field Placement will begin the first day of classes and will end on the last day of the spring semester. Each student will be evaluated at the end of each semester and must demonstrate competencies in the knowledge, values, and skills of the advanced practice behaviors noted by UNC Charlotte of the 2015 Council of Social Work Education Policy and Accreditation Standards by the end of the academic year.

It is important to note that the Social Work Program does not grant social work course credit for life experience or previous work experience.

How Does the Field Placement Contribute to the Preparation for Social Work Practice by the student?

The field placement is not to be confused with "paid employment." Often students feel frustrated that they are spending a lot of time doing agency work and not "getting paid." It is important to remember that you are not at the agency doing work as an employee, but rather building skills, knowledge, and values about social work practice and yourself. This can be a time of tremendous professional growth through personal reflection of work habits, biases, and knowledge development.

Advanced Standing MSW Students

Students are placed in an affiliated placement agency for two (2) days a week (Mondays and Tuesdays) for 464 hours for the academic year. The Field Placement will begin the first day of classes and will end on the last day of the spring semester. Each student will be evaluated at the end of each semester and must demonstrate competencies in the knowledge, values, and skills of the advanced practice behaviors noted by UNC Charlotte of the 2015 Council of Social Work Education Policy and Accreditation Standards by the end of the academic year.

Advanced Standing MSW students have a field seminar class that meets once (1) per month. This experience allows students to immediately utilize and integrate the knowledge, skills, and values taught in the classroom with their clientele, in community programs, and in administrative settings. This educational experience occurs in coordination with the University, the Director of Field Education, faculty liaison, an agency, and a field instructor. The School of Social Work may schedule professional development seminars during the seminar hours when it does not conflict with seminar class.

First Year Traditional MSW Students and Part-time Students (in their first year)

The first year of the MSW program utilizes a concurrent field placement model. First year MSW students are in field placement for two (2) days per week, (Mondays and Tuesdays) and in class on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays during the fall and spring semester of the academic year.

MSW students have a field seminar class that meets weekly. This experience allows students to immediately utilize and integrate the knowledge, skills, and values taught in the classroom with their clientele, in community programs, and in administrative settings. This educational experience occurs in coordination with the University, the Director of Field Education, faculty liaison, an agency, and a field instructor.

The beginning date of the field placement is the first day of class during the fall semester and the ending date is the last day of classes during the spring semester. The student will need to complete a minimum of two hundred and thirty two (232) clock hours in the field agency in the fall and two hundred and thirty two (232) hours during the spring semester for a total of four hundred and sixty four (464) hours for the academic year. The actual hours that a student is will complete in field is calculated for the current academic year and frequently exceeds the minimum hours noted by the Unit. 

A student must meet the requirements of the weeks in field, as well as, the minimum number of hours expected. If a student exceeds the minimum number of hours they are not allowed to leave the field placement early. It is fully expected that the student will actually complete additional hours each semester, but credit will not be given for the course unless the minimum number of hours is met.

Each student will be evaluated at the end of each semester and must demonstrate competencies in the knowledge, values, and skills of the practice behaviors noted by the 2015 Council of Social Work Education Policy and Accreditation Standards by the end of the academic year.

Second Year Placement - Full Time MSW & Part-time Students (in their second year)

The second year of the MSW program also utilizes a concurrent field placement model. Second year MSW students work in their placement for two (2) days per week, Mondays and Tuesdays and are in class on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays during the fall and spring semesters of the academic year. Part-time students meet on Saturdays.

The beginning date of the field placement is the first day of classes during the fall semester and the ending date is the last day of classes during the spring semester. The School of Social Work requires a minimum of two hundred thirty two (232) clock hours in the field agency in the fall and two hundred thirty two (232) hours during the spring semester for a total of four hundred sixty four (464) hours for the academic year. The actual hours that a student is in field placement is calculated by the current academic year and frequently exceeds the minimum hours noted for the Unit.

A student must meet the requirements of the weeks in field, as well as, the number of hours expected for the current academic year. If a student exceeds the number of hours they are not allowed to leave the field placement before the last day of the semester. It is fully expected that the student will actually complete additional hours each semester, but credit will not be given for the course unless the number of hours is met for the current academic year. 

Each student will be evaluated at the end of each semester and must demonstrate competencies in the knowledge, values, and skills of the advanced practice behaviors noted by UNC Charlotte of the 2015 Council of Social Work Education Policy and Accreditation Standards by the end of the academic year.

Second year MSW students have a field seminar class that meets once (1) per month. This experience allows students to immediately utilize and integrate the knowledge, skills, and values taught in the classroom with their clientele, in community programs, and in administrative settings. This educational experience occurs in coordination with the university, a Director of Field Education, faculty liaison, an agency, and a field instructor. The School of Social Work may schedule professional development seminars during the seminar hours when it does not conflict with seminar class.

Employment Based Field Placement

  • An employment based field placement can be an option if the employing agency is affiliated with the University, qualifies as a field site for the School of Social Work at UNC Charlotte and the prospective student has been an employee of the agency for a minimum of ninety (90) days. CSWE guidelines relevant to employment based field placements must be adhered to by the student and the employing agency.
  • Placement of students in an employing agency is an exception and must be evaluated closely and approved by the Coordinator of Field Education and the Field Education Committee. The field instructor must be different than the student’s day to day supervisor and the placement must be in an entirely different unit than their normal day to day employment.
  • The designated field instructor must be approved by the School of Social Work. He/she must be an MSW with at least two (2) years post-MSW experience. The field instructor cannot be the direct paid work supervisor of the student. The field instructor must attend mandatory field instructor training.
  • The employing agency must be within a sixty (60) mile radius of the University of North Carolina in Charlotte or have the ability to use technology which would facilitate virtual visits by the faculty liaison.
  • The request to complete a field placement in an employing agency must be submitted in writing to the Coordinator of Field Education at the beginning of the spring semester prior to the fall placement semester. The Coordinator of Field Education will submit the written request to the Field Education Committee where a decision will be made regarding the written request.
  • The Employment based request must include in detail, the proposed learning opportunities for the student. Field Placement learning experiences must be in an entirely different program or division than where the student is employed. The learning experiences assigned for the student must meet the requirements of UNC Charlotte field education program and must differ substantially from the student’s employee role. The level of assignments will be determined by the student’s educational role, not the employee role.
  • All terms of the employed based field placement agreement must be adhered to by the student and by the employing agency.
  • If approved, the field placement must achieve all of the placement objectives. The student must engage in both micro and macro graduate level practice activities under qualified social work program approved field instructors. The objectives must be reviewed be the student, the prospective field instructor, the student’s employer, and the Designated Faculty Liaison.
  • The school must be assured that the employment agency supports the placement as an educational experience and is committed to providing the time and supervision to be involved in discrete learning activities with specific learning objectives that are related to the placement objectives. The employing agency is expected to help the student and the university to create and maintain an environment for learning to take place. 
  • Employment Based Field Agreements are not considered approved until the review by the Coordinator of Field Education and the Field Education Committee and a letter will be sent confirming approval.
  • Any changes to the approved Employment Based Field Placement shall be submitted to the Field Education Committee and must be approved in advance.

It should not be assumed that a student’s placement will occur within the student’s employing agency just because the agency meets all field instruction and other UNC Charlotte Social Work Program standards and expectations.