MSW Field Placement Frequently Asked Questions
The following information is intended to answer common questions asked by students. It does not replace or completely cover the information learned in the MSW Student Handbook and the various program orientations that students must attend. Rather, it is a guide to give students a sense of the process and nuances of the MSW field practicum.
1. How are field placements determined?
In January, the MSW Program queries field agencies to determine which agencies have capacity to host a Generalist and/or Specialized student. Based on responses to this query, students are provided a list of possible field placements for the upcoming academic year.
In some instances, agencies who have not worked with us before might contact our Program expressing interest in hosting an MSW student. In other situations, students may have information about agencies who are willing to host an MSW student.
Regardless of how placement information comes to us, agencies must be able to provide the proper learning experiences and supervisory oversight in order to meet our accreditation requirements. As such, practica are finite and dependent upon capacity at each field agency.
2. What is the difference between a Generalist field placement and a Specialized field placement?
Generalist field placements are an opportunity for students to gain knowledge of generalist practice. Typically, generalist placements involve direct practice work (e.g., case management, assessment, referrals) with individuals, families, and groups. Generalist practica are also an opportunity for students to explore a practice area of interest.
Specialized field placements are generally reflective of the area of social work a student wants to pursue upon graduation. These placements allow students to gain depth into a particular area of practice.
3. Can a Generalist student be placed in a Specialized field placement?
In general, the Specialized field placements are reserved for students in the specialized year as these field placements are limited. In addition, these placements often require the knowledge and skills gained through the BSW or Generalist curriculum and practica.
4. What if I don’t get my “dream” field placement?
The advanced generalist practica is designed for students to gain transferable skills for any area of social work practice. They are considered one of many building blocks toward your MSW degree. We encourage students to go into this process with open and eager minds. Because, in reality, all field placements provide opportunities for professional growth and development.
5. Can I find my own field placement agency?
If you are interested in an agency that is not on our current list of Community Partners, the MSW Field Coordinator will explore the agency as a possible field placement. Refer to the Field Section of the Student Handbook to learn the criteria that must be met for an agency to host an MSW student. If all conditions are met, the MSW Program will discuss next steps in securing this new placement.
6. How far away might I have to travel to my field placement?
We have field sites throughout the state of Wisconsin and are continually adding new agencies. When considering placement options, students who insist on a specific geographic area may be trading the opportunity to be placed in a field agency of their preferred practice area and vice versa. It is best to go into this process expecting to travel in order to secure a relevant placement.
7. Am I guaranteed my first field placement choice?
No. There are several issues that factor into the field placement process:
- If more than one student is interested in a field placement, preference is given to the student who completed and submitted the field application first.
- Field agencies conduct interviews prior to accepting a student. If you are not offered and/or turn down a field placement, you will need to return to the agency listings and move forward with a different placement.
- In rare circumstances, a field agency will accept a student and then a situation arises (e.g., the field instructor moves on to another agency) wherein the agency can no longer host a student. In this instance, you will need to return to the agency listings and move forward with a different placement
8. Are there any field agencies that interview more than one student (i.e., is there competition with other students)?
Yes, some field agencies interview more than one student for one field placement spot. For instance, the Veterans Administration accepts applications from all interested students and then conducts interviews to determine best fit. In addition, some field agencies interview students from other universities across the state.
Field agencies are encouraged to conduct a thorough interview and, as such, students should prepare appropriately. All field agencies have the option of turning down a student placement.
9. What if I turn down, or am not offered, my first field placement after the interview?
If you are informed by the agency that they will not host you or if you turn down a field placement, you will need to return to the agency listings and move forward with a different placement. In instances where the field agency communicated their decision to the MSW Program, we will contact you with the next steps.
It is important to note that, at some point in the placement process, field sites become limited and, as such, placements within some specializations (e.g., clinical mental health, school, medical) cannot be guaranteed. Therefore, you should go into the interview fully prepared and be open to any experience that may be offered you.
10. How should I prepare for the interview?
See the Interview Guide for more specific information. At a minimum, you want to:
- Treat the interview as you would a professional interview.
- Dress appropriately and arrive on time, or a few minutes early.
- Research your potential field placement so you can ask good questions.
11. Other students have interviewed and know where they’ll be placed. I haven’t heard anything yet. What’s going on?
Please remember that it is a privilege to be hosted by a social service agency. Agency staff are very busy with their primary jobs and, as such, process placement requests in different time frames. That said, after a week or so, it is reasonable to email the agency who you contacted and/or who interviewed you to inquire of your status.
12. What paperwork is involved in securing a field placement?
The Social Work Placement Confirmation Form must be signed by the student and the field instructor within five days of securing the placement.
- Take the Placement Confirmation Form with you to the interview. If it seems as though it's a good fit, and you are going to be offered the placement, please obtain the signature of your future field instructor at the conclusion of the interview.
- After the interview, you and your potential field instructor may decide mutually that you'd both like to think about the placement before confirming. In this case, you will need to return to the field agency to obtain signatures on the form.
- Please scan the form and return to the MSW Program 5 business days after you have had your interview and secured signatures.
Some field placements (e.g., hospital or school based) require extra paperwork.
- Placements in a medical setting will require additional paperwork. For instance, they will require immunization records, TB test results, and proof of completion of training modules.
- Students are responsible for gathering any requested items prior to the commencement of their placement and provide them to the MSW Program in a timely manner. The MSW Program securely stores this paperwork.
13. How much time will I be spending at my field placement?
Generalist students complete 200 hours each semester for a total of 400 hours. Specialized students complete 250 hours each semester for a total of 500 hours. This averages to about two days per week. For flexibility, fall field extends into January and spring field extends into mid-May for students who prefer to spread out their field hours over a longer period of time. Generally, field placements commence the first week of classes and end no sooner than the last week of classes.
Typically, you will maintain the same hours and days at your practicum throughout the semester. Treat this as you would a professional work environment. If you are ill, call in; if you must take a day off for an appointment, you should negotiate this well in advance with your field supervisor.
14. What does a typical field schedule look like?
Students are to complete their field hours when agencies are “open” and social work supervision is available. This means the majority of hours are completed Monday through Friday during normal business hours.
15. What if I don’t like my field placement or I changed my mind about my area of interest?
Changing field placements is rare and must be based on very compelling reasons. It is not as simple as “changing one’s mind.” See the MSW Student Handbook for more information on the circumstances when field placements are changed or terminated.
16. What is the role of the MSW Field Coordinator vs. my UW-Green Bay Field and Seminar instructor?
After a field placement is secured and all paperwork is filed, the MSW Field Coordinator’s role is complete. Communications between and among the student and the agency will transition to include your Field and Seminar instructor.
17. Is attendance at the fall Field Orientation mandatory?
Yes. The hours of orientation are counted toward the requisite 240 hours for fall field.