MSW field education program

The field education program is a central component of the MSW program, including the online MSW. It contributes to the attainment of the program goals by developing, implementing, and monitoring advanced generalist practice opportunities for students to demonstrate core social work competencies.

At the foundation level (an MSW student’s first practicum), the field placement is structured so that students have an opportunity to demonstrate their capacity to perform core social work practice behaviors and attain the skills of a competent generalist practitioner. This foundational learning sets the stage for the second year (or concentration level) of the MSW program, where the student moves into Advanced Generalist practice work. Foundation year students spend a great deal of time focusing on what it means to be a professional social worker.

The students focus on identifying the skills, roles, and boundaries associated with assisting clients and behaving ethically. Students also are challenged to practice self-awareness and reflection, and remain open to career-long learning by effectively utilizing supervision and consultation. The understanding and recognition of the impact that structural oppression has on clients is paramount, and students must gain the skills necessary to take on the role of advocate, in both micro level (person-centered) situations, and with macro level (policy and systems) issues.

In the foundation year, the student also begins to master the use of practice experience to inform scientific inquiry, and research evidence to inform practice. Finally, the foundation student becomes fluent in their ability to conduct an assessment and accordingly select, critically analyze, monitor and evaluate prevention and intervention strategies to address the issue at hand.

Practice behaviors associated with the core social work competencies become more complex in the concentration year (an MSW student’s second practicum or advanced standing student practicum) field placement. In the concentration year placement, students may be presented with more complex ethical dilemmas, large systems barriers related to oppression and discrimination, and will be challenged to critically evaluate the efficacy of programs and interventions. MSW Concentration students also spend more time developing specialized micro, mezzo and macro social work skills.

Students work more autonomously and are challenged to conduct a thorough and informed evaluation and demonstrate a defensible, practice-informed response to the problem at hand. The students move from basic skills practice to situations that require more developed critical thinking, problem-solving, analysis and intervention skills.

To learn more about the MSW Field Program, please contact the field office at

Campus-based MSW student field responsibilities

Learn about your responsibilities as a student in the MSW field education program

Online MSW student field responsibilities

Learn about your responsibilities as an online student in the MSW field education program

MSW field placement information

Get more information about MSW field placement opportunities

CSWE social work competencies

Learn about Council on Social Work Education program competencies