The Benefits of Social Work Field Experience
Utica University’s online MSW prepares social workers for generalist practice with individuals, groups, families, communities, and organizations and clinical with individuals, groups, and families with an emphasis on serving underserved, marginalized, and vulnerable communities. The program offers an immersive experience to give students the best foundation to apply classroom knowledge and develop the skills they need to support various communities.
Fieldwork is designed to promote practical learning through faculty advising and mentorship, field instructor supervision, on-site guidance, and real-world experience. This ensures that each student receives the guidance, support, and peer feedback they need to cultivate their professional identities as social workers and deliver the best possible services in the community.
A distinguishing feature of the Utica University MSW program is the rigor of supervision provided during fieldwork. For every seven hours in the field, students receive 90 minutes of supervision: once biweekly with their preceptor in a field-based agency for individual supervision, and again every other week with their fieldwork seminar instructor for group supervision with no more than seven classmates. Fieldwork prepares students with clinical skills that include:
- Intervention planning and execution
- Evaluation of practice
Preparing for Fieldwork
During the first few weeks of the online MSW program, each student will schedule a field placement meeting with the Director of Field Education and Field Coordinator.
This meeting is the opportunity for students to get acquainted with the Director of Field Education and Field Coordinator to determine what kind of agency best fits a student’s interests. Next is the MSW New Student Orientation, covering the necessary programmatic details and providing an overview of the field placement process. Finally, MSW students will participate in a fieldwork webinar, which details the requirements (hours, dates, courses, etc.), and expectations for fieldwork.
Before applying directly to the field placement sites, students must submit a professional cover letter and resume to the submission portal at the MSW Student Center. Utica University’s Center for Career and Professional Development and Office of Learning Services are available to help students craft these documents.
After an MSW student selects a fieldwork agency, they will complete a screening process for new employees. Most agencies request proof of a valid driver’s license, auto insurance, background check, and immunization record, among other documents. Students are strongly encouraged to disclose the need for any accommodations for any disability.
How to Select a Fieldwork Agency
At least one semester before starting the field course, MSW students gather application materials and identify five agencies for potential fieldwork. Consider sites that employ someone who has earned an MSW and has two years or more post-MSW experience. Students are encouraged to pursue placement outside of their current place of employment. They may also pursue remote fieldwork opportunities via telehealth and other online supervised field experiences if the agency agrees and assignments are conducive to remote work. Students should contact agencies directly under the guidance of the Director of Field Education and the Field Coordinator, who will screen all sites before establishing an official relationship.
Criteria for agency selection include reviewing the agency’s values, goals, and mission, providing adequate student supervision and work experiences, a safe physical environment for students, and completion of field training.
What to Expect – The Social Work Field Experience
Throughout the online MSW fieldwork experience, students receive support from faculty. While completing fieldwork practica, students take an accompanying fieldwork seminar.
Breakdown of Fieldwork Requirements:
- 900 total fieldwork hours
- Two separate fieldwork agencies for the Generalist and Clinical portions of the program
- 450 fieldwork hours as part of the Generalist sequence of courses (SWK 521 and 522), to be completed over two total semesters
- 450 fieldwork hours as part of the Specialist sequence of courses (SWK 621 and 622), to be completed over two total semesters
- About 14 fieldwork hours per week
The Day-to-Day Social Work Field Experience
As students dive into fieldwork opportunities in the online MSW, they will engage with different kinds of work depending on their progress through the program. For example, a student’s overall caseload will likely be smaller during the Generalist portion of the program, while a caseload will expand as students pursue the Clinical sequence of courses.
MSW students will log hours using the EXXAT software found in the MSW Student Center. This is an important aspect of the fieldwork requirement, especially when it comes time for evaluation. Fieldwork course instructors conduct evaluations twice during the semester: mid-term and at the end of the field practicum.
Supporting You through the Social Work Field Experience
While the fieldwork component of the MSW fulfills a requirement for state social work licensure, we realize it is a massive time commitment that poses unique challenges. To help alleviate the stress, Utica University offers:
- Placement: Before students choose where they wish to conduct fieldwork placement, they will meet with the Director of Field Education, Field Coordinator, and an active student to determine how the student’s goals in social work align with agencies’ openings.
- Supervision: Students meet biweekly with a field agency-based supervisor to reflect on what they have learned and what new practices they can employ. During the alternate weeks, they meet in a live session with the fieldwork course instructor for additional group supervision.
- Career and Personal Development Center Support: Our career services center will help students compose a professional cover letter and resume when applying for fieldwork placements.
“There will be some classwork involved, but it will relate to the fieldwork you will be performing. You’ll come to the fieldwork class and receive supervision from the instructor, but we also give pointers and direction for cases you’ll be working on in the field.”– MSW DIRECTOR OF FIELDWORK