Frequently Asked Questions from Students
Social Work Field Education Department
Social Work Suite
Activities West, Third Floor
200 The Riverway
Boston MA 02215
Visit the Meet the Staff Page
• How many field placements will I have?
• Can I find my own placement?
• Why can't my current job count for my field placement?
• Okay. But can I do my placement at my current place of employment?
• Are there any placements where a stipend is provided?
• But isn't it illegal not to pay interns?
• I work and need flexible hours. Is it possible to do my placement on evenings and weekends?
• How far will I have to travel to my placement?
• How important is having a car?
• Can my hours spent in the Field Seminar class count toward my placement hours?
• What happens if, after starting, I don't like my field placement or don't get along with my Field Instructor? Can I be reassigned to a new agency?
• If I finish my minimum hours in the field before the semester ends can I stop going to my placement? Will I automatically receive credit?
• What happens on the days I should be at my placement if I get sick, or my car breaks down, or the agency is closed for a holiday, or I have a personal emergency? Do I have to make up hours in the field?
How many field placements will I have?
Students in the BSW program will do one year-long practicum their senior year, with a minimum of 400 hours to be completed over the course of two semesters. MSW students complete two field placements: a foundation placement in the first year (minimum 480 hours) and a concentration placement in the second year (minimum 720 hours). Students who start part-time will begin their foundation placement in the second year of the three-year or four-year program. Advanced standing students complete a Summer Gateway placement of 100 hours before entering into the concentration placement in their MSW program.
Can I find my own placement?
The Social Work Field Education Office must vet and approve all agencies where students can do their placements to assure that proper supervision and learning experiences are provided. Students who would like to explore field placements outside of established Social Work Field Education partnerships should discuss this at their placement planning meeting with their assigned field placement representative. Students may explore up to three sites and are required to complete a "Field Partnership Exploration Form" for each site. If a student begins a placement without following the aforementioned protocol, any hours accrued will not count towards the minimum number of hours required for field education.
Why can't my current job count for my field placement?
The educational requirement for field is one that is set by the Massachusetts Board of Registration of Social Workers. In order to ensure that your social work field practicum (which is required education by the Council on Social Work Education, our accrediting body) meets the requirement for state licensure, the field experience must meet a state-mandated standard to be considered towards your post-graduate licensure. These standards are not unique to Wheelock College's program and are the same at most BSW and MSW programs across the state. Your employment experience must be separate from your role as a student to ensure your learning is new and advanced as outlined in the Core Competencies and Practice Behaviors put out by CSWE.
Okay. But can I do my placement at my current place of employment?
At-work placements are possible if and when they meet specific criteria and are approved by the Social Work Field Education Office: (1) the site must be large enough to provide work for the student that is in a different part of the agency than where the student is employed (e.g., a student in a child welfare office who does investigations could be assigned to adoption work); (2) the MSW Field Instructor must be a different supervisor from the supervisor overseeing the work the student is employed to do; (3) the student and the agency must assure the Social Work Field Education Office that the student has release time from his/her employment to perform the placement hours, have supervision and take the field seminar; (4) the student's placement experience in the agency where s/he works meets the same criteria as students who are not employed at the placement site. If these criteria are met and a student completes the "Student Internship at Employment Application and Agreement", the Social Work Field Education Office makes a decision as to whether to approve the student placement in his or her agency of employment.
But isn't it illegal not to pay interns?
The Department of Labor established regulations regarding internship programs in relation to the Fair Labor Standards Act. Social work field education, as articulated in the CSWE Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards, is within the guidelines of the DOL's regulations for an educational internship and does not require payment, based on the following stipulations: (1) field education is associated with an academic program at an accredited institution of higher learning; (2) field education is structured around a classroom or academic experience, with articulated learning objectives/competencies; (3) the college or university exercises oversight over the internship program and provides educational credit; and (4) field education experience is supervised by social work program personnel; there is an agreement between the program and the field site and a learning contract between the student and the site.
I work and need flexible hours. Can I do my placement on evenings and weekends?
Most agencies require that the student be in placement between the hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Although some agencies may offer (or require) early evening hours to provide services to clients, it is important that the student be available to participate in the regular agency activities during the day as well, and at times when supervision is available. It is never feasible to have only a weekend/evening schedule for field placement.
How important is having a car?
Many agencies are accessible only by car or require a car for the assignment (e.g., to do home visits). Thus, there are more placement options to consider for students who have cars. We make every effort to partner with agencies that are accessible via public transportation to accommodate students without vehicles.
Can my hours spent in the Field Seminar class count towards my placement hours?
No, hours in the Field Seminar class cannot be used in lieu of time at your field placement. The seminar class is intended to complement and reinforce your performance in the field.
What happens if, after starting, I don't like my field placement or don't get along with my Field Instructor? Can I be reassigned to a new agency?
Not necessarily. Resolution of problems is a learning experience, and you will receive guidance and support from your Faculty Field Liaison in order to resolve issues that arise in field. Replacement is not considered until these efforts have been made. Keep in mind that a new placement may not immediately be available, which will set you back in terms of completing the required number of hours in the field, and you may then need to extend your time at your placement past two semesters. Specific policies and procedures on disrupted placements are discussed in the Student Handbook and Field Practicum Manual.
If I finish my minimum hours in the field before the semester ends can I stop going to my placement? Will I automatically receive credit?
No and no. You must remain at your placement through the end of each semester. Credit is given to students who demonstrate appropriate social work skills in field and complete all Field Seminar requirements (attendance, participation, and assignments).
What happens on the days I should be at my placement if I get sick, or my car breaks down, or the agency is closed for a holiday, or I have a personal emergency? Do I have to make up hours in the field?
Yes. Part of the flexibility afforded to students to arrange the days and times you are at your placement is working to make up the hours when agencies might be closed or you miss time at your placement due to personal reasons. You are responsible for completing the minimum hour requirements in field.