At Western Michigan University's School of Social Work, graduate field education is an essential component of social work education and provides students with an opportunity to integrate classroom learning with practice in the field. All full-time and extended-study students are required to complete two field placements for a total of 900 hours over a two-year period during the fall and spring semesters. Advanced-standing students complete one field placement for a total of 500 hours in the fall and spring semesters. The field placement is considered a required course and is taken concurrently with required course work according to the advanced-standing, full-time or extended plan of study. Students are also encouraged to explore the certificate programs, some of which have concurrent field placement requirements.
Field placements offer students the opportunity to learn about social problems, social welfare organizations, diverse client groups, communities and resources, and issues that are psychosocial in nature in an agency-based setting under the direct supervision of approved and credentialed social work field instructors. The field placement is an opportunity for students to add depth and breadth to their previous experience; it is also a time to explore a new area or field of study.
Field placement expectations
The field placement is an integral part of the M.S.W. program and has strict standards enforced by the Council on Social Work Education. Credit for current or past work experience is not an option nor available. All students must complete a field placement application form and submit it to the coordinator of field education, who is responsible for implementing the placement plan. Students must not contact agencies without approval from the coordinator of field education and must successfully interview and be selected for placement by the agency field instructor.
Each student in field placement is assigned a faculty liaison who provides support to the student and the agency field instructor. The faculty liaison monitors the student's progress, trouble-shoots if there are problems, and assigns the student's grade. The faculty liaison is the school's link to the community and works to strengthen the partnership between the school and the community. The faculty liaison serves as a channel for communication between classroom faculty, students and field instructors to promote awareness of student's needs and maximize educational opportunities in both the classroom and the field placement.