The University of Tennessee, Knoxville



Frequently Asked Questions for Students

About Field Education

Hopefully the following information will answer most of the questions that students might ask. Field instructors should click the link below for further information.

(FAQs for Field Supervisors)

Number One

What is a field placement?

A field placement is a supervised internship in an organization that provides social work services. The organization may be a social service agency or a school, hospital, prison, or other type of agency. Supervision is provided by a social worker. Completion of field placements is required for both the BSSW and MSSW degrees.

Number two

Why do I need to complete a field placement?

Social work practice requires integration of knowledge, values, ethics, and skills. The field experience enables students to apply knowledge from the classroom to real-life practice settings.This enables students to integrate theory and practice and develop into competent, ethical social work practitioners.

How many hours are required?

Junior BSSW students complete 120 field hours and attend a concurrent field seminar.

Senior BSSW students complete 480 field hours. Students can complete senior field concurrently, over two semesters (fall and spring), completing 240 field hours each semester. Or Block field is an option for senior students, students complete 480 field hours in one semester (spring semester only). In order to complete block field, all social work courses (except SOWK 460) must be completed. Senior students attend a concurrent field seminar.

Students in the two-year and extended study MSSW programs complete a total of 1024 hours in the field organization and 39 hours in generalist field seminar. Students in the advanced standing MSSW program complete 672 hours in the field organization.

Number four

Can I count my work experience as my field placement?

Many social work students enter their program with substantial practice experience in social service or mental health settings. The College recognizes that this experience may have led to the acquisition of valuable knowledge and skills for practice. However, our accrediting body, the Council on Social Work Education, does not allow for applying current or past employment to field requirements.

Number five
What is the process for being assigned to a field placement?

The Field Coordinator for each campus/program is responsible for facilitating the placement process for each student in that program. Each student works with her/his Field Coordinator to identify potential placements and to arrange for placement interviews. Depending on the specific program and level of placement, this process may involve submission of planning forms, resumes, meetings with the Field Coordinator, attendance at placement fairs, and completion of one or more placement interviews. The final decision regarding placement assignment is made by the Field Coordinator.

Number six

What are the roles and responsibilities of the field team?

The Field Coordinator for each program or campus is responsible for oversight of the field experience for all students in that program. This includes development
of placement sites; selection and training of Field Instructors; selection, training, and supervision of Field Liaisons; coordinating the placement planning process for students; problem-solving student and agency concerns; and providing oversight or instruction of field seminar.

The Field Liaison provides linkage between the College of Social Work, the student, and the Field Instructor. The Liaison provides consultation as needed and assists in resolving concerns and problems in field.

The Field Instructor provides oversight of the student's educational experience in the placement setting. This includes providing orientation and training for the student, developing the learning plan, completing evaluations, providing weekly supervision, and selecting and supervising the work of Task Instructors.

The Task Instructor is a field agency employee who provides supervision and instruction of students as delegated by the Field Instructor.

The Student is an adult learner who is expected to approach her/his field experience with professionalism, initiative, and accountability and to use the field team for support if concerns or problems arise.

The Director of Field and International Education is responsible for oversight of the field education for all of the programs of the College and for supervision of all field coordinators. The director is also responsible for developing international partnerships for students to study and complete field abroad and for working with students to arrange international experiences.

Number seven

What are the qualifications for field instructors?

A field instructor must have a degree in social work from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. A BSSW field instructor may have a BSSW or MSSW degree. An MSSW field instructor must have an MSSW/MSW degree. Field instructors are also required to have two years of post -social work degree practice experience.

Number eight
What is the difference between the BSSW Junior and Senior Placements?

The BSSW Junior Placement provides an introduction to professional social work practice in an agency setting. This placement may include more observation and shadowing than practice experience. The BSSW Senior Placement is focused on development of competence in the skills of generalist social work practice. This placement includes observation but requires that students be actively engaged in assessment, intervention, and evaluation of practice at multiple client system levels.

Number nine

What is the difference between the MSSW Generalist and Concentration placements?

The MSSW Generalist placement enables the student to apply the broad course content in an agency setting and develop competence in generalist social work practice. This includes assessment, engagement, intervention, evaluation , advocacy, and policy practice at multiple client system levels. The concentration placement is focused on the development of advanced knowledge and skills for practice within the student's chosen concentration and, if applicable, a specific certificate program. As such, this is a much more specialized placement experience.

Number ten

What types of settings are available for field placements?

The College of Social Work has developed partnerships with a wide variety of public and private, not-for-profit and for-profit organizations serving diverse client systems throughout Tennessee, in other states, and internationally. Students are able to select from this dynamic list of organizations to arrange for placements in their areas of interest. Although not every student interest can be addressed in every location, the College offers multiple placements in schools, hospitals, state and local government agencies, community organizations, mental health and substance abuse treatment settings, and in the criminal justice system. Placements also provide specialized services to seniors, veterans, immigrants and refugees, the homeless, and persons affected by trauma. Students are able to engage in placements that focus on advocacy, policy practice, program development and evaluation and community organizing. The College maintains a variety of placements that enable students to meet the requirements of certificate programs in Veterinary Social Work,, Gerontology, and Treatment of Trauma.

Number eleven

Are there any placements available during evenings and weekends?

The vast majority of placements are available only during regular weekday business hours. Accreditation standards require that students be supervised by someone with a social work degree who meets the requirements to be a field instructor. Although there are many organizations that serve clients on a 24/7 basis, the social work staff usually works during normal business hours. If students can only complete their field placement during evening and weekend hours, they may be unable to complete the MSSW program.

Number twelve

Will I need a car for field placement?

Students are responsible for their own transportation to their field placements. The availability of public transportation varies by area, and many field agencies are not accessible by public transportation. Consequently, students generally need access to a personal vehicle for field placement. Lack of access to a personal vehicle severely limits the number of placement options available to a student. In addition, many placements require students to do home visits, visit other agencies, or attend meetings at other locations.

Number thirteen

What if I have problems in my placement or am concerned that it is not meeting my learning needs?

Students are expected to approach their field placements with openness, flexibility, and commitment to engaging in the learning experience. If the student has concerns about the quality of the learning experience, s/he should first discuss these concerns with her/his field instructor. If the concerns persist, the student should contact her/his field liaison for assistance. If the student's concerns cannot be satisfactorily addressed by this process, the student may submit a request to the field coordinator to terminate the placement and be reassigned to another placement. The decision about whether to reassign the student is made by the field coordinator.

Number fourteen

Am I allowed to quit or to resign from my placement?

Students are not allowed to quit or resign from their placements. However, they may submit a written request for termination of the placement to their field coordinator. If the student is experiencing distress in the placement, s/he may contact the field instructor to notify her/him that she will be absent and then immediately contact the field coordinator to schedule a consultation meeting.

Number fifteen

Will I be able to complete a placement at my current place of employment? What is the process for requesting to do so?

Students may request to complete a field placement within their employing agency. Certain requirements must be met in order to meet accreditation standards. The employing agency must meet the College's requirements for field placement sites. The placement cannot be the same as the student's employment position and must represent new learning that addresses the competencies of the specific practicum course. The student's field placement must be supervised by someone who is not involved in the student's employment supervision and who meets all College requirements for being a field instructor. The student must submit the written proposal and a signed contract to her/his field coordinator for approval. This procedure is detailed in the field manual.

Number sixteen

Am I allowed to create my own field placement?

The field coordinator has primary responsibility for development of field placement sites. If a student is interested in placement in a setting that is not currently affiliated with the College, the student should contact her/his field coordinator to notify her/him of interest in the site and to provide contact information, if available. The field coordinator will contact the site to explore the possibility of developing a placement for the student. Both the placement site and the field instructor must meet all College requirements.

Number seventeen

May I split my placement between two agencies?

Students are assigned to one organization for their practicum. The student's educational experience is enhanced by presence and engagement in the agency over time. The student gains increasing knowledge of the agency's structure and services and is able to engage in increasingly complex projects and services. An organization may provide some exposure to another agency through coalition meetings or joint projects.

Number eighteen

May I complete my placement abroad or in another city?

Students may request to complete a placement in other cities or internationally in order to pursue specialized learning experiences and address specific career interests. These types of plans generally require the student to be in early and regular contact with their field coordinators during the planning process and to also consult with the Director of Field and International Education for placement abroad.

Number nineteen
May I receive a stipend or other payment for field?

Most organizations in which students are placed do not have funding to pay students for their work. However, if an organization has funding for student salaries or stipends, the student may accept this as long as the student's role as learner remains primary. The student may not accept a regular staff position in the organization and count this as field.

Number twenty

Is there a class associated with field?

Students in the BSSW field courses and in MSSW generalist field are enrolled in a concurrent field seminar. Students are required to complete written and online assignments for seminar. There is no field seminar for MSSW concentration field.

Number twenty-one

Are there any requirements that I will have to complete before starting my placement?

Many field agencies have specific requirements for students to complete criminal background checks, drug screens, physical exams or screenings, submit driving records, etc. Students are required to fulfill the specific requirements of the agency to which they have been assigned. In most cases, students will be financially responsible for these requirements.

Number twenty-two

Where can I find more information about field education?

This resources is helpful to students wanting to learn more about field education: .


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