Frequently Asked Questions

To better help you find answers to your questions, the FAQ page is organized into the following sections:

  • The Basics
  • Your Field Support Team
  • Field Instructor Questions
  • The Learning Contract
  • Choosing a Placement
  • School of Social Work Endorsement (MSW only)

The Basics 

What are my responsibilities as the student?

You are responsible for searching out, applying for, interviewing at, and securing a field placement.  The university has an online database of agencies, including their contact information.  You will be provided login information to the database in the term prior to your field placement.

You need to complete a minimum number of required hours in placement. 

You will need to track your hours in placement in a way that works for you and your supervisor.  Some agencies will require you to keep a formal log/time sheet at the agency.

Once in placement, you will work with your supervisor to develop your Learning Contract, which lists activities you will complete during placement to maximize your learning. Observation, direct work, research and many other duties, tasks, and experiences can count toward placement, as long as you and your instructor agree.

You will participate in a seminar class concurrent with your placement, which will have additional assignments/requirements.

What are the required hours?

The total required hours are different depending on your program level:

BA Social Work Field:  minimum 400 clock hours (8 semester hours) in one semester (Spring or Summer)

MSW Foundation:  minimum 210 clock hours (3 semester hours) in one semester (Spring or Summer)

MSW Advanced:  minimum 700 clock hours (10 semester hours) over Fall and Spring semesters

Here is a matrix outlining the detail at each level.  

Field Requirements Matrix

How many hours per week do I need to spend at field placement?

This depends on how many semester hours you are doing and in which term.
You need to take into account time you might be off for illness or breaks (like spring break or winter break).
Time commuting to and from your placement does not count.  Only time involved in placement related activities can count towards your total.

The following breakdown is the number of hours you should anticipate being in placement if you use every week in the semester.  These are the lowest number of hours per week possible.  If you want to take Spring Break and/or finals week off, you will need to adjust the number of weeks being divided by and adjust your hours accordingly.  You may need to complete more hours per week if you take breaks or miss some placement time due to illnesses, etc.  It is always best to build in a contingency plan in case of unexpected absences.

BA Social Work Field

Spring:  400 hrs/17 weeks = 23.5 hours per week

Summer:  400 hrs/12 weeks = 33.33 hours per week

MSW Foundation

Spring:  210 hrs/17 weeks = 12.4 hours per week

Summer:  210 hrs/12 weeks = 17.5 hours per week

MSW Advanced (700 hours)

350 hours each semester/17 weeks = 21 hours per week

Advanced students are able to complete hours over the interim between the fall and spring semesters.  It is not necessary to be registered for more than the minimum number of semester hours to be able to log hours over break.  These hours can count towards either fall or spring semester totals.

Can I do extra hours in field placement to count as elective credit?

It may be possible for you to do extra hours as elective credit but you will want to talk about this with your advisor.  It works differently for each level of placement but field placement runs consistently with the academic calendar. 

Here are general guidelines by level:

Field (1 credit hour = 50 hours in placement):  There is a cap of 15 credit hours for undergraduate students on the number of S/U graded classes that can count towards your degree.  You will need to take this into account when deciding with your advisor if field as elective credit will work in your situation.

Spring Placement:  Students can take up to 3 additional semester hours in field. 

Summer Placement:  Students can take 1 additional semester hour in field.  Summer students are more limited due to university credit hour restrictions on the shortened summer sessions.

MSW Foundation:  Foundation students are currently unable to take additional practicum hours as elective credit.

MSW Advanced (1 credit hour = 70 hours in placement):

Students can take 2 additional semester hours in field.

Students are already required to take 5 semester hours of field each semester, which is 350 hours in placement each semester.

Possible options to divide additional hours would be to take 6 semester hours in one semester and 6 in the other, or 7 semester hour in one and 5 in the other.

Most people who take additional hours do hours over the winterim break.  This seems to confuse students because we are so clear about not starting placement early due to liability insurance.  Your liability insurance runs continuously from the start of fall until the end of spring semester, which is why you are able to do hours over winterim.

(MSW Advanced Students Only)  If I do additional hours over break, how do I count those?  Which semester does it count towards?

The easiest explanation is that you accumulate hours until you reach as many as you need for the fall and when you hit that number, then additional hours after that point get counted towards the spring.

How do I keep track of my hours?

The University does not require you to turn in a log of the hours you complete in placement; however, you may be required to log by your agency.  Students are expected to keep track of their hours on their own which could be useful if there is any discrepancy between a student’s report of hours and the agency’s report of the student’s time.  You may use whatever method works for you to keep track of your hours, such as writing in a planner, keeping a specific log, or using a spreadsheet.

When can I start my placement?

Placement starts the first week of the semester.  We cannot allow students to start early due to liability insurance.  The only activity you can begin before the first week of classes is training/orientation.  You are not allowed to engage in work with clients or deliver services.

Exact schedules (including start and end dates) for each center are available here.

Can I work extra hours per week in an effort to get my field placement hours completed early? 

No.  You are expected to be in placement for the full duration of the term.  You may put in more time during the holiday and spring breaks to reduce your hours per week, but cannot do your placement in a large block.  If you want to conclude your placement more than 1 week before the end of the semester, you will need your Field Staff’s approval. 

Where do I find all the forms you talk about?

Forms are located here

I have more questions! What do I do?

Contact the Field Staff for your center, who can help you answer your specific questions.  Click here for a listing of Field Staff.

Your Field Support Team

Sometimes it can be confusing to students who everyone is and what their individual roles are.  In some centers faculty serve in multiple roles.

Role Diagram

Here is a general layout of the people involved in your field experience.  Each role is outlined below.

Field Team Roles

SW Field Instructor

For most students, the Field Instructor and Agency Supervisor will be the same person.  In that case, the responsibilities listed below for both roles would be the responsibility of one person, rather than two.

Field instructors need to have the required degree (which their student is seeking) plus two years of work experience post social work degree completion. Specific requirements regarding field instructors can be found here.

Field instructors have very important responsibilities that include:

Provide one hour of supervision to the student per week, at a minimum

Assist the student in learning about the agency and connecting with people and projects to advance learning

Help the student develop the learning contract

Share any issues or concerns about the student’s progress with the SSW coordinator in a timely manner

Meet with the student and the SSW coordinator for site visits

Evaluate the student in IPT at the end of each term

Agency Supervisor

The agency supervisor oversees a student’s day-to-day work.  Most students will do their field placements in an agency that has someone with the requirements to be the social work field instructor who also will serve as their task supervisor.

Some students will have a social work field instructor who provides the social work supervisor but a different person, an agency supervisor, who oversees the student’s daily work.

The responsibilities of agency supervisors include:

Fully orient the student to the agency

Assist the student in learning about the agency and connecting with people and projects to advance learning

Help the student develop the learning contract

Share any issues or concerns about the student’s progress with the social work field instructor and coordinator in a timely manner

Meet with the student, social work field instructor, and the coordinator from the University for site visits

Evaluate the student in IPT at the end of each term in partnership with the social work field instructor

Seminar Instructor

Concurrently with your placement, you will also have a seminar instructed by faculty.  Seminar is a place to process your field experiences as well as to learn from other people’s experiences in different agencies.  Seminar and your seminar instructor are additional supports outside of your placement agency.  Because seminar is a class, you will have additional assignments, determined by your seminar instructor that you will be responsible for outside of but related to your placement.

Academic Advisor

You already have an academic advisor who is responsible for helping guide you through the program.  This person is responsible for helping you sign up for the appropriate classes at the appropriate times so that you can complete the program in your selected timeline.  In looking for a field placement, your advisor may be a good resource for placements that might be a good fit for you because your advisor may know you better than other faculty.  Your advisor is not typically involved directly in your field placement, but you will maintain the connection with that person throughout your time in the program.

Field Coordinator

You will be assigned a field coordinator for your time in placement.  Your field coordinator is your liaison between the University and your placement.

Their responsibilities include:

Ensure educational objectives of the field placement are being met

Provide guidance to students

Serve as an educational resource for both students and field instructors

Provide assistance when there are difficulties in the field placement

Complete site visits at the placement.  For more information specifically about site visits, click here.

Field Administrator

The field administrator oversees the field program for your center.  Your field administrator and their support staff are your go-to people before you begin your placement to answer questions and help resolve issues.  Once you are in field, your first line of support for issues or concerns are you supervisors and coordinator, but the field administrator continues to be a resource if issues or concerns arise.

Click here for a listing of each center’s field administrator and staff.

Field Instructor Questions

What are the requirements for someone to be a Field Instructor?

The following requirements come from the Council on Social Work Education and are related to the program’s accreditation.  Because of that, we cannot make exceptions to these rules. 

The requirements are slightly different depending on the level:

Field:  The field instructor must have a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work plus two years of work experience post-BA Social Work degree completion.

Foundation & Advanced:  The field instructor must have a Master’s degree in Social Work plus two years of work experience post-MSW degree completion.

This person can be the person who will be your direct supervisor or someone else, such as an agency administrator, employee, or volunteer.  If the person who meets these requirements is not your direct supervisor at the agency, you will likely have two supervisors, the SW Field Instructor (who meets the requirements) and a Task Supervisor (who provides more daily supervision and support).

It is possible that the program center you are at has additional requirements, such as social work licensure.  Please check with the Field Administrator at your center.

What happens if I find a field placement but the agency does not have someone with the credentials required to supervise me? 

You may still be able to do a field placement at the agency.  You need to make your Field Administrator aware of the circumstances as soon as possible so that they can work with you to find a professional from the community to help co-supervise your placement. In this case, you would likely have two supervisors: the SW Field Instructor (who meets the requirements) and a Task Supervisor (who provides more daily supervision and support).

The Learning Contract

What should I put in the learning contract?

The learning contract outlines competencies and practice behaviors that the Council on Social Work Education requires students to demonstrate proficiency. 

On your learning contract, you need to come up with at least one learning activity per practice behavior relevant to your agency placement that can be measured to show that you have demonstrated the specific social work skill.

Learning activities can allow you demonstrate more than one practice behavior, but you need at least one for each practice behavior.

The Learning Contract is confusing.  Even after the information I received from my instructors, I am not sure how to develop the correct learning activities for each competency.

You will begin receiving information about the Learning Contract in your field orientation meeting at the beginning of the semester in which your placement starts.  It will also be discussed in Seminar. 
The first step is to brainstorm a list of all the things you would like to do or learn in placement.  Next, speak with your Field Instructor/Task Supervisor about possible activities inside the agency to meet each competency. 

Your Field Coordinator is another resource to help you determine possible activities to include in your Learning Contract.  This person will also be visiting your placement early in the semester to help finalize your Learning Contract.  You should reach out to them before that meeting if you need help.

Here are resources to help you develop learning activities:

BASW Generalist Practice Example

MSW Family-Centered Practice Example

MSW Integrated Practice Example

Learning Contract Prompts

Where do I fill out my Learning Contract?

Your learning contract is electronic and will be filled out and evaluated in the school’s Intern Placement Tracking (IPT) database.  This is the same database that you use to search for agencies and you will use the same login information.

Choosing a Placement

How do I find a placement?  Am I expected to do it myself?

You will attend a planning meeting in the semester prior to your field placement.  Information will be provided in that meeting about how to access the school’s Intern Placement Tracking Database (IPT).  In IPT is a listing of agencies who are already set up with the school to take placements.  Agency profiles contain contact information provided to us by the agency.  IPT is a good starting place for most people unless you are familiar with the area and have a specific agency in mind already.  

Each UISSW Center may have a slightly different agency selection process.  For students in the Iowa City Center, the field program is choice-based which means that students choose their own placements, rather than the school matching students to agencies.  This means that it is your responsibility to directly contact agencies and ultimately find your placement.

Finding a placement can be a rigorous process.  You are highly encouraged to start the process as soon as possible.  If you are unable to secure a placement before the deadline, it will affect your progress in the program.

How do I know what agencies might be a good fit for me?

There is no perfect placement.  It might be helpful for you to consider what you want to get out of field. 

Some questions you might ask yourself are:

What type of setting do I want to be in?

What type of skills do I want to enhance (i.e. case management, therapy, policy work, etc.)?

What type of supervision do I want?

What type of structure do I work best in (flexible vs. structured)?

What populations am I interested in working with?

You will be able to run searches by keywords or types of agencies in IPT.  Your academic advisor and field administrator are also valuable resources because they may know about opportunities in the practice community.

Can I split my placement between two or three agencies?

Not usually. It is not advisable to split up your placement because you would short change your learning experience. If you have a special circumstance that would merit splitting the placement, please contact your Field Administrator to discuss this.

Can I do my placement at an agency where I already work?

Employment-based placements can be very rewarding, but are also tricky. Detailed information regarding Employment-Based placements can be found here.  You will need to discuss this placement possibility with your Field Administrator.  We also require you to do some additional planning, as described in the Application for Employment-Based Placement.

(MSW only)  Can I do my advanced placement at the same place where I did my Foundation placement?

This is a possibility but the decision to approve this is conditional on the professional discernment of your Field Administrator, related to whether or not an advanced placement at the same agency will provide you with new opportunities/tasks, advanced skill development, and more autonomous functioning.  Please contact your Field Administrator.

(MSW only) I already did an employment-based foundation placement. Can I do my advanced placement at work too?

Given some strong educational safeguards, it is possible to do a second placement at your work site but it is highly unlikely.  You will need a clear rationale about how your advanced placement will be different and how it will meet the goals of an advanced placement. 

To get approval for a second work-based placement, you need to speak with your Field Administrator and complete the Application for Employment-Based Placements. In your Application for Employment-Based Placement, you and your agency also need to address these points:

Student Statement.

What is your interest in pursuing a second placement at this agency?

What is your practice interest, and how will doing a second placement at the agency further that interest – in a way that will significantly differ from your job duties and your first placement experience?

How does this tie in with who you are and what you want to do in your life?

How will you ensure that you will have a learning and not a work experience at the agency?

Agency Statement.

What is your interest in having the student complete a second work-based placement?

How will the agency ensure that the student is a student first, and worker second?

What value does the agency place on education and on-the-ground experience for social workers?

What is your investment in the student?

How will supervision be handled, especially since the field instructor would likely need to be different from the first placement, given the new area of interest?

School Social Work Endorsement (MSW only)

There are specific placement requirements in order to complete the School Social Work Endorsement. 

This includes:

The field placement site is required to be at any of the Area Education Agencies in the State of Iowa, and other school districts by arrangement.

Placement must occur in the school setting.

Supervision of the student must be under an experienced School Social Work practitioner/Licensed Social Worker to include experiences in assessment; direct services to children and families; consultation; staffing; community liaison and documentation; which leads to development of professional identity and disciplined use of self.

If a person has served two years as a school social worker, the placement experience can be waived.  This experience must be documented when application for licensure is submitted.