Practicum instruction is an integral component of social work education. Practicum teaching is a partnership between the Social Work and Criminal Justice Program and social service organizations who work together to help students integrate theory and practice. It is conducted in the field by professional social work practitioners selected by community agencies and approved by the faculty of the Social Work and Criminal Justice Program and the School of Social Work. For basic information about field placements, please read the MSW Practicum FAQs.
Field Education Expectations
"Practicum" is an educational/learning experience required for academic credit.
One of the many purposes of Field Education is to provide a “practicum” experience for social work students that prepares them for autonomous professional social work practice/leadership. Field Education is the central pedagogy of social work education and is structured around a classroom experience. The integration of theory and practice is central to social work education and students are required as part of their academic program to have supervised field learning experience/s (practicum/s) where required competencies and practice behaviors are mastered. These learning experiences are under the supervision of a Field Instructor from the agency of placement and a Field Faculty member from the Social Work and Criminal Justice Program.
These learning experiences are not work opportunities or job experience; on the contrary they are supervised educational/learning experiences. Students do not have independent responsibility/decision making authority and must receive their assignments/guidance/plan for learning from the Field Instructor and/or Field Faculty.
Students are required to engage in the development of a Learning Contract with the Field Instructor and Field Faculty member from the Social Work and Criminal Justice Program. The Learning Contract spells out specific learning activities for the academic year. Students and Field Instructors meet weekly at a minimum to discuss learning activities from a Social Work perspective and to evaluation learning/mastery of the competencies.
In addition to other conversations and information we have and will be sharing with you related to the field education experience the information below is provided with hopes of being clear as to expectations of students while they are in placement for their field education learning experience. This learning experience is educational in nature and based on articulated competencies and practice behaviors and is attached to academic credit. It is anticipated/expected students cooperate with the Social Work and Criminal Justice Program/their assigned Field Faculty to ensure at all times they are engaged in a supervised learning/educational experience. This experience is not a job/work nor should it be viewed at any time as taking the place of agency staff or workload mitigation.
We encourage you to contact our Office of Field Education if you have any questions. Please contact Tom Diehm, UW Tacoma Field Coordinator at 253-692-5823 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Fair Labor Standards: Regulations and Criteria
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) established regulations regarding internship programs in relation to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). (PDF)
A practicum placement may be considered exempt from minimum wage and overtime requirements if it meets all six of the following criteria developed by the Department of Labor:
1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.
If all of the factors listed above are met, an employment relationship does not exist under the FLSA, and the Act’s minimum wage and overtime provisions do not apply to the intern. The Council on Social Work Education has reviewed this information and has released a statement clarifying that any unpaid social work field education placements must meet all 6 of the DOL criteria. At this time, CSWE has indicated that these same criteria apply even to placements in the public and not-for-profit sectors.
Council on Social Work Education: Policy and Standards for Field Education
From the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) statement (PDF)
Field education, as articulated in the CSWE Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards, is clearly within the guidelines of the Department of Labor regulations for an educational internship and does not require payment. Social work field education meets the following stipulations:
- Field education is associated with an academic program at an accredited institution of higher learning.
- Field education is structured around a classroom or academic experience, with articulated learning objectives/competencies.
- The college or university exercises oversight over the internship program and provides educational credit.
- The field education experience is supervised by Social Work and Criminal Justice Program personnel; there is an agreement between the program and the field site and a learning contract between the student and the site.
- The Social Work Field Education program is meant to be solely educational and provide training to prepare the professional social worker. It is not meant to supplant or replace existing employees of social work within the field education program site.
- The field placement is meant to provide an educational and training opportunity to the social worker, and is not meant to provide any immediate advantage to the employer or the field site.
STAR system access
STAR is UW's web-based system for coordinating field placements, learning contracts and evaluations. We offer a series of trainings to bring all students and field instructors up to speed. STAR system access is available if you have a UW NetID.
Please bookmark the URL for STAR login: http://star.ssw.washington.edu. You will use this site frequently.
Immunizations and Other Special Requirements for Field Placements
All students entering or continuing in a field placement must be in compliance with Health Sciences Immunization Program (HSIP) requirements. Students out of compliance will not be allowed to enter a field placement. If you are in a field placement and fall out of compliance with HSIP requirements, you will be removed from the placement until you are again in compliance.
HSIP does not require annual flu vaccinations; however, if you are thinking of doing a field placement in a medical setting, or one that is medically-related, you MUST be able to document an up-to-date flu vaccination. For field placement purposes, it is suggested that students be annually vaccinated for the flu while a student in the Social Work and Criminal Justice Program.
Medical settings also require that students have some special training prior to beginning a placements. These include (but are not limited) to: Blood-Borne Pathogens, CPR, and HIPAA. You may also be required to show proof of health insurance coverage (which includes student health insurance available through the UW Tacoma). Any costs associated with these requirements are the responsibility of the student.
K-12 settings will require that students go through a fingerprinting background check in addition to the background check conducted by the Social Work and Criminal Justice Program when you were admitted. Any costs associated with these additional background checks are the responsibility of the student.
MSW Foundation Practicum (T SOCW 524)
MSW Advanced Practicum (T SOCW 525)