GSS Field Education
Field Education is the signature pedagogy of social work education, which underscores its significance to the educational curriculum of social work degree programs. Field is the setting where students conceptualize and demonstrate competency of social work practice, and it is a necessary component of the MSW program.
At the Graduate School of Social Service, field work courses account for almost one-third of the required credits necessary for completion of the MSW degree. Students have to complete two field practicums, one at the Generalist/Foundation level and the second at the Advanced/Specialist level. Through the field practicums, students engage in a range of direct practice experiences with clients, organizations, communities and social/political systems. To earn the MSW degree, students are required to complete a minimum of 950 hours of fieldwork, 450 for the Generalist field practicum and 500 for the Specialist field practicum. Satisfactory completion of field is contingent upon the completion of required field hours and the demonstration of competency of practice at both the Generalist and Specialist levels. Fordham has partnerships with thousands of field agency sites and programs within the tri-State area and nationally. These field agencies provide services to a range of populations and engage in practices that expose students to a variety of evidence-based treatment modalities. Our location within New York’s metropolitan area also provides students with rich learning opportunities within one of the most culturally diverse areas of the United States.
Field practicums occur at field sites that provide quality social work services. he supervision of students in field must be provided by a social work practitioner who has earned an MSW degree from a CSWE-accredited social work program and has at least two years of post-graduate social work practice experience. New field instructors are required to attend a training that prepares them for being quality educators of social work practice in the field. Fordham provides these trainings, called the Seminar in Field Instruction (SIFI), and completion of the course provides 24 hours of continuing education credits for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut social work licensure.
Generalist field introduces students to direct social work practice with individuals, families, and/or groups within organizational systems that help students conceptualize the ways in which social policy, regulatory standards, and community needs affect service delivery. To broaden and expand skills in social work practice, students learn and apply these foundational practice skills with new and unfamiliar populations outside of their previous work or volunteer experiences. As a result, the Field Education Department assigns Generalist field placements.
Upon completion of the Generalist field practicum, students then progress to taking an advanced Specialist field practicum. In Specialist field, students learn and apply advanced levels of practice with more complex client systems and/or concentrated practice modalities. In Specialist field, students have the option of engaging in advanced clinical practice or macro/administrative practice. In the assignment of Specialist field placements, students work collaboratively with Field staff, and they have more input into the field placement selection.
As part of the Field Work course, students are required to take a field seminar. The Field Seminar is a supportive resource to help students understand and conceptualize their social work practice within a peer-learning environment. Topical discussions and other learning tools provide additional resources for helping students translate learning from the conceptual to the intuitive. Students are required to attend seven field seminar sessions that meet approximately once per month during the course of each of the field practicums. Field seminar sessions meet for two hours, for a total of 14 hours over the course of the academic year. Hours in field seminar count toward the total number of hours required for the completion of Field Work courses.
The Field Seminar is facilitated by a field advisor who supports students’ field learning by responding to challenges experienced in field. The field advisor is a liaison between the School and field agency, and works to ensure that students have quality learning experiences in field. The field advisor is a support to both the student and the supervising field instructor toward developing cohesive working relationships for student learning.
In the completion of the 950 hours of field, students have the option of choosing between 16-21 hours for their weekly internship schedule. The internship schedule typically runs from September to May of each Academic year for oncampus students, while there may alternate time frames for online students, due to differing start and end times.
We recognize that many prospective students work full-time and have full lives. While other coursework in our educational curriculum provide flexible options for disseminating and evaluating course content, fieldwork requires direct interface with individuals in practice and observed evaluation of competency of practice skills by a qualifying MSW-level field instructor. Therefore, students have to be available at some time during the workweek, which is generally Monday through Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. The majority of social work practice occurs during the workweek, and agency sites require that students be available during this time to optimize on 1) engaging in collaborative and interdisciplinary practice offerings; 2) having access to clients and macro level projects; and 3) building linkages to collateral resources for service delivery. Additionally, evening and weekend hours tend to lack quality supervision and/or social work practice opportunities. As a result, students preparing for field must be available, at a minimum, four consecutive hours during the workday from Monday through Friday. It is incumbent that students prepare for field by adjusting their schedules to accommodate field when it begins.
To fulfill field practicum requirements, students may request a Work/Study field placement within the traditional field schedule options. Work/Study is also another employment-based field practicum for which students may apply when they are preparing to begin field. If students work in a social service agency for at least six months, they may submit a proposal for a Work/Study field placement. To qualify for Work/Study, students must obtain the authorization from their employing supervisor and agency official to be allowed release time from work to conduct their field practicum in a separate area from their employment duties and under the supervision of a qualifying MSW-level practitioner who is different from the employing supervisor. Work/Study involves a process that is subject to approval/denial by the Field Education Department during the field application process. Incomplete Work/Study proposals will not be accepted. Students considering Work/Study must submit a Work/Study proposal and a field application by the respective due dates. Students may also qualify for Employment-Based placements, and are directed to speak with the Field Department regarding this application process.