Posts Tagged ‘field placement’

This past week I have found out that what you do not know or realize can hurt you. I’m going to be making some changes in my life and educational track, but in order to explain the context, I need to give you, my dear reader, some history.

As a BSW student. I was in a placement that did not get me the kind of experience that I needed as a BSW student. During my entire placement, which spanned from late August 2010 to late April 2011, I had one client contact. My field instructor had been concerned about liability and skill levels, so another intern and I were told to observe and shadow for most of our time at the placement. I also contributed to some statistics and research projects, but most of my time was spent observing at this agency. When I did raise my concerns to faculty, my placement was not changed, despite the fact that I wasn’t doing anything that would contribute positively to my experience levels.

Despite these placement conditions, I did well in my field courses and practice courses and graduated from my program with a 3.6 GPA in my major. I did not think that my placement conditions would affect my future schooling.  I thought that wherever I went for future placements, I could share my story and my field instructors would bring me up to speed. While that’s an optimistic and sunny way of thinking, it wasn’t realistic at all.  Field instructors are entrusted with the task of equipping students with skills based on program requirements and grading them that way.  I was not equipped with what I needed for my first MSW placement.  Recognizing this, my summer field instructor contacted my field coordinator and informed her of some things that she was concerned about.  I had thought I would be fine, but a phone call on August 17 changed all of that. I was shocked by this call, and on August 18, I had a field review to discuss the issues.  My school wants to work with me for my success.  To this end, they have scheduled a special meeting called an Academic Standing and Student Review for this upcoming Monday at the school’s main campus.  This process is not one in which I am shunned or punished, but the decision that will be made will be best for my future and continuing my education. Despite good academic performance, I need to consider that the experience I have missed must be made up.  Regardless of whether I continue in the program part-time, or take a full year away from school entirely to work on my experience level and return full-time next year, I must recuperate the experience I have lost.  Some have said that this call and this problem has cost me a year of work, but if I continue in field placements, I am doomed to fail because of what I do not know.  While it hurts to think that my program will take a year longer than I anticipated and hoped for, it is the best thing for me and for the social work profession.

Following the field review, I spent some time regrouping with family and loved ones. I then went back to my alma mater and asked for help getting the experience I missed.  My former field coordinator contacted a field instructor in one of their trusted BSW placements, and through a series of calls and emails and a great interview on Thursday, I have a great informal internship. In addition, I hope to take part-time courses and work full-time or nearly full-time hours. There are also several personal goals that I’ll address during this time.

I didn’t know how important the experience that I missed really was. The experience piece is one of the most important components of the BSW, because whether the graduate continues into Masters or Doctorate programs or joins the workforce, the field work gives the BSW practical, professional experience. Without the experience piece, the BSW would present as an eclectic blend of political science, sociology, psychology, and research arts.  The BSW, however, is a professional degree, and that experience is paramount to networking, development, and identification as a social worker.  Never underestimate how much you learn from what you do.  Experience is one of the most effective teachers available.

I decided that a great post for today would be a more detailed description of the MSW program I’ve just started.

Advanced Standing

Because my undergrad degree is a Bachelor of Social Work, I qualify for Advanced Standing. The basic idea behind this is that Bachelor’s level students are prepared for generalist social work (case management and the like) during their senior year. The first year of a two-year MSW program contains the same material. Therefore, I am ready to take the specialization year, which could include organizational social work or clinical social work. I’m doing the clinical track.

Clinical Track

The clinical track prepares social work students for licensure and practice as clinical or interpersonal social workers. These social workers you would find as therapists, counselors, school social workers, medical social workers, court liaisons, welfare workers, and in similar positions. These social workers perform assessments and complete evaluations on individuals, families, and groups. They conduct practice-informed research and use research of theory and case studies and indications to shape their practices.


Because I am on a satellite campus, I have some options for electives. First, several electives will be offered on or near Oakland University’s campus. Second, I am welcome to take an elective in East Lansing, provided I can manage the schedule and the commute. Finally, there are online options for electives. I have opted to take 2 electives in Lansing during the summer semester. Each of these electives are intensive, two-day courses that are worth one credit each. In the Fall semester and Spring semester, I am taking online electives—two at 3 credits each. Each student must have a minimum of 6 elective credits, but I’ve signed up for 8 credits of electives that work well with my situation as a satellite student. One of the summer electives was in the middle of June, and I did very well in it. Doing well in that elective boosted my confidence in my ability to complete this program.

Program Length and Structure

Because I’m in the full-time program, I will complete it in 3 semesters, or just 10 months. The summer semester contains what program directors call “bridge courses”. These are designed to prepare BSW students, prepared by their perspective programs as generalist social workers, for the more track-intensive courses to follow in the next two semesters, Fall (late August to mid-December) and Spring (January to late April). Commencement will follow in the beginning of May.

With full-time coursework, students also complete a field placement for 16 hours per week each week that classes are held. The summer bridge semester is 7 weeks long, so field coordinators require 126 hours of field during this semester. The Fall and Spring semesters each require 238 hours to total just over 600 hours of field.

During the summer semester, including elective credits, I am carrying 10 credits. In the Fall semester and Spring, I carry 15 credits each semester for a total of 40 credits. Keep in mind that the field placement counts as college credit as part of that number.

It all sounds somewhat daunting, especially the condensed summer bridge semester, but it will go much more quickly than I realize. I’m enjoying it so far and I know that I will feel awe and gratitude when I finish just 10 short months from now.