Employment-Based Field Education

Students who work in human services may submit an employment-based field application.

Overview of employment-based field education

Field education is the signature pedagogy of social work education, where students develop their professional identity and integrate the skills and concepts learned throughout their coursework. The current best practice for field education requires students to engage in learning activities that are qualitatively different from prior volunteer or employment experiences and allow for the attainment of Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) competencies. Activities should be supervised by someone with at least a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. 

The Council on Social Work Education has long permitted employment-based field placements where job duties are distinctly different from a student’s designated field activities, and the work supervisor is different than the field educator. These rules were designed to protect the role of students as learners while engaged in field, with expectations different from those related to employment. New guidelines (issued in June 2020) allow students to request to count their work for some or all of their field hours, up to 15 hours per week.

When a student opts to pursue an employment-based field placement, it is the student’s responsibility to manage the process. This includes completing the application, making sure the necessary parties agree and gathering signatures. An employment-based field placement requires more responsibility on the part of the student. Generally, students who are not successful at a traditional agency field placement are not approved for employment-based field placements. If a student no longer wishes to pursue an employment-based field placement, they should contact their placement coordinator immediately. 

Employment-based field placement criteria

The following criteria must be met for the student to be approved for an employment-based field placement. Note: Many agencies have different policies regarding employment-based field placements. Before pursuing an employment-based field placement, students should consult with their employer about employment-field placement policies and procedures.

  1. Students must be in good standing, and not involved in a process of field-may not be approved for an employment-based field placement. The field placement must allow the student to participate in activities that link directly to the nine social work competencies (below). This may or may not be in the same setting as the student's current work. The current best practice is for students to have separate and unique work and field responsibilities. If this is not possible, and regular work duties are requested to count as field, the student must also propose some supplemental learning opportunities beyond work duties.
  2. The student must have been employed by the fieldwork site for a minimum of 60 days before submitting an employment-based field placement proposal.
  3. The student may only count 15 hours per week for field hours.
  4. A field educator is defined as an individual with a Master’s in Social Work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited program. The field educator should be licensed with an LMSW or LCSW. Note: If the field placement is in an agency/program that is exempt according to current NYS law (an exempt agency is one that has an NYS operating certificate from any of the following agencies: OMH, OMRDD, OCFS or OASAS), then the field educator may not need to be licensed.
  5. The field educator must agree to provide a social work perspective to the student’s field education experience. The field educator must agree to allow the student the space and permission to be a learner. In other words, the student’s role as a student should be prioritized along with their learning and skill development.
  6. The agency must be willing to establish an affiliation agreement with the School of Social Work if one does not already exist.
  7. The agency must be willing to allow the student/employee to attend classes and have an educationally focused field placement experience.
  8. The agency must be willing to allow the field educator to attend field education training and to have sufficient time to provide the minimum of at least one hour/week of supervision for the student. Supervision must focus on learning, skill development and competency development.
  9. The agency must be able to provide a generalist placement experience if the student/employee is applying for the first/foundation placement. If the agency provides a second/advanced year placement, it is necessary to provide a placement experience that allows the student to participate in advanced-level graduate social work activities. 
  10. The Employment-Based Application must be received by the deadline specified online. Once the application is returned to the Field Education Department, it will be reviewed, and a response will be given as soon as possible to indicate whether the placement has been approved. A site visit may be required as part of the application review process prior to determining approval. 

Listen and learn more

View an information session on employment-based field placements and the presentation slides. 

How do I apply?

To apply for an employment-based field placement, complete the following steps in our online software Sonia: 

  1. On your Field Placement Acknowledgement form, indicate that you are pursuing an employment-based field placement
  2. Navigate to the form titled, "Employment-Based Field Placement Application"
  3. Follow the directions on the form and complete all necessary fields
  4. After the application is completed, follow the directions on the form to seek signatures from your    
  • Work supervisor
  • Field Educator
  • Agency or Program Director

After all of those steps are completed, the field department will review your application and provide approval or feedback within approximately two weeks. 

See below for two samples of completed employment-based applications:

Capstone project

Students who are requesting to count their regular work duties as field will be expected to create a learning contract that contains at least one project that spans two semesters, that relates to the majority of the nine competencies, reflects attainment of social work values and ethics, and demonstrates substantial professional growth and development. For example, topic areas could include racial equity, anti-racism within social work practice, response to the COVID-19 pandemic or trauma-informed practices within the agency. Examples are below.

The students will upload an update on their project at mid-placement and final placement; there is a space to do so on the learning contract. A reflection is acceptable. Students will also be required to write a reflection about how the project has allowed them to integrate course content with field. The student's field educator will evaluate and comment on their project at the mid- and final placement evaluations. Finally, students will describe their project and upload materials, if appropriate, to a padlet board.

Capstone Project Examples

  • I will gather research and information on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness on mental health and for providers. I will also research the benefits of implementing mindfulness groups in mental health housing programs. I will create a training for staff and educate them on mindfulness and meditation benefits as providers and for clients. There is research that utilizing mindfulness improves peoples abilities as providers; It can help you be better attuned to client needs for example. I will implement a reoccurring meeting with staff where we participate in a meditation together. I will implement a twice weekly mindfulness group for clients that will entail education on utilizing mindfulness in day to day life and a guided meditation. For the clients that choose to participate I will request that they track their meditation minutes for research purposes. I will conduct a questionnaire with clients and staff before and after implementing the program. The student will fully research the topic of stigmatization and bias against individuals with psychotic disorders in the field of social work. The research compiled will be used to create and provide an agency-training on the topic. The student will then evaluate the training results.
  • The two semester long project I would be completing would be an assessment of the Institute for Trauma Recovery and Resiliency's trauma informed care practices followed by a training and set of recommendations. The project would include looking at how our practice completes intakes over the phone, if an online version would be more accessible to people, how we are screening clients (all of whom have a history of trauma), how women are introduced into starting the Intensive Outpatient Program and other ways where our practice is mindful of working with those with a traumatic past. Some of the nine competencies that would be highlighted are demonstrating ethical and professional behavior, engaging in practice informed research and research informed practice, engaging with individuals, families, groups and communities, assessing individuals, families, groups and communities, evaluating practice with individuals, families, groups and communities.
  • The student will complete a training on Cognitive Behavior Therapy. The student will integrate CBT in field experience and at the place of employment to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention during individual counseling with clients and during group sessions. Using CBT, the student and the client(s) will work together to identify unhelpful patterns of thinking and behavior.
  • I will evaluate the program policies and practices for how well they adhere to a trauma-informed model. After the evaluation is complete, I will make recommendations for helping to make the program more trauma-informed in its practices. I will present a training to the staff on trauma-informed practices.
  • I will work with my Leaders in Training groups to implement a service learning project. Students will choose an area or problem within the school or community that needs to be addressed. Once the students have chosen their topic I will work with them to create bulletin boards, videos, and train them to facilitate a classroom activity to teach their peers. When the students are creating their lesson, bulletin boards, and video, the After the classroom lesson that the LIT students teach, we will administer a short evaluation.


Still have questions?

Email us at sw-field@buffalo.edu.