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College of Social Work

Field Education

Field education is the heart of the Master of Social Work program. From your first semester until graduation, you will gain real-world experience by providing service in a series of practicums. The hands-on learning and individual coaching provided through the field education component of our program will equip you to become a successful practitioner.

 We design field education to prepare you for the challenges and rewards of effective social work practice. As a student practitioner, you will integrate the knowledge, skills and values you have learned in the classroom and apply them to real-world social work situations. You will earn course credit for field education, which is scheduled concurrently with other classes.


Placement Opportunities

Your field education begins with foundation-level placements that offer exposure to generalist practice. As you progress to advanced course work and declare your specialization, your practicums will likewise become more focused and give you experience in a particular practice area. You can pursue traditional placements in social services organizations as well as innovative team-based practicums where you will serve on an inter-professional team. In most cases, your practicum will require you to be on site a minimum of two full days per week at an organization developing a professional social work skill set by providing services or supporting the constituents of community organizations. Working with your field instructor, you will develop, practice and improve your professional skills.

The College of Social Work delivers this pivotal component of social work education in partnership with more than 400 organizations in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia, and we also offer international practicums on an individual basis. We have helped our students design meaningful field experiences in Vietnam, Equatorial Guinea, Aruba and Africa, among other locations.



We structure our field education in accordance with the Council on Social Work Education, and our field instructors adhere to the National Association of Social Worker’s Code of Ethics. If you are enrolled in the part-time or full-time MSW program, you must complete 974 hours of field education to be eligible for graduation. If you participate in our accelerated advanced standing program, you must complete at least 528 hours of field education to be eligible for graduation.

Foundation Year

During each semester of your foundation year, you will complete a 16-week field instruction course in conjunction with a semester-long field placement. The field internships start with an orientation session and then feature a weekly seminar for the first five weeks, which shifts to a biweekly format as you enter your placement site. From the fifth week until the course finishes, you will be in practicum a minimum of two full days per week. For the spring semester, you will also spend one full week at your field site in January and begin interning at your placement site in week one.

During your foundation year, you’ll gain 446 hours of field experience, 174 hours for SOWK 781 and 272 hours for SOWK 782.

Advanced Year

During your advanced practice year, you will select practicums that align with your area of specialization. You can choose from practicums that develop competency in Health, Mental Health; Children, Youth and Families; and Community, Social and Economic Development (Fall: SOWK 783 and Spring: SOWK 784).

You must complete 264 hours per course, which includes a minimum of 16 hours of field education per week as well as a 40-hour block week at the beginning of each semester (528 hours total for the advanced year).

International Placements

International placements are individually designed to meet your needs. International learning opportunities can be structured as an independent study or field education, depending on the placement site. Based on the placement’s structure and the ability to meet the University of South Carolina and College of Social Work’s legal requirements, international field experiences may extend time to graduation by up to nine months. To learn more about international placements, contact Melissa Reitmeier, director of field education.