Field Education

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) refers to field education as the “signature pedagogy” of the Master of Social Work (MSW) curriculum.

SocialWork@Simmons — our online Master of Social Work (MSW) program — offers aspiring social work leaders, who are eager to grow in confidence and professional skills, a rigorous curriculum with rich field education experiences. The SocialWork@Simmons field education model will prepare you to apply the theoretical concepts, principles, values, and ethics you will learn in the classroom into clinical practice.

Clinical Placement Hours and Schedule

We offer four online MSW program tracks to fit your lifestyle and career goals: accelerated, full-time, extended, and advanced standing. Your field experience schedule will depend on which program track you’re enrolled in.

Traditional MSW students can complete their degree on an accelerated track in 16 months, on a full-time track in 23 months, or on an extended track in 32 months. These students should expect to dedicate up to 10 hours per week in the Simulated Field Experience during their first term, and three 8-hour days per week in a community-based site for the following three terms.

Advanced Standing students have earned their Bachelor of Social Work degree in the last seven years from a CSWE-accredited institution. The advanced standing MSW program can be completed in as few as 12 months. Advanced Standing students should expect to dedicate 24 hours each week at their community-based site over the course of two terms.

Below is an overview of the different field experience courses for Traditional MSW students and Advanced Standing students:

Traditional MSW Student

CourseCourse Content
Simulated Field Experience (SFX)
10 hours/week of online learning with asynchronous and live session components
Term 1 of Community-Based Placement
24 hours/week of generalist practice in a community setting
Term 2 of Community-Based Placement
24 hours/week of generalist practice in a community setting
Term 3 of Community-Based Placement
24 hours/week of generalist practice in a community setting

Advanced Standing Student

CourseCourse Content
Term 2 of Community-Based Placement
24 hours/week of generalist practice in a community setting
Term 3 of Community-Based Placement
24 hours/week of generalist practice in a community setting

See our course sequence page to learn the specific terms in which you will complete your field experiences.

The Field Education Experience

As you pursue your MSW, you will complete field education experiences that will allow you to develop the advanced clinical skills and confidence to become a professional social worker. Plus, they will offer you the opportunity to spend 2-3 terms, or about one year, in a community setting where you can make deep connections within the organization and the clients you will serve.

Generalist Field Experience

Over the course of two consecutive terms, this first field experience will provide a foundation in generalist social work practice.

Advanced Standing students will complete one term of the generalist field experience at a community-based site.     

Traditional MSW students will complete two terms of the generalist field experience. They will spend their first term in the Simulated Field Experience (SFX) and their second term at a community-based site.

The Simulated Field Experience

Traditional MSW students will participate in the SFX for one term, where they will:

  • attend weekly live sessions in an immersive online learning lab
  • participate in simulated client experiences and role-play scenarios
  • receive supportive peer and instructor feedback
  • prepare for success in a future community setting

Upon completing the SFX, Traditional MSW students will move on to a real-world community field placement at the same community-based site for the following three terms.

Specialized Field Experience

The specialized field placement enables both Traditional and Advanced Standing MSW students to build on their generalist knowledge and hone assessment and intervention skills over the course of two terms. Students will:

  • engage, assess, intervene, and evaluate diverse client groups
  • apply theoretical concepts — learned in the classroom — to interactions with clients
  • gain more in-depth exposure to evidence-informed practices
  • further practice by applying their clinical skills and receiving support and feedback from a skilled field instructor
  • develop the confidence to begin identifying as professional social workers

Field Education FAQ

  1. Can I complete my placement where I work?
    If you are currently employed in a social service agency or clinical setting, you may apply to have an agency-based field placement. Please note that worksite field placements must meet the Simmons School of Social Work (SSW) criteria. The criteria include a different work assignment and a new supervisor. Your supervisor must have an MSW and participate in a field instructor training provided through Simmons SSW.
  2. How far will my clinical placement be from where I live?
    We make every attempt to locate a placement site that meets your educational needs. At times, the best placement match is farther from your home than you may prefer. You are required to be able to commute up to 60 miles to your placement site. If you will need accommodations at your field placement site, please inform the placement team and contact the Office of Accessibility Services at 617-521-2474 for assistance.
  3. Can I complete my placement internationally?
    Students cannot complete field placement outside of the continental United States and Hawaii. Students will not be placed internationally, including U.S. military bases or in U.S. territories. Students living abroad with an upcoming placement term will need to relocate to the continental United States or Hawaii in order to be assigned a placement. Students are required to provide written notice of a new address at least 14 weeks prior to the first placement term, so the placement team can work to secure a placement site. Placement is not guaranteed for students who do not adhere to the foregoing requirements. Not following the requirements may necessitate a leave of absence from the program.

Create Meaningful Change as a Social Work Leader

Request information today to learn more about our online MSW program.