Practicum Education

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) refers to practicum 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 hands-on, applied education experiences. The SocialWork@Simmons practicum 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 practicum education 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 Practicum 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 9 months. Advanced Standing students should expect to dedicate 24 hours each week at their community-based site plus a 90-minute weekly seminar over the course of two terms.

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

Traditional MSW Student

CourseCourse Content
Simulated Practicum Experience (SPX)
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 specialist practice in a community setting
Term 3 of Community-Based Placement
24 hours/week of specialist 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 specialist practice in a community setting

See our course sequence page to learn the specific terms in which you will complete your community-based practicum experiences.

The Practicum Education Experience

As you pursue your MSW, you will complete practicum 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 Practicum Education

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

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

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

The Simulated Practicum Experience

Traditional MSW students will participate in the SPX 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 SPX, Traditional MSW students will move on to a real-world community placement at the same community-based site for the following three terms.

Specialized Placement Experience

The specialized 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 practicum instructor
  • develop the confidence to begin identifying as professional social workers

Practicum 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 practicum placement. Please note that worksite 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 practicum 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 practicum 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 their practicum education 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.