MSW: Master of Social Work

West Chester University

West Chester Campus

Reynolds Hall
West Chester University
West Chester, PA 19383
Phone: 610-436-2664

PASSHE Center City

701 Market Street, Concourse Level
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: 267-386-3015

Field Education - Policies and Procedures


Child Abuse Registry Check, Criminal Background Check, and Liability Insurance

Field students are required to submit to a Pennsylvania criminal background check and a Pennsylvania Child Abuse registry, and to purchase professional liability insurance. If a student has any criminal charge that may appear on his or her criminal background report, the student is encouraged to disclose and discuss the charge(s) with the director of field education. Depending on the nature of the charge, the record may not be acceptable to some field sites and will limit the student's placement options.



The MSW Program publishes a calendar each semester with specific dates pertinent to field practicum. Students in their first field practicum must complete 224 hours over the course of each semester, averaging 16 hours per week. Students in their second field practicum are required to complete 280 hours over the course of each semester, averaging 20 hours per week. A regular weekly schedule is negotiated with the field instructor and approved by the faculty field liaison in the Learning Agreement at the beginning of the semester.

Because these are required practicum hours, any days or hours that are missed for illness or other reasons must be made up. Hours should be made up during the semester at specific times negotiated with the field instructor. In certain circumstances, hours can be made up over the Thanksgiving, winter and spring breaks with prior approval from the field instructor and the faculty field liaison. Students are not permitted to accumulate hours over breaks and end field practicum early in the semester.

Students with a field placement in a school setting should take the field placement school's fall, spring or holiday breaks rather than West Chester University breaks to avoid losing too many practicum hours.

Students who are unable to attend field practicum regularly for 20 hours per week because of employment, caregiving or other responsibilities may be eligible for an extended field practicum. The extended program allows students in certain field sites to design a schedule that satisfies an average of 12 or 13 hours per week over a longer period of time. Before the start of the semester, proposals for the extended program must be negotiated with the field instructor and formally submitted in writing to the director of field education. If approved by the director of field education, these proposals are then submitted to the faculty field liaison and to the field instructor with the Learning Agreement.

Students are expected to maintain a weekly log of practicum hours and supervision with signatures from the field Instructor and task supervisor, where applicable. Field logs are due to faculty field liaisons on a monthly basis.



Students are expected to attend field practicum regularly and arrive when expected, prepared to engage in the assigned tasks. Students must notify field instructors and any other pertinent individuals of their lateness or absence ahead of time. Failure to attend field practicum with regularity and punctuality will constitute a violation of the Standards for Professional Behavior.

Students are expected to attend field practicum during the fall break in October if these are regularly scheduled days. Students are not expected to be at field practicum during the following times:

  • Labor Day
  • Wednesday through Friday during the week of Thanksgiving
  • Monday through Friday of spring break, unless a school placement has different spring break dates
  • After the last day of the semester, assuming hours have been completed, and unless a student is doing an approved extended field placement

Clients are often best served when students are consistently available. Students often choose to continue to work over the breaks, especially those who in their second field placements or are in sites where this would be particularly important to client well-being.

If the University closes for inclement weather or other reasons, students are still expected to attend field practicum unless the field site closes or delays opening. In these cases students are not expected to attend, but are expected to make up the field hours. If a student feels that travel is unsafe, s/he must alert the field instructor and arrange to make up the hours at another time. The student and the field instructor are encouraged to create a contingency plan for how the student's activities will be handled in the student's absence.


Guidelines for Conducting Research at the Student's Field Placement Site

The capstone project for the MSW Program is a year-long student-directed research project. Research is conducted during the final year in the program. Many students choose to conduct their research at their field placement sites. For this to happen, students must receive approval for the research project from the proper authorities at the field site, such as site administrators, a site research committee or a site Institutional Review Board.

Students may not use field hours to write any part of their research proposal or to conduct data analysis. Data collection time might, under certain circumstances, be conducted during some field hours. This must be negotiated with the field instructor and included with or as an addendum to the Learning Agreement.

For example, if the student is conducting a chart review and can only gain access to charts during business hours, then the field iInstructor and student must agree on which field hours can be devoted to this task. Or, if the student's research involves implementing and evaluating a program, such as a treatment group for women experiencing postpartum depression or a dance therapy program for older adults at risk for depression, then data collection may be conducted during field hours. As another example, if a student is administering surveys to a certain client population and/or staff, data collection might be done during some field hours.