Employed Social Worker (ESW)

Field Placements in Organizations Where Students Work

Employed Social Worker (ESW)


The Employed Social Worker (ESW) option was developed to encourage people in responsible positions within social service organizations to pursue education in social work.  This option allows the employer to make a substantial contribution to an employee’s education.  We strongly encourage employers to release the employee from some of their job responsibilities to complete their educational internship hours. A field placement must always be different from the student’s job in order to qualify as an internship. Students who are approved for an ESW internship may be paid by their employer for their internship hours (negotiated between student and employer).

Structure of an ESW Field Placement

ESW placements are available to BSW and MSW students. MSW students may complete one field placement in their place of employment as an ESW; the other placement must be in a different agency. The student's employer, the School of Social Work, and the student will work together to assure that the following conditions are met:

  • The student must be in good academic standing and in good standing at their employing agency. It is strongly advised that students considering an employer-based placement have completed their probationary period in their employing agency before requesting an employer-based placement because an unsuccessful probationary period is also likely to result in disruption of the student’s field placement.
  • The educational activities identified need to be educationally focused and substantially different from the student/employee's regular job responsibilities.
  • The educational opportunities in the place of employment must permit achievement of the competencies and skills compatible with the student's social work practice classes and course of study, i.e., Generalist, Clinical Social Work Practice (Clinical), Social Work with Children, Youth and Families (CYF), Health Across the Lifespan (HAL) or Practice and Leadership with Communities and Organizations (PLCO).
  • Field instructor and work supervisor must agree that the student’s internship performance will not influence their employment evaluation.
  • Field instructors for BSW students must have a BSW from an accredited social work program plus 2 years post degree experience or an MSW from an accredited social work program.  Field instructors for MSW students are required to have an MSW from an accredited social work program and two years of post-MSW work experience. The field instructor and the employment supervisor must be different people.
  • If the agency does not have a qualified social work field instructor on staff, they must arrange for an off-site field instructor to provide the required supervision and designate an on site task supervisor to provide daily oversight and support.

Application and Approval Process

The student, in consultation with the employer, completes the ESW Application in addition to the Field Placement Application.  The application is reviewed and a field team member or DO site coordinator arranges an in-person, virtual, phone or electronically communicated meeting with the student, the work supervisor, the field instructor, and the task supervisor (where applicable) to negotiate the placement and assure that all parties understand and approve the educational arrangement. 

Complete the ESW Interest Form via the Student Web Center »