Field Education Frequently Asked Questions: Students

What kinds of placements do Social Work students do?

We have community partnerships with more than 350 different agencies throughout the state which provide a wide range of learning opportunities.  Settings include child welfare programs, schools, mental health centers, hospitals, corrections, substance abuse programs, aging services, homelessness programs, and other community programs where social workers work.

How many hours are spent in a field placement?

MSW and BSW students spend 16 hours a week at the agency. Students need a total of 500 hours per year (roughly 167 hours per term) in field. Students' field schedules are individually negotiated with their field instructors and must not conflict with their classroom schedule.

Where will my placement be located?

We attempt to place students as close to their preferred geographical area as possible; however, students may be placed in field agencies up to a 50 mile radius of their residence.

Can I work full time while doing my field placement?

Students need to plan to be available for placement during normal business hours maintained by the field site and during times when the professional staff are working and available to the student. Part of the training experience involves participating in the life of the agency, attending regularly scheduled meetings, and other activities involving or sponsored by the field placement site.

If you work full-time (or part-time) it is important for your place of employment to be flexible with your work schedule because field placement sites tend to primarily operate during traditional business hours, Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm.

Most students find that working part-time (and/or having a job that has evening and weekend hours available) is most realistic for managing the logistics and workload of classes, coursework, field placement and employment.

Can I do a placement during evening and weekend hours?

Field placement sites offering student placements solely during the evening or weekend hours are rare and sometimes nonexistent.  Therefore, the School of Social Work is under no obligation to provide such placements.  Students must be in the agency during regular business hours when other staff are available and providing services. Students cannot expect to complete all OR THE BULK of their field hours during evening or weekend hours.

Do I need a criminal background check and/or a drug test?

A criminal background check and/or drug test may be required for your placement. You will be notified by your field instructor and/or the field office if this is the case.

Please note that certain types and calendar dates of criminal convictions may result in some agencies declining to offer a field placement. In some instances it may not be possible for the field team to find a placement willing to interview or accept a student. These policies and procedures are detailed in the Field Handbook. Please note: It is essential that you notify your placement coordinator of any charge OR conviction as it may impact the field team’s ability to connect you to a field placement opportunity. See more info on criminal records disclosure.

As a PSU student, you have access to legal support from Student Legal Services. We recommend that you contact them with questions about things like charges vs. convictions, expungement, and other issues.

Do I find my own placement?

No. The campus field team or Distance Option Site Coordinator will work with you to identify a field placement.  Because the School is responsible for determining the qualifications of field instructors and community organizations, as well as the appropriateness of educational experiences, students are asked not to approach possible placement settings to secure their own internships, but to work cooperatively with the campus field team or site coordinator to explore the possibility of a placement in a new field site agency.

Can I interview at several agencies before selecting my placement?

No.  A campus field team member or Site Coordinator will work with you to arrange an interview at a field placement that meets your learning needs. If, after that interview, both you and the field instructor think the placement is a good fit, the placement will be confirmed.  If either party has reservations, another placement will be arranged.

Can I be placed in an agency that hasn’t had social work students in the past?

We welcome the opportunity to develop partnerships with new agencies. If you have an idea for a new placement, contact a member of the campus field team or Site Coordinator.  If an agency meets the School’s requirements and is interested in having a student, we can develop a new placement.

Can I do a placement where I work?

Possibly, if your employing agency can meet the requirements of the Employed Social Worker Option (ESW).

Do I need a different placement each year of the MSW program?


Can I be paid for my field placement?

Students who are approved for the Employed Social Work Option (ESW) may be paid by their employer for their internship hours (negotiated between student and employer); there are also a very small number of placements that offer a stipend.

How many credits do I receive for field placement?

Students receive 4 credits for field instruction (includes BSW and MSW seminar) each term.

When do field placements begin and end?


Placements begin the first week of the fall term and end the final week of spring term. In some cases students and agencies ask to begin or end early, but in no case can they begin prior to September 1 or end prior to May 15 without approval using the Request Exception to Field Policy form in the Student Webcenter. Students may complete up to 40 hours between September 1 and the first day of fall term. Please note that early start hours must be orientation or training activities (not direct client or project responsibility).

Can I attend an agency orientation or training prior to beginning the field placement?


Yes, though if you plan to do these hours prior to September 1, the Request Exception to Field Policy form must be completed. This form is located in the Student Web Center.

Can workshops or trainings outside my field agency count as field hours?


Yes, if they are relevant to your learning goals and approved by your field instructor in consultation, when appropriate, with your faculty advisor liaison; these should be added to your Field Education Plan.

Will I need Professional Malpractice Insurance?


Portland State University provides general liability and Professional Malpractice Insurance ($1 million per occurrence; $3 million aggregate) for students in field placement.

What happens if I am sick or my agency is closed and I miss several days of field?


You must complete 167 hours of field per term. If you miss days you must schedule makeup hours to ensure you have met this requirement.

Is the field placement a graded course?


No, it is taken pass/no pass.

Am I eligible to apply for a licensure?


No. All students who graduate from the MSW program, regardless of advanced concentration, are eligible to apply to become an LCSW by demonstrating completion of the following Oregon Board of Licensed Social Work requirements. For more information, contact the Board directly.