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Field Education

At the Saint Louis University School of Social Work, we emphasize hands-on, skills-based learning in the classroom, so that SLU students are ready to hit the ground running when it's time for them to complete fieldwork.

The Council on Social Work Education endorses "the role of field education as the 'signature pedagogy' in social work education by promoting, collaborating, recommending and distributing information to social work field educators and related membership organizations."

We collaborate with more than 400 local nonprofits, health care agencies, and community organizations to find the right fit for both the student and the fieldwork supervisor.

Students work at local school. Two SLU students sit on the floor at the front of a classroom with younger students gathered in a semi-circle.

Students work at a local school as part of the social work program.

Work With Us

Individuals interested in supervising field experience:


SLU’s Office of Field Education works closely with students and agencies to ensure a positive and appropriate experience.


What are the responsibilities of the field instructor?
  • Review the Field Instructor Handbook (PDF) for field education policies and procedures.
  • Complete the required Field Instruction Certification Program for new field instructors.
  • Attend Session One (of six sessions) before taking a student, and complete all six sessions within two years.
  • Complete ongoing training requirements to remain a field instructor.
  • Arrange for an agency orientation and training for the student.
  • Serve as a mentor and role model to the student.
  • Assist the student to select roles, tasks, and activities that can be performed at the practicum site that ensure new learning appropriate for the student's program level (B.S.S.W. or M.S.W.).
  • Assist the student to complete his/her Learning Agreement within the first three weeks of the semester.
  • Meet with the student individually for at least one hour weekly for supervision.
  • Guide the student in integrating practicum experiences and key social work concepts and methods.
  • Evaluate the student's progress regularly.
  • Meet with the student and practicum liaison for the mid-semester site visit.
  • Provide regular, constructive feedback to students about their performance.
  • Contact the assigned practicum liaison to discuss questions regarding the student's standing in the program, appropriateness for the setting, learning goals, needs and any other issues that may detract from a successful practicum experience.
  • Recommend a "Satisfactory" or "Unsatisfactory" grade with the final evaluation.
  • Complete organizational and field instructor application/renewal paperwork and provide updated information on a regular basis to the University and collaborative.
What are the benefits of being a field instructor?
  • Use of the University libraries; contact the Office of Field Education for access.
  • Apply for tuition remission to complete a graduate course. An application may be requested by calling the Office of Field Education. The deadlines for applying for tuition remission are July 1 for a fall course; Nov. 1 for a spring course; and April 1 for a summer course.
  • Receive free CEs for all Field Instructor Certification Program sessions and ongoing educational sessions.
  • Receive a certificate that attests to the field instruction provided to the student at the end of the semester that may be used for social work licensure requirements for continuing education. Three CEs are granted each semester that may apply to Missouri licensure.
  • Serve on various standing and ad-hoc committees and task forces within the School of Social Work.
I'd like more students. How can I market my agency to students?
  • Students select a practicum site through a structured self-selection process. Students meet with their assigned practicum liaison to generate ideas, interview with sites and select a site that has offered an opportunity to them.
  • Students learn about sites through flyers posted on our practicum board on the second floor of the School of Social Work, our internal Google practicum web page and the collaborative website. Agencies are welcome to send a one-page flyer that advertises their opportunities to the School for posting on the bulletin board and Google site.
  • Part-time M.S.W. students and some B.S.S.W. students need evening and weekend hours for their practica. If your agency can offer evening and weekend hours, please share the information with the Office of Field Education.
How is practicum structured?
  • Students complete 300 hours for each practicum. The practicum must be completed in a minimum of 10 weeks and a maximum of 20 weeks. Therefore, students must complete between 15 and 30 hours per week.
  • B.S.S.W. students complete two semesters at the same location for 480 total hours. M.S.W. students who do not have advanced standing must complete 900 hours over three semesters. These three 300-hour practica include one semester of generalist-level experience and two semesters at one site in the concentration level (600 hours total).
  • All students may start a practicum as early as two weeks before the start of a semester and have between 10-20 weeks to complete a practicum. However, school social work settings typically require an all-day commitment of three to five days per week for the entire school year. For all practica, student orientation and training can count toward the total required hours for the practicum.
Can students count any hours completed for practicum off-site from the agency?
With field instructor permission, students may count any hours off-site that are prearranged, such as teaching, home visits, outreach, working in a branch/affiliated facility, attending a conference or workshop or other activities for which accountability is structured into the activity. Students who wish to engage in unstructured activities off-site, such as conducting research on the Internet or in the library, working on a project at home, or other similar activities, should seek the permission of the field instructor before the activity. Further, accountability for such hours should be expected, such as a written or verbal report of accomplishments during that time. A maximum of 30 hours may be counted for unstructured, off-site activities unless pre-approved by the practicum liaison.
What should I do if I am experiencing problems with my student?
Ongoing constructive feedback to students about their progress is very important. If significant problems occur, field instructors can consider developing a written plan to improve performance. If challenges continue after a written plan has been developed, field instructors are asked to consult with the practicum liaison. Practicum liaisons are available for consultation, to create special contracts for the student, and in extreme situations, can consider termination of students from sites. Communication between the site and the practicum liaison is important in challenging situations.
What are students not allowed to do?
Students should not dispense medication, physically restrain clients, or lobby as a representative of the University (students are encouraged to engage in advocacy as representatives of their practicum agency). Furthermore, students may not "take a break" from their practicum except for regular holidays and Spring Break, without practicum liaison approval. Students experiencing personal issues that prevent them from completing their practicum should consult their practicum liaison. Barring any significant, unforeseen circumstances, students should plan to complete their scheduled practicum in a continuous manner within the 10- to 20-week period allowed.
Our site requires background checks and a drug test, but cannot do it for the student. How does the student take care of these?
Students may incur the costs for criminal background checks, abuse background checks, TB or drug tests required by the site. The Registrar's Office can arrange for background tests. The University Student Health Office can assist with the other medical tests that may be needed.
What is a task instructor? What do they do?
A task instructor is an agency-based instructor who does not possess an M.S.W. degree and/or has two years of post-M.S.W. experience or who has not been employed by their agency for one year. Task instructors either possess an M.S.W., but do not meet the requirements to be a qualified field instructor, or they possess a master's degree in a related field. Qualified task instructors are used when the agency is unable to offer a qualified M.S.W. employee for student supervision and an M.S.W. social worker who is affiliated, but not employed by, the agency, provides the field instruction and weekly supervision (M.S.W. concentration level only students).