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UAB’s Department of Social Work taught me how to deliver evidence-based social work practice with a diverse population, educated me on how to advocate for vulnerable groups, and instilled in me the social work ethics and values to apply to everyday practice.

– Savannah Henderson, ’19

Students in a discussionThe BSSW Social Work Field Education Program represents the culmination of the BSSW curriculum. It includes the field practicum experience and its concurrent field practicum seminar. This is a full-time, one-term field practicum that serves as a capstone course integrating academic knowledge with generalist practice experience. Students complete the Social Work Field Education Program during the last term of their fourth year of the BSSW plan of study.

Program students have opportunities to put their didactic and service-learning experiences into actual social work practice with real clients under the guidance of field instructors in agency settings. The BSSW Social Work Field Education Program is the vehicle that allows students to connect theories and concepts learned in the classroom to the practice experiences they gain in the field.

There are two field education courses that comprise the Social Work Field Education Program:

  • SW 490 Practicum in Social Work: Field instructors and students develop a learning agreement that serves to articulate learning activities that support the CSWE’s competencies as outlined in the 2015 Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards. These specific learning activities are designed to connect course knowledge with social work practice.
  • SW 494 Practicum Seminar: Provides opportunities for students to process their field experiences and reinforce their practice skills and values, connecting the competency-based knowledge gained in the classroom with the applications in the field. The course also requires students to examine the principles of social work practice and further develop their critical thinking and reflection skills.

Students are eligible to apply for SW 490 upon completion of or enrollment in SW 422.

Details about the application process can be found in the Field Education Handbook (PDF) or by contacting the Social Work administrative office.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • How is the placement site selected?

    Each placement in field education is made on an individual basis and takes into consideration:

    • the student's previous experience;
    • future goals and professional interests;
    • the learning experiences provided by the agency;
    • geographic location; stipend requirements; and
    • special needs.

    Though field experience varies with agency specific circumstances, school expectations, and criteria must be met. The BSSW field coordinator is responsible for placing BSSW students in approved field settings. The field coordinator uses the information from the student field application and interview to evaluate the students’ interests, prior experiences, and professional goals in order to assign the student an appropriate field placement. All field placements must continue to meet the field agency responsibilities outlined in the BSSW field agreement and detailed in the Field Agency Criteria and Expectations to assure appropriate learning activities are provided to students.

  • Are placement sites available outside the greater Birmingham area?

    In most instances, placement settings are located within the greater Birmingham area. Students should plan to complete their field placement in Jefferson county or a surrounding county. Placements in Alabama that are outside the usual geographic area are possible but cannot be guaranteed. Out-of-state placements are rare. Such considerations involve particular student needs, the availability of appropriate supervision, UAB Department of Social Work’s budgetary and faculty time constraints, and agency's ability to meet the requirements delineated in the Agency Field Agreement. Any student with extenuating circumstances is advised to discuss the situation with the BSSW Field Coordinator as soon as possible before applying to field.

  • Can new placement sites be suggested by students?

    On occasion, a student may be familiar with a particular agency and want to complete the field practicum experience at that site. Students should discuss this with the BSSW field coordinator at the field applicant interview. It is the responsibility of the field coordinator to evaluate any new placement site and to make the determination if said site is appropriate for BSSW field placement.

  • Is it feasible for students to work full-time in an outside job during placement?

    It is not advised. The field practicum experience is full-time, averaging 32 hours per week Monday through Thursday. The entire practicum experience lasts one semester. Students negotiate the scheduled academic semester breaks with their agency supervisors around the needs of clients.

  • Are stipends available?

    For students interested in working in child welfare, particularly a career with the Alabama Department of Human Resources, you may be eligible to apply for the Title IV-E Stipend Program.

    The Title IV-E Stipend Program provides stipends to university students at Alabama higher education institutions to help educate prospective child welfare workers and provide continuing educational opportunities for existing child welfare workers. Title IV-E stipends are specifically designated for students planning to pursue or continue a career in public child welfare with the Alabama Department of Human Resources. An 18-month work obligation with the Alabama Department of Human Resources is a requirement of the Title IV-E Stipend Program.

    You will receive information about applying for this stipend as part of your field application.

    For more information, see the Title IV-E Stipend Program website.

  • Is it possible to complete the field practicum experience on a part-time basis?

    BSSW students are not eligible for part-time field placements.

These questions are ones we often hear. However, all concerns and questions need to be addressed during your initial meeting with the Field Director so you can make fully informed decisions regarding field placement. The meeting concludes with a consensual agreement on a prospective field placement site. You can read more about the practicum in the Field Education Handbook (PDF).

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UAB’s Department of Social Work taught me how to deliver evidence-based social work practice with a diverse population, educated me on how to advocate for vulnerable groups, and instilled in me the social work ethics and values to apply to everyday practice.

– Savannah Henderson, ’19