Students in a discussion One of the methods the social work program uses to prepare you for a career after graduation is the field practicum. You will work alongside experienced social work professionals in human service agencies and organizations. You will interact with real clients while being supervised and guided in your training and development.

Practicum instructors and students develop an educational contract specifying your work plan, learning objectives, and specific activities to enhance your classwork and career goals. Students are eligible to apply for the field practicum (SW 490) upon completion of or enrollment in Practice of Social Work II (SW 422). Details about the application process can be found in the Social Work Student Handbook (PDF) or by contacting the Social Work administrative office.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • How is the placement site selected?

    The selection of field placement settings is based on your learning interests conjoined with UAB's Social Work Program's curriculum goals and placement site criteria. Placement sites may be governmental institutions or nonprofit social service agencies that have social service units. There are two primary requirements that an agency or social services unit must meet to qualify as a field placement site:

    1. It must provide you with an immediate supervisor who holds either an CSWE-accredited baccalaureate or master’s social work degree and is able to provide you with at least four hours per week of professional guidance.
    2. It must be able to provide the range of opportunities and tasks needed to evaluate your performance.
  • Are placement sites available outside the greater Birmingham area?

    In most cases, placement agencies are located within the Birmingham/Jefferson County area. Placements outside this area are possible but unusual. Such considerations involve very specific student needs, the availability of appropriate supervision, budgetary and time constraints, and agency's ability to meet other requirements. If you have extenuating circumstances you are advised to meet the Field Director the semester before taking SW 422 to see if arrangements can be made.

  • Can new placement sites be suggested by students?

    Occasionally a student requests placement at an agency they are already familiar with. Requests should be submitted to the Field Director, who will contact the agency’s director to explore the possibility.

  • 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. SW 494: Field Practicum Seminar meets once per week. The entire practicum experience lasts one semester. Students negotiate the scheduled academic semester breaks with their agency supervisors around the needs of clients.

    Students seeking to successfully complete the field practicum are not advised to work more than 15 hours per week. If you are currently employed in a social service agency, you are encouraged to negotiate with your employer for reassignment of tasks so that they will fulfill the practicum requirements. This must be approved by the Field Director.

    With the Field Director’s approval, students may also negotiate with potential employers for a paid position with the stipulation that upon graduation the student will become a full-time employee of the agency. Under this arrangement, an agency trains new employees through their probation period. Students may also research scholarships, co-op opportunities (often available in federal agencies), or grants to supplement income during the field practicum.

  • Are stipends available?

    Presently, the Social Work Program offers a child welfare placement at Jefferson County Department of Human Resources (DHR). The purpose of this agreement is to improve child welfare protective services in Jefferson County by encouraging UAB's social work students to consider public sector employment in child welfare. This unique field placement experience potentially provides opportunities for you to become employed in the DHR child welfare system. Stipends are awarded to supplement your income during the practicum experience; if you accept the stipend you are expected to accept employment if a position is available when you graduate.

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

    Our policy is to not grant permission to extend field placement to allow student to work full-time at other jobs. Do not assume that you can extend the time it takes to complete field practicum. However, the Field Director is willing to engage in the problem-solving process with students to brainstorm and encourage creative solutions that will help you complete your placement in the prescribed time.

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 Social Work Student Handbook (PDF).

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