What is a Field Practicum?
Field education is the most essential component of social work education. The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) – our accrediting body – calls it the signature pedagogy of social work education.
While classroom learning focuses on discrete knowledge and theoretical background, your field placement (what other disciplines refer to as internships) will expose you to a wide range of problems and possibilities.
Unlike cognate disciplines, all accredited social work programs require students to complete at least one field placement before they graduate. Undergraduate social work students complete one block placement in their final semester. Students in the two-year MSW program complete a year-long placement both years. Advanced Standing MSW students complete one year-long field placement.
Field placement is a meaningful experience that allows students to practice social work skills under the guidance of an experienced social worker and to gain work experience before entering the job field.
Dr. Jocelyn Devance Taliaferro is the Director of Field Education. Dr. Taliaferro is an Associate Professor in the North Carolina State University Department of Social Work. Her current research interests include nonprofit lobbying and teaching using contemporary television. Her work appears in the Journal of Child and Family Social Work, Journal of Policy Practice, Administration in Social Work and Education and Urban Society. She recently completed a book on teaching social policy using the HBO special The Wire. Prior to her life in academia, she spent more than 15 years in the field of social work and nonprofit administration, which included Middle and Senior Management positions. She served as Secretary and later Chair of the Baltimore City Mayor’s Mental Health Advisory Committee. Taliaferro has been an active member on several nonprofit boards of directors in Washington DC, Maryland, Delaware, and North Carolina. She serves as Vice Chair of the board of Youth Thrive in Raleigh, NC, and was Vice Chair of Urban Affairs Association.
Dr. Stephanie Francis, PhD, MSW, MSRA, is the MSW Field Coordinator and a senior lecturer in the Department of Social Work. She earned her PhD in Social Work and Master's degree in Social Work from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She also holds a Master's degree in Therapeutic Recreation. Her direct practice experience includes work with victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
Professor Barbara Zelter, MSW is the BSW field coordinator and a lecturer for the Department of Social Work. Professor Zelter has served in our MSW and BSW programs since 2011. In addition to field internship responsibilities, her teaching focus is on policy and community organizing for social justice, which was her practice area for two decades. She was a nonprofit executive director, crisis counselor, refugee sponsor, and is a death penalty abolitionist. She is active in the Forward Together movement and in 2014 she received the annual Advocacy Award from NASW-NC.
Social Work is a Growing Field
The U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Statistics estimates that the need for social workers and those in related social work professions will increase by 12% from 2014 - 2024visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics website
What a Practicum Can Do for You
Social workers need particular knowledge and skills to work with individuals, families, groups and systems. Field education gives you the opportunity to assess these situations and to develop, implement, and evaluate social interventions. Your field placement will prepare you to engage in culturally-competent practice with diverse client populations, with particular attention to historically-oppressed populations and a variety of populations at risk.
Field education integrates classroom and field experiences. These combined opportunities allow you to apply your knowledge of social and economic injustice and inequality. You will learn to see how inequality and injustices are created and maintained by structural arrangements made up of dominant and subordinate social groups based on race, class, gender and sexual orientation.
Whether you plan to explore social work from a micro or macro perspective, you will be able to critically analyze social structures and how they impact individuals, families, groups and systems.