Field Education

The MSW field education program is a partnership between the student, the field agency, and the MSW program. Field education equips you with the skills to serve as a professional social work practitioner through opportunities for growth and experience as you become socialized to the profession of social work practice. You are required to complete field education concurrent with social work practice coursework as part of the program requirements toward graduation.

During the field education experience, you will learn how to integrate social work theory and practice while in a supervised field setting. You will have the opportunity to develop your social work skills while in the field practicum.

To maximize your education experience, you will be encouraged to be proactive and seek out learning opportunities at your assigned field agencies. The time spent in field practicum is truly a transformative experience.

The initial field experience includes a variety of challenges including, but not limited to, becoming familiar with a social service agency, assessing one’s strengths and weaknesses, and determining one’s professional learning needs. Students will be working with diverse client populations who are often underserved and have experienced multiple hardships. Successful completion of field education requires the openness to learning, to introspection, and to examining one’s own biases.

Included below are forms, resources and other important information available for your use.

For more information, contact:

Froylana Heredia-Miller, MSW, LCSW

Assistant Professor and Director of Field Education, Department of Social Work

Field Education Coursework

Students complete a total of 16 units of field education coursework (8 units for Advanced Standing students) in the MSW program.

The field education curriculum is completed over four semesters (two semesters for Advanced Standing students). During foundation-year field education coursework, students are exposed to generalist social work practice, and are expected to demonstrate foundation-level competencies. During the advanced specialization year, students complete their field education in an agency setting that offers experiences in the chosen specialization. Students in the two- and four-year program options are required to complete a minimum of 480 hours during each field education year for a total of no less than 960 hours at graduation. Students in the one- and two-year Advanced Standing program options complete 600 hours by graduation. Students must pass each field sequence to progress to the next sequence in order to remain in good standing in the MSW program. Credit for life experience or previous field education coursework units cannot be granted, per CSWE accreditation standards.

Field Application Packets

Field Agencies and Field Instructors

The field agency and field instructor are instrumental partners in the field education program. Approved field education settings provide a challenging learning environment for the MSW student under the supervision of an experienced MSW or LCSW. Field agency selection is based on specific criteria including, but not limited to, appropriateness of setting for learning needs, expertise of field instructors, and the provision of sound field instruction consistent with the mission, objectives, and goals of the MSW program.

Agencies are invited to become approved as APU MSW field internship sites. Benefits include free continuing education, complimentary library access, and the opportunity to give back to the social work profession through mentorship and sharing of one’s expertise. Begin the field agency approval process by completing a Field Agency Application Packet (MS Word). Applications are reviewed by the MSW field faculty on a year-round basis.

General Requirements for Field Agencies

  • Statement of agency function as a provider of social services or related services.
  • Focus of agency services is on individuals, families, groups, and the community. A minimum of 50 percent of a student’s field assignments should be focused on direct practice in the foundation-year field internship. For specialization-year field internships, a minimum of 60 percent of assignments must be spent in the student’s declared specialization.
  • A structured and supportive learning environment with a variety of planned social work assignments.
  • A dedicated student work space, equipment, and supplies available on field internship days.
  • A qualified field instructor who possesses an MSW degree with a minimum of two years of postgraduate experience and/or an LCSW, is employed by the agency, and fulfills a supervisory role.
  • Availability of a comprehensive learning experience at the MSW student level, consistent with MSW practice curriculum, that includes opportunities to complete micro-, mezzo-, and macro-level interventions.
  • Availability of a reasonable student caseload assignment for the duration of the student’s field placement assignment.
  • Availability of trainings specific to the population served by the agency.
  • Macro-level projects are highly desirable.
  • A minimum of one hour of weekly individual supervision with field instructor. Student participation in group supervision and multidisciplinary meetings is highly recommended.

Field Instructor Requirements

  • Possesses a MSW degree with two years post-graduate experience and/or LCSW
  • Possesses exemplary social work skills in the chosen field of practice
  • Completion of a 16 hour mandatory Field Instructor Training or willingness to complete training prior to accepting APU MSW students
  • Skilled application and modeling of professional social work practice
  • Practice is consistent with Social Work Code of Ethics
  • Knowledge, application, and reinforcement of MSW practice curricula content, including professional use of self, ethics, theoretical frameworks, and stages of treatment
  • Supervisory experience is highly desired
  • A desire to teach and mentor social work students
  • Availability to conduct in-person, one-hour weekly supervision, plus consultation time


Field Agencies

All Students

Foundation-Year Students

Specialization-Year Students

Advanced Standing Students

Stipend Grants and Special Programs

Learn more about the special opportunities available to MSW students.

Geriatric Social Work Education Consortium (GSWEC)

L.A. DCFS Internship Program


Other Resources

To keep up with the latest online field training opportunities from the APU Master of Social Work program, follow the MSW Field Instructor website.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is field education?

Field education, also known as field internship, field practicum, or fieldwork, is a required component of the MSW Program, whereby students have the opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge from the classroom into a supervised social work setting in the community. In the foundation year, students complete an internship in a qualified community-based agency to integrate generalist social work practice skills in a supervised hands-on environment. In the specialization year, students have the opportunity to complete an internship in a setting that is consistent with their declared concentration.

Can I receive credit toward field education units from previous internships I have completed?

No. The field education curriculum is specifically designed to fulfill graduation requirements of the MSW Program. Transfer units are not accepted toward the field education requirements.

How many field education units do I have to complete during the MSW program?

Students complete a total of 16 units of field education (3 units per semester for field education courses and 1 unit per semester for field seminar courses), except for Advanced Standing students, who complete 8 units of field education.

How many hours and days will I be in my field internship?

Students in the traditional two- and four-year program options are required to complete a total of 960 field hours, or 480 field hours per academic year. Students in the Advanced Standing program options complete a total of 600 field hours over two semesters. Students are required to complete a minimum of 16 field hours per week (two- and four-year program options), or 20 hours per week (one- and two-year Advanced Standing program options). Students are also required to track their hours on a Field Internship Time Log, which will be submitted at the end of each semester as verification of their completion of field hours. Field days are usually scheduled on days when students do not attend classes on campus. Field days and hours are traditionally Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Students are required to complete at least one eight-hour field day per week, and may inquire if the agency will allow the student to break up the other eight hours over two days. Days and hours are ultimately arranged between the field instructor and student, and approved by the university field faculty.

Can I do my field hours on the weekend?

Weekend field internships are not available. Students are required to set aside weekdays, during traditional work hours (generally 8 a.m.–5 p.m.), to complete field internships.

Can I apply for a paid field internship?

Select field agencies may offer a field internship with a stipend, and students going into their field year will be notified of these opportunities. Special programs that include grants or stipends include the Geriatric Social Work Education Consortium (GSWEC) and the University Consortium on Children and Families (UCCF). Students who meet minimum requirements for stipend internships will be oriented to the program opportunities. Stipend programs are limited in number, are highly competitive, and often require additional hours and special skills or qualifications. Learn more by visiting our Tuition and Aid page.

Do I have to attend a field seminar?

Yes, field seminar is a 1-unit course and is considered the on-campus component of fieldwork. Students are concurrently enrolled in field seminar while completing their field internships. Field seminar attendance is mandatory and is an integral part of the field experience.

How will my field internship assignment be determined?

Students are assigned to their field internship in their Foundation Year through a field placement application and interview process. In the specialization year, students interview at two field agencies and are placed in the site that is a mutually good fit for student and agency.

Are there any special requirements to begin field internship?

Yes. All students starting field internships will need to attend a field orientation which is to be held on the APU campus prior to beginning the academic year. In addition, students are to complete all field agency requirements such as background checks, paperwork, and/or health screenings. In some instances, the student is responsible for covering the costs of these preplacement requirements. It is also the student’s responsibility to ensure that all the requirements are completed prior to beginning field internship. In addition, some agencies will require specific workshops or trainings to prepare to work with a specific client population.

Can I use my current or previous employment as a field internship?

Yes, in some cases students may request to use a place of employment as a field internship site for one of the two field internships. In general, however, students are encouraged to seek field internship experiences outside of their current or previous employment to broaden their learning opportunities. In agencies outside the workplace, students benefit most from focusing on their role as “student” and “learner,” rather than having to juggle these roles with that of an “employee.”

In some instances, however, an agency offers comprehensive services in several locations and may be able to offer a student an entirely different internship experience that would be consistent with the student’s learning objectives. If interested in this option, a student may complete a Proposal to Use Employment Agency as Field Internship Site. All requirements outlined in the proposal must be met by the student and agency in order for the agency to be considered for use as a field internship.

Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis with the student’s educational needs in mind. Students are to complete the proposal and meet with the field education director as soon as possible to discuss the field internship options. Students should NOT assume that the place of employment will automatically be approved as a field internship site. Deadlines for proposal submission can be found in the Field Education Manual.

Can I switch my field internship if I do not like the one I am in?

Students may not switch internships if they merely do not like where they have been assigned. Field internships and students are matched through an intentional selection process. On rare occasions, field internships do not work out for various reasons. In this event, the student and field instructor should first meet about the issue, with a follow-up meeting with the field faculty. If the issue cannot be resolved, the field faculty shall make the ultimate decision on the student’s field internship status.

Do I need a car?

You will need your own transportation to and from your field internship. Agencies may expect students to travel from multiple sites or complete field visits as part of their field internship assignments, in which case a car is needed.

Will I be transporting clients?

On some occasions, agencies will require that students transport clients as part of the field internship experience. With appropriate documentation, students may transport clients in agency vehicles, but never in their own vehicles. Students are required to meet with field faculty prior to transporting any clients.

What is a field instructor?

A field instructor possesses an MSW degree and has at least two years post-graduate experience. He or she has expressed a desire to supervise, teach, and mentor students and possesses an expertise in a specified area of social work practice. A field instructor possesses strong social work skills and abides by the Social Work Code of Ethics.

What is a preceptor?

A preceptor is an agency employee who possesses at least an equivalent degree to the MSW, such as an MFT or Psy.D., and has relevant supervisory experience. He or she may coordinate with the field instructor to provide additional field learning opportunities, as well as mentoring and direction.

How do I receive a grade for field internship?

Students must successfully complete the required minimum field internship hours per semester during field years, as well as attend and participate in field seminar, to receive a passing grade in field courses.

What is the key to a successful field internship?

There are several factors that promote a successful field internship. In particular, students and field instructors who begin the field internship with a positive attitude toward developing a solid supervisor-supervisee relationship often have a successful year experience. In addition, developing clear expectations and goals is integral to a successful field internship. The successful student also possesses a high level of professionalism; understands and applies ethical social work practice; uses good judgment; is open to feedback; and actively seeks new learning experiences. Student field evaluations are completed collaboratively by student, field instructor, and field faculty.

Note: This information is current for the 2019-20 academic year; however, all stated academic information is subject to change. Please refer to the current Academic Catalog for more information.