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Preparing for Field Education

Preparing for Field Education in your first or second year of study with JCU Social Work? Our best advice for students to prepare for Field Education is START now and SAVE, SAVE, SAVE!

The Field Education subjects are placed with in the Degree study programme to assist students to reflect back on their learning of a theoretical nature to that point and implement their learning into a practice setting.

Students have access to a range of workshops, resources and services at James Cook University that may assist you in the preparation for field education and transitioning into professional practice.

This section offers you some recommended activities and resources to address concerns or questions around placement and to prepare for the workplace environment as a social work student.  Preparation is suggested under the following contexts:


Check the Student Handbook in regards to pre-requisites for Field Education.

You will need to have a current ‘working with children’ check valid for the state or territory that the placement is taking place in. In most states and territories, this process is free for students.

The website details for each Australian jurisdiction are provided below:

Compulsory Activity/s: Apply or update your Working with Children clearance prior to starting Field Education in Level 3 and 4 if the degree. Visit Queensland Health or your local state Health Field Education website for information on the eligibility requirements for student placement. For example: Students must undertake the HepB vaccination process and obtain a blood test verifying that they are HepB immune. This process can take up to 6months.

  • Compulsory Activity/s: Update your contact and study details in eStudent regularly during the degree.
  • Enrol in the Field Education subjects as early as possible when eligible as the DTES Placement Team uses class lists to inform the placement finding process.


By the time you go into placement you will have studied a diverse range of subjects that include core subjects and some elective subjects.  Each subject has specific learning objectives as identified in the Subject Outline.  The learning objectives for each subject can be aligned to the Association of Australian Social Workers Practice Standards (AASW, 2013).

Recommended Activity: Reflect on your learning from each subject and align it with the AASW Practice Standards (2013). James Cook University Students have access to PebblePad, an ePortfolio system, to collect, reflect and organise learning achievements throughout their degree in preparation for Professional Practice.

Recommended Activity/s: On completing each subject or relevant professional workshop, You can use a reflective PebblePad Achievement template to identify learning from the experience and add any evidence of this learning. For example: Assessment piece.  Resources to access and use PebblePad.

Note: You can complete this process also in a traditional portfolio format.

The Field Education and DTES Placement Teams have a wide range of contacts, information and resources that support students in sourcing an appropriate placement. We encourage you to think about what client group, practice area and/or social work perspective you would like to explore on placement rather than identifying specific agencies for your placement.  Students should be aware that the AASW strongly recommends that students complete both a Government and non-government placement.  So think about which style of placement you would prefer to complete first – though remember there are no guarantees as placement offers are often dependent on which agencies are able to support a student placement.

Recommended Activity/s: Reflect on experiences at JCU and beyond to identify possible areas of interest for placement. For example: guest speakers, careerHub events, assessment topics, personal experience. You may want to collate your experiences within the PebblePad environment.

Students are often overwhelmed with what they would like to learn on placement. The Field Education learning objectives are linked to the AASW (2013) Practice Standards into a practice framework that guides student learning on placement and those can provide you with another tool for exploring what it is that you would like to learn and experience on placement.

Recommended Activity/s: Reflect on your studies to identify areas of interest and challenge what you wish to explore on placement.

Refer to Recommended PebblePad/Reflective Activity in What do I know about Social Work theory and practice?

Students will be expected to adhere to Agency and JCU policies and procedures of working in the organisation. You will participate in 6 weeks of preparation workshops in the 1st Field Education subject prior to starting placement to clarify roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder and a compulsory 2 day workshop prior to Field Education 2. The initial 2-3 weeks of placement are also an opportune time to clarify expectations of the different stakeholders and assessment.

The JCU Employability Edge Program has a range of resources that students can access to prepare themselves for the workplace.

Recommended Activity/s:

  • Visit the JCU Employability Edge Program and complete the Employability Edge modules.  You can use PebblePad ePortfolio to reflect on learning from this programme.
  • Take the opportunity with guest speakers to explore their experience within the workplace.
  • Attend and participate in Careers Day Activities as scheduled on Townsville, Bebegu Yumba and Cairns, Nguma-bada campus each year.
  • Peruse the information in the Field Education Manual to familiarise yourself with expectations, roles and responsibilities.


Studying at University is a constant juggle for students – it is expected students allocate 10 hours per week for each 3 unit subject for study. On placement students will be working full-time (approximately 35-38 hours) for 15 weeks.  this can be a dramatic change for some students and their families.

We advise all students to undertake a maximum of one other subject in the Semester that you are undertaking Field education due to the high workload linked to placement.

Recommended Activity/s:

  • Discuss with family and friends how you might accommodate the 2 x 15 week full time placements into your lifestyle.
  • Access support services at JCU

Students that have completed field education recommend starting saving now!!

The commitment of completing placement full-time for 2 x 15weeks can add financial pressure to all students. The Australian Social Work Education and Accreditation Standards (ASWEAS, 2012) is very clear that economic hardship does not meet ‘exceptional circumstances’ criteria to pursue flexible options for placement. Students must prepare themselves for the financial impact of completing placement into their personal budgets.

Recommended Activity/s:-

  • Complete the budget tool available in the Learning Skills area of JCU website. There are some useful tips at ‘making your dollar go further’.
  • Discuss with family and friends how you might accommodate the 2 x 15week full time placements into your lifestyle.
  • Students may also want to review the ‘Career Action Plan’ available through the JCU Careers and Employment Service.

More information in Transitioning to Professional Practice section.