Field Education for Social Work students

CASE Social Work Student Resources Field Education for Social Work

Bachelor of Social Work and Masters of Social Work (PQ) students have two exciting opportunities during their studies to integrate theoretical learning with practice experience.

Bachelor of Social Work students undertake Field Education at Level 3 and 4 and Masters of Social Work (PQ) students at Level 1 and 2.

Field Education, also called Placement or Practicum, requires students to undertake a total of 1,000 hours in a practice setting over two subjects and year levels. Field Education subjects are academic subjects that integrate theory and practice.

Students are supported to undertake their Field Education subjects by a Social Work Field Education unit and the Social Work Profex team. The Field Education unit works with students to identify suitable placements based on their place of residence.

Each Field Education subject has identified academic requirements that need to be completed prior to starting the field placement as per the subject outline.

Students may choose to study on-campus or online for the first Field Education subject.

Workshop attendance for the second Field Education subject is compulsory for all students. Students should plan their attendance alongside WS4511 Professional Development for Social Work Practice or WS5611 Professional Development for Social Work Practice.

Whilst on placement, students will participate in three compulsory Integrations sessions on campus or online as scheduled in the subject outlines.

Find more about:

Length of field placements

Field placement is a component in both Field Education subjects alongside workshops and academic assessment. Field placement is 500 hours in each subject for a total of 1,000 hours for the degree.

Students are expected to work the full-time Award hours that are relevant for their placement agency. So, if you work 38 hour per week you will be on placement for approximately 14-15 weeks.

Days away from placement due to sickness, parental and carer responsibilities or any other circumstances that keep you away from placement do not count as placement time.

Finding a placement agency

On enrolling in a Field Education subject, you will be contacted by a staff member from the Field Education Unit to discuss placement options.

If you have completed the recommended activities contained in this website’s modules to prepare for placement you will already have thought about the placement experience. This allows you to provide valuable input into the discussion around placement options with a member of the Field Education unit.

Students studying in Cairns and Townsville are highly discouraged from approaching local agencies or Social Workers to request a placement. The Field Education unit has a very formal and thoughtful process of engaging with the Agencies in Cairns and Townsville due to the high number of students looking for placements in these communities.

External mode Students studying in communities other than Cairns and Townsville may want to do some initial research about the local services and possibilities for placements. Please talk to the Field Education Unit staff to develop the best strategy in approaching agencies about placement. The Field Education Unit also has many contacts and networks across Australia of which they use to secure placements for students.

Role of the Field Education Unit

The role of the Field Education Unit is to provide teaching, research, curriculum design, and workshops on relevant Field Education theory to students, field educators and liaisons.

The unit provides support by:

  • Finding and matching student placement opportunities
  • Establishing that students meet agency and JCU requirements for placement, eg Bluecard pre-requisite subjects
  • Working with students to establish their skill development interests
  • Setting up a Liaison Person and Field Educator to confirm students have a liaison person and Field Educator that are qualified to supervise, support and assess placement
  • General Support through information and communication to the student and other stakeholders
  • Finalising student grades for Field Education subjects on recommendation from the liaison person

Flexible options for field placement

Being able to undertake placement means students must be well prepared no matter what their current circumstances. Getting ready could simply start by listing all the points that you feel prevent you from undertaking a 500 hour placement.

We have listed below a couple of flexible options for addressing some challenges. Some of them you are able to negotiate yourself, others need to be discussed with the Field Education Unit to check your eligibility.

Have you talked to family and friends about your study commitments?

Family and friends can be a great support during this time, which in most cases can be financial drought as it is nearly impossible to hold down a paid job while completing a full-time placement.

Support can start by helping out with dinner cooking, sharing the grocery shopping, looking after children to save childcare costs, for example. What ideas can you come up with?

Have you spoken with your current employer?

Your employer might be able to support you by providing shifts that lay outside of placement hours. Just be mindful that you do not overload yourself with placement and work commitments.

Some students accumulate their paid annual leave for undertaking placement, others negotiate unpaid leave with their employers.

Have you heard about Recognition of Prior Learning?

Students with extensive work experience in the social welfare field may have this work experience recognised as prior learning. Full Credit for a Field Education subject in Social Work is only possible for the first placement.

Part-time placements

We understand that we all have different situations and circumstances, and so as a team we do support students that can only complete their placement in a part time capacity. A case can be made to the Field education team for entering into a part time placement.

However, these two criteria should be addressed:

  • The Field Education team has a strong preference that placements be no less than three days a week.
  • A 2-week full-time block must be completed within the placement as negotiated.

Students are encouraged to think about the consequences of completing their placement part-time on future study and personal life.

Placements while employed

Depending on your circumstances you may be able to undertake your placement with your current employer.

We have prepared a Work-based Placement Guide (PDF, 663 KB) that provides detailed information on the requirements and expectations.

Before any student commences a workplace placement, a contract needs to be in placed signed by the Field Education coordinator and your employer.