School of Social Work

Employment-Based Practicum

Students who are already employed by a social service agency often inquire about using their employment as a practicum site. School of Social Work policy requires that all practicum placements maintain a primary focus on the education and development of the student as a professional social worker. To ensure this, an employment-based practicum placement must be designed to provide opportunities for students to pursue and achieve the specific learning objectives of practicum at each level (BSW, MSW foundation, MSW concentration).

Types of Employment-Based Practicum Placements

  1. Same work - student keeps their current employment role and tasks and count work hours towards 100% of their practicum hours (this is only approved if the student is a new employee or in a new role within the employment agency)
  2. Combo Work - student counts some current employment tasks towards their practicum hours (70%) and also completes tasks in a different role/department (30%)
  3. Different work - student completes 100% of their practicum hours in a different role/department doing different tasks other than their current employment role (this is most common when the student's employment tasks are not directly linked to the social work competencies) 

*Students who are interested in doing combo work or different work will need to discuss with their employment supervisor whether these tasks can be completed within their normal working hours or if these tasks will require additional hours. It is vital that the student has discussion with their employment supervisor regarding their employment-based practicum plans to ensure the employer will allow the student to complete the practicum placement within the agency. 

Employment-Based Practicum Guidelines

  • The employment agency must be willing to provide the student with an educationally-focused experience for the required number of practicum hours. The agency is expected to help the student and the School of Social Work create and maintain an environment for learning to take place. 
  • Ideally, the student will be assigned to a program/department other than the one where they are employed. However, if the student's current employment roles, tasks, or responsibilities are directly linked to the social work competencies they will be allowed to count 70% toward their required practicum hours. The other 30% must consist of new roles, tasks, and responsibilities (refer to the Types of Employment-Based Practicum Placements section above). 
  • All students must receive one hour per week of supervision with a qualified social worker. BSW students can be supervised by someone with a BSW or MSW degree and 2+ years of post-graduation experience and MSW students must be supervised by someone with a MSW degree and 2+ years post-graduation experience.
    • If there is no one at your agency that is willing and qualified to provide supervision, the Practicum Education Program will arrange for you to be assigned an off-site practicum instructor. 
    • The practicum instructor could potentially be an employment supervisor if it is clear that practicum supervision will be distinct from employment supervision.
    • Careful thought should be given to the nature of the student's relationship with the proposed practicum instructor with regard to potential conflicts of interest. 
  • In collaboration with the employment agency, the student must submit an Employment-Based Practicum Proposal that clearly distinguishes between the proposed student roles, tasks, or responsibilities and those that are part of the student's regular employment duties. The proposal must be signed by the student, their employment supervisor, the proposed practicum instructor, and the agency director/program manager. The student will not be allowed to accrue any practicum hours until the proposal has been submitted and approved by the Practicum Education Director/Coordinator. 

Approval Process for Employment-Based Placements

  1. Student reviews the Policy on Employment-Based Placements in the Practicum Education Handbook
  2. Student indicates their interest in pursuing an Employment-Based Practicum Placement on their Practicum Application 
  3. Student meets with Practicum Coordinator to discuss the possibility of an employment-based practicum
  4. Formal meeting with the student, employment supervisor, and practicum coordinator to discuss learning opportunities within the employment agency
  5. If the Practicum Coordinator determines that the employment agency has appropriate learning opportunities, the student will develop the Employment-Based Practicum Proposal and submit to the Practicum Coordinator prior to the start of the semester
  6. The Practicum Coordinator will review the proposal and give final approval of the employment-based practicum placement 
    1. If denied, student will move forward with the non-employment-based practicum placement process 
  7. The Practicum Education Program will reach out to the employment agency to begin the Student Placement Agreement process (see Student Placement Agreement section below)
  8. When the Student Placement Agreement has been finalized the Practicum Education Program will give final clearance to the student
  9. Student attends the required Practicum Orientation during the first week of the fall semester 
  10. Student begins their practicum hours (according to the dates listed in the Practicum Education Calendars)

Please note that students who are interested in pursuing an employment-based practicum placement are responsible for securing and maintaining employment in a social service agency. The Practicum Education Program does not assist students with securing employment in order to pursue an employment-based practicum placement.

In addition, the Practicum Education Program is not able to give approval for an employment-based practicum placement before a student has been accepted to the BSW/MSW program. While many employment-based practicum placements are approved, there are occasions where they may be denied. It is imperative that the Practicum Education Program is able to provide thorough review of the employment-based proposal prior to approval.  

Student Placement Agreements

In order for students to complete a practicum placement with a specific agency, there must be a fully executed Student Placement Agreement between the agency and the University. Once students have been approved for an employment-based practicum placement, the Practicum Education Program will initiate the Student Placement Agreement (contract) process. Please note that this process can take several months, depending on the agency's contract requirements and process. While it is rare, students should be aware that it is possible that the agency and the University may be unable to agree to the required terms laid out by each party. In this situation, the student would be unable to complete placement with that agency and would need to follow the regular practicum placement process. 


If you require any of this information in an accessible format, please contact the School of Social Work at 530-898-6204 or the Office of Accessible Technology at 530-898-6532.