Fieldwork is an essential component of the SSA experience. By working directly with vulnerable populations and the institutions that serve them, you will apply the theories and techniques you learn in the classroom and develop a better understanding of the personal stories and systemic problems.
With the support and guidance of a field consultant and experienced field instructors, you will gain significant professional experience in clinical and administrative social work, from individual casework to systems-level policy development. There are hundreds of opportunities in the Chicago area. You will work between 976 and 1120 hours of field placement over the course of your time at SSA, depending on your area of concentration.
First Year Fieldwork
Your first field placement begins right after orientation. The Office of Field Education will assign you a placement based on the Field Placement Application you submit over the summer. As you work through the core curriculum, your field placement will give you invaluable insight into the day-to-day rigors and rewards of social work.
Field Education Concentrations
In the winter quarter of your first year, you will choose to concentrate in either clinical practice or social administration. During your second year, your field placements will complement your concentration choice.
Clinical Fieldwork: Work directly with clients in public, private and nonprofit organizations and gain hands-on experience with different practice methods (cognitive-behavioral, family, and psychodynamic) that address a range of systemic social issues.
Administrative Fieldwork: Work directly for the government agencies, community organizations, and programs that develop and institute social policy, social action, reform and outreach. You might research and write draft legislation, organize an immunization drive for the Chicago Public Schools, or write a $250,000 grant for a local nonprofit.
Exploring Field Placement Opportunities
The Office of Field Education is always interested in exploring new field placement opportunities and welcomes students' suggestions. However, the Office of Field Education must approve all practicum sites and field instructors.
If you are already employed, the School will consider placing you in your agency of employment provided certain safeguards can be established to insure that the educational quality of the experience is not compromised. In order to be considered for a placement in your place of employment, you must have been employed by your organization for at least one year and have successfully completed your probationary period; your duties as an intern must be different from those performed by you as a regular employee; you must be assigned to a supervisor, other than your employer supervisor, who will serve as your field instructor; your learning assignments must offer you an opportunity for new learning and growth; and the field instructor, agency, and learning assignments available must meet the school's established standards and criteria for an internship affiliation with the university.
SSA's Office of Field Education does not offer international field placements, However, SSA does offer intensive, multi-week, study-abroad programs for non-academic credit in Mumbai, India and Hong Kong.
Summer internships overseas are also available through the University of Chicago's Pozen Family Center for Human Rights. This program makes it possible for a small number of selected students to spend three months each summer working at human rights organizations abroad.
For those wishing to spend a summer abroad for general non-academic credit learning experiences, the University's Community Service Center posts internships, language schools, and volunteer opportunities throughout the world.
The majority of field agencies are in the surrounding metropolitan Chicago area and are accessible by public transportation. Many placements, however, require students to have a car.
Opportunities to obtain financial support for field work are available through special projects and funded Programs of Study in the SSA curriculum; the availability and amount of stipends in these programs vary from year to year.
Read some of our stories from the field to get a better understanding of the significant responsibilities given to SSA students during their field placements. Then learn more about the specific field education requirements by reading through our field manual.
If you have any questions about the field education requirement, whether you are a student or a participating agency, please don't hesitate to contact the Office of Field Education.