Health Sciences & Social Work

Social Work Practicum

Quick Links

All students seeking the BSW degree will complete SW 480: Social Work Practicum. The practicum is traditionally completed during the student’s final semester prior to graduation from Western and consists of 450 hours of supervised, hands-on social work experience in an agency. Students placement agencies represent a variety of fields of practice such as child welfare, health care, mental health, geriatrics, domestic violence, schools, and corrections. They provide client services, including assessment, supportive counseling, case management, linkage, and skill development.  An on-campus seminar integrates students’ academic preparation with their practice experience and is usually held every other Friday afternoon.

Screening and monitoring students for readiness for field placement and subsequent completion of the Social Work Program is an ongoing process.  Students must meet with the social work advisor to confirm that they have met ALL the requirements for SW 480.

Social Work Field Education Top Ten FAQ's

1. What is a social work practicum?

 The social work practicum is a agency-based practical experience required of all students graduating with a BSW degree. The social work practicum is designed to assist students in applying the knowledge, values, and skills learned in foundation courses in actual practice within an agency setting.

2. When am I eligible to begin practicum?

The WIU social work program uses a block model for practicum. This means that the practium is completed in the course of one semester and occurs the semester after all social work courses have been completed.

To be eligible for practicum, students must have:

  • Been accepted as a major in the Social Work Program
  • Senior standing
  • Cumulative GPA of 2.5 on a 4.0-scale (calculated from courses within the major)
  • Completed all courses for the major with a minimum grade of 'C'
  • Completed the Practicum Application and all other requirements of SW 440: Pre-Practicum
  • Demonstrated readiness for professional behavior in an agency setting
  • Completed placement arrangements
  • Within 20 credit hours of completing degree requirements
  • Consent of the Director of Field Education and Department Chairperson.

 Students should confirm with their academic advisor that they have met all the requirements for practicum and for       graduation.

3. Do I attend class during my practicum?

Practicum students attend seminar class at least twice per month throughout the practicum semester. The integrative seminar provides opportunities for discussion and is part of the practicum experience. During seminar class, students discuss topics such as diversity, ethics, time management, supervision, boundaries and personal safety, professionalism, networking, organizational politics and termination. The seminar course includes diverse assignments to gain competency in practice behaviors.

4. How many practicum hours are required to complete a practicum?

The practicum requires a minimum of 450 field hours over a minimum of 15 weeks in one semester. The practicum will generally involve a 32 hour a week learning experience in an agency setting.

5. What agencies can I consider?

Students may consider agencies listed on the approved agency list (see the link at the top of this page). Potential field agencies must meet agency/field instructor qualifications and be within an 80-mile radius of Macomb. Students interested in pursuing an agency field placement not on the list must contact the Director of Field Education early in the process. While students are encouraged to reach out to agencies directly to complete volunteer hours, students seeking a practicum are requested not to contact agencies directly, but instead work with the Director of Field Education who will do outreach to agencies.

6. Can I use my social services emplyment site for a practicum placement?

It is possible for students to have a practicum placement at their place of employment, provided that the educational experience is new social work learning of knowledge, values, and skills. This learning is to be clearly reflected in a detailed educational plan involving the integration of specific, goal oriented, and clearly measurable objectives. Students who wish to complete a practicum at their place of employment must complete of Application for Field Practicum at Place of Employment form and discuss the option with the Director of Field Education.

7. Can I complete a practicum out-of-state?

Students who request a placement in a state which does not border Illinois must fulfill additional criteria. Students should contact the Director of Field Education regarding the approval criteria.

8. Who is my field liaison?

The field liaison is the WIU faculty person responsible for conducting the seminar and maintaining contact with the agency and the student during the actual field placement.

9. Do I receive a grade for practicum?

Yes, a letter grade is issued at the end of the practicum semester. The course is 13 credit hours. The grade reflects learning in the field and the seminar class.

10. Is a background check required?

Most agencies require students to undergo a criminal background check and/or fingerprinting. Students must comply with these requirements if requested. Some agencies require credit checks if working with certain populations (e.g. older adults). It is the student's responsibility to notify the Director of Field Education of any past criminal records (misdemeanor/felony). A past criminal record may hinder a practicum placement.

For additional information regarding field education, students are encouraged to review the Field Practicum Manual or contact Dr. Katherine Perone, Director of Field Education, at 

Coney Grant

Students experiencing barriers while planning or performing their practicum may request assistance by applying for the Nancy Coney Field Education Grant. This is a one-time award of up to $100 to help alleviate expenses involved in transportation to interviews or placements, required dress, purchasing required course materials, etc. Please see the link above for more information.

Practicum Agencies

Below are just a few of the 200+ agencies where students have performed a practicum in and around Illinois:

Big Brothers/Big Sisters: Joliet, Macomb, Quincy, Springfield IL
Central Illinois Agency on Aging: Peoria IL
Center for Youth and Family Solutions: Galesburg, Macomb, Peoria, Rock Island, Springfield IL
Chaddock: Quincy IL
Children's Home Association of Illinios: Peoria IL
Community Crisis Center: Elgin IL
Cornerstone: Foundations for Families: Quincy IL
DCFS-IL Bloomington, Canton, Chicago, Galesburg, Harvey, Pekin, Peoria, Macomb IL
Early Beginnings-ROE: Macomb IL
Family Resources, Inc.: Davenport IA
Jacksonville School District: Jacksonville IL
Lutheran Social Services of Illinois Canton, Galesburg, Sterling, W. Peoria IL
McDonough District Hospital: Macomb IL
Mujeres Latinas En Accion: Chicago IL 
Park Lawn Services: Oak Lawn IL
Romeoville Police Department: Romeoville IL
Wesley Village: Macomb IL
WIRC-CAA Victim Services: Macomb IL
WIU Multicultural Center: Macomb IL
WIU Veterans Resource Center: Macomb IL
Young House Family Services: Burlington IA
Youth Crossroads: Berwyn IL

Through the practicum experience social work majors have provided over 250,000 hours of service to the surrounding communities!

Practicum Forms for current pre-practicum and practicum students
Forms are in PDF format. Adobe Reader required.

Pre-Practicum Documents
Practicum Application Part 1
Practicum Application Part 2
Employment at Agency Practicum Form
Field Setting Preferences
Pre-Practicum Checklist
Practicum Learning Plan-Template
Practicum Learning Plan
Special Permission Request
Statement of Insurance Coverage
Statement of Understanding
Waiver and Release of Liability

Practicum Documents for Students
Graduation Information
Process Recording Outline
Process Recording Form (Word)
Process Recording Form (PDF)
Student Eval. of Practicum Agency
Time Sheet (sample) (PDF)
Time Sheet (Word)
Weekly Log example of required format to use for submission


Practicum Documents for Agencies
Evaluation of Social Work Program (Email link sent at end of practicum semester.)
Agency Profile Update

Field Instructor Profile

Orientation Checklist for Social Work Practicum Students
Practicum Improvement Plan