Concentration Year Frequently Asked Questions

What is the goal of the concentration placement?
The concentration field placement builds on the foundation year, helping you develop advanced skills and knowledge within a designated concentration area.

How is your concentration placement selected?
Placement procedures differ in the concentration year. In contrast to the foundation year, students have an active role in the field assignment decision. In the concentration year, you will be given a placement option based on your interest and specific concentration requirements. The options presented to you may be limited based on the availability of agencies in your community.

Will I be placed with the client population of my choice?
In the concentration year, students are placed in their area of interest. Students are encouraged to include any agencies that may be of interest on their concentration year field form. We will contact the agency to determine if it is a qualified USC placement site. There is no guarantee that even a qualified site will have a slot available for your start date. Under no circumstance should a student contact an agency to solicit or confirm field placements.

Where will I be placed if I select the military sub-concentration?
A range of placement options are available to students interested in learning more about working with military personnel, military retirees, spouses and other military dependents. Students will complete 550 clock hours of an internship in one of the following approved settings: schools (early childhood through higher education programs), veteran courts, faith-based social service programs, state correctional facilities, community college vocational programs, older adults agencies, family service agencies, homeless shelters, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and counseling centers, hospitals, veteran services organizations, Salvation Army, VA outpatient centers, vocational rehabilitation centers, adult care facilities, hospices, community-based agencies, community mental health centers, psychiatric hospitals, university student counseling centers, military correction facilities, base/installation (only available for students residing on base), Veteran Affairs, vet centers and other approved community-based agencies serving military families and veterans.

Practicum sites are based on the availability of the agency to accept a student and a field instructor to provide supervision; therefore, no guarantees are extended to students on a specific type of agency that would be arranged. Please note that only students residing on base are candidates for placement on base.

What happens if a military sub-concentration placement cannot be identified in my geographic area?
The active and veteran population varies greatly by geographic region across the United States. In some geographic areas, it may be challenging to find appropriate agencies that can guarantee a military-affiliated caseload. In these cases, the agency development team will identify a placement site in your concentration focus and the military learning experience will be supplemented with a mandatory Virtual Clinical Experience (VCE). Facilitated by a military sub-concentration faculty member, VCE offers a cutting-edge guided learning experience with a simulated military client. This will provide you with very realistic exposure to the unique challenges experienced when working with military clients. In addition, you will be supported to build service capacity in an agency setting for an unidentified military population through Internship with a Military Lens (IML).

How many hours a week will I need to complete in my field placement?
A minimum of 20 hours per week for a total of 550 hours is required for the concentration year. Based on student performance, additional hours may be required.

What days am I in the field placement?
Field placement days are typically Monday, Wednesday and Friday, given a 20-hour-per-week placement schedule, during normal business hours (9 a.m.-5 p.m.). Other days may be arranged based on your class schedule. Students are required to maintain a schedule that is reflective of two eight-hour days and one four-hour day.

Are there weekend and weeknight placements available?
Field placements occur on weekdays during regular business hours (Monday–Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.). Students must make adjustments in their schedules to accommodate a weekday schedule. If you require evening/weekend hours, your placement may be delayed due to the limited number of agencies that provide appropriate supervision during those hours. A placement at alternative times is never guaranteed.

When will I receive notification of my potential placements?
Typically one to four weeks prior to the start of field, students will receive notification of agencies along with contact information to arrange interviews with each agency. Please note your notification may be delayed due to your geographic location, relocation, submitting a late placement application, change of concentration, change of cohort, choosing the military sub-­concentration, special circumstances or limited availability for field. 

When does my concentration field placement begin?
Field placement begins approximately two to four weeks after the start of classes. Please note your confirmation of placement may be delayed due to your geographic location, relocation, submitting a late placement application, change of concentration, change of cohort, military sub-­concentration, special circumstances or limited availability for field. 

How will I be notified of my concentration interview sites?
Students will receive an email notification typically one to four weeks prior to the start of field. This notification will have the placement information and a request to contact your assigned agency for your concentration interview(s). It is extremely important that you contact the selected agencies immediately to schedule your concentration interviews. Upon completion of the interviews, the students and agency representative are required to submit an interview reaction sheet for feedback on the interviews. Notification of your placement site will be sent upon completion of this process. Delay in returning reaction forms can delay your placement.

What specific requirements must be completed prior to my starting the placement?
Many field placement agencies require fingerprinting, criminal clearance and tuberculosis (TB) testing. Some agencies require proof of car insurance, a good driving record, a medical evaluation and/or drug testing. Depending on agency requirements, these are additional costs that may be incurred by the student.  Please discuss the clearance requirements and any required trainings/orientation with your agency during your interviews.

If I have circumstances that impede my placement in certain agencies, will that affect my field placement?
It is imperative that you alert the Placement Committee of any special circumstances as soon as possible so they can make appropriate placement assignments without jeopardizing your confidentiality or the agency requirements. Examples include lack of transportation, limited hours of availability for the field practicum/internship and felony convictions. If you are not forthcoming about this information or the nature of your special circumstance, it may impede or significantly reduce placement options available in your community and create a delay in securing your placement.

How far am I required to travel to my field placement?
We make every attempt to locate an educationally appropriate placement as close to your residence as possible, and we seek to place you within 30 miles from your home. At times, the best placement match is further from your home than you may prefer. You are required to be able to travel up to 30 miles to your placement site. If you have travel restrictions or need special accommodations, contact the university’s disability office for assistance.

If I do not have a car, how will this impact the selection of my field placement?
The number of field placement options for students who do not drive is limited, and not having a car may delay securing your placement. If you have travel restrictions or need special accommodations, contact the university’s disability office for assistance.

What happens if my field placement begins late?
Sometimes due to unforeseen circumstances with the student, agency or field instructor, a student may begin a placement late in the program. Delayed notification and placement can also occur due to a student’s geographic location, relocation, submitting a late placement application, change of concentration, change of cohort, military sub-­concentration, special circumstances or limited availability for field. In these circumstances, students will receive updates from the agency development team and are expected to work with their field liaison and field instructor to determine how they will meet their required hours for their practicum, which in some circumstances may mean additional hours per week or an extended length of time with the agency.

Can I do my field placement where I work?
If approved, an agency of employment placement may be considered in the concentration year of the program. The goal of the foundation year is to provide an introduction to the values and ethics of the profession. A consideration for an agency of employment request must meet the following criteria:

  1. All of the required field hours must take place under the supervision of an MSW field instructor who is not the student’s employment supervisor and meets the standards of our program.
  2. The field instruction assignment must be different from the student’s regular work assignment.
  3. The activities themselves must constitute new learning for the student: i.e., a new population, utilizing new treatment methodology, and/or in a new field of practice.
  4. The student’s educational goals should be the primary focus of this request, not simply the needs of the agency.
  5. The location of the assigned work space for the field placement should be a different location than the assigned work space for the role of employee.

An administrative review and approval is required for such requests. Additional information may be requested; however, we are unable to guarantee that your employment can serve as your placement. If you are interested in learning more about whether your agency could serve as a field placement, please contact VACDEV@usc.edu, and a member of our placement support team will contact you to discuss your specific situation.

Can I do my concentration placement in a different department of my foundation year placement site?
Foundation year and concentration year placements are intended to be in different agencies, each of which must meet the criteria and objectives for that year of field instruction – a generalist experience in the foundation year and a second year experience in the concentration year. In cases where there are learning opportunities, programs, services or populations in a foundation year agency, this may be considered as one of the interview options; however, students will be encouraged to interview with a second agency in order to expand upon the learning opportunities available for the concentration year. The following criteria must be met in order for a foundation year agency to be considered for a concentration year interview option:

  1. All of the required field hours must be under the supervision of an MSW field instructor who was not the student’s foundation year field instructor and meets the standards of the USC School of Social Work.
  2. The field instruction assignments must meet the requirements of the student’s specific concentration competencies.
  3. The assignments must be new learning for the student, utilizing new methodologies.
  4. The student’s education goals should be the primary focus of this request, not simply the needs of the agency.

An administrative review and approval is required for such requests. Additional information may be requested; however, we are unable to guarantee that your employment can serve as your placement. If you are interested in learning more about whether your agency could serve as a field placement, please contact VACDEV@usc.edu, and a member of our placement support team will contact you to discuss your specific situation.

Can international field placements be secured if I move overseas during my concentration year?
If you relocate outside of the United States during the course of the program, your field placement cannot be guaranteed. While the USC School of Social Work will make an effort to secure a field placement site, you will not be able to continue to matriculate in the program if a site is not secured and you may have to take a leave of absence.

Will I receive payment?
Most of our field placement agencies do not provide a stipend or salary for students. While some offer stipends for language ability or other special circumstances, we do not select agencies based on whether a stipend is provided, but on the type of learning opportunities available to students. Since we do not require agencies to compensate students, a stipend or a salary is never guaranteed.

Will I receive a grade for the field placement?
Field practicum is a four-­unit course for which you will receive a CR (credit), NC (no credit) – or an IP (in progress) at the end of the semester. You will be evaluated by the field instructor and receive a grade for each semester.

What happens if I defer or take an LOA?
Placement requires a minimum of 30-­45 days to secure additional placement options for returning students. We cannot guarantee that your initial interview sites will be available upon your return to placement.

Who do I contact if I have questions about my concentration?
The concentration coordinator is responsible for working with your concentration agency and field instructor and can answer any questions related to the academic requirements of the program. Should you have specific questions about your placement site or sites being considered, please contact VACDEV@usc.edu, and a coordinator assigned to your geographic area will contact you.

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