Pacific’s social work education provides students with a unique opportunity to apply what they are learning in the classroom to practice in the field. Working in a social work field agency allows students to leverage classroom theory and knowledge to develop their professional competence and identity, as well as begin their commitment to serving clients and communities. The profession of Social Work uses field education as the avenue through which it “professionalizes” its members. It is through a field internship that the student learns how to think and act like a professional social worker. 

The student is expected to be proactive, interactive, relational, and self-reflective. The focus of the internship is to work with vulnerable populations within a social service agency setting. The student will develop the skills of client engaging, assessment, intervention planning, intervention, and evaluation. While the emphasis is working with clients, the student must also know that collaborating and problem-solving with colleagues inside and outside the agency is equally emphasized. 

The learning in a field internship can be very demanding and with Pacific’s “accelerated model,” this is especially true.  It is imperative that every student be prepared to make the commitment of time and energy that the field internship will require.

Time Requirements in a field internship

  • 16-month Accelerated Hybrid Program: Students complete a generalist field internship (15 weeks) and a specialized field internship (31 weeks). The field internships begin in the student’s second trimester (January) and end after the fourth trimester (December).  The time requirement is 3 days or 24 hours per week.  The total hours for the 16-month Accelerated Program are approximately 1104 hours. 
  • 12-month Advanced Standing Program: Students complete a specialized field internship (31 weeks). The field internship begins in the student’s second trimester (April) and ends after the third trimester (December).  The time requirement is 3 days or 24 hours per week.  The approximate hours for the 12-month Advanced Standing Program are 744 hours.  

No Paid Field Internships 

The field internship is not to be confused with "paid employment." Often students feel frustrated that they are spending a lot of time doing agency work and not "getting paid." It is important to remember that a student is not at the agency doing work as an employee, but rather building skills, knowledge, and values about social work practice. This can be a time of tremendous professional growth through personal reflection of work habits, biases, and knowledge development. 

Employment-based field internships

Students often inquire about using their human service employment as a field internship site. There are strict guidelines that must be met in order to be placed at an existing employment site for a field internship. First and foremost, the agency must be willing to provide the student with an educationally-focused experience for the required number of field hours. Therefore, if a student seeks to use current employment as an internship site, the student must be assigned completely different educationally-focused duties. Employment-based field practicums must be approved by the Director of Field Education prior to the student being placed in the agency. 

Weekend and evening internships

The University of the Pacific Field Education Office does not offer internships that are solely on weekends or evenings. If a student has full-time daytime employment (i.e., Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm), the program will not guarantee a field internship. Students who work full-time must be able to flex their work schedule in order to accommodate a field internship. 

Adult criminal history

Students who have misdemeanors or felonies may find it difficult to obtain a field internship, future employment, and/or licensure in the profession of social work. Most internship agencies require students to undergo fingerprint checks and some require extensive background checks. Thus, students should be advised that while the Pacific Field Education Program will provide a student with up to three referrals for an internship, it does not guarantee that a student will be accepted. A history of felony or misdemeanor convictions may present a barrier to acceptance by any university approved agency and may prohibit the student from completing the social work degree requirements. Students must be prepared to disclose to the Field Education Program and to potential field internship sites any criminal background which may appear through fingerprint or background checks. 

Matching student to internship

The Field Education Office assigns internships to students based on the pool of agencies that have requested students. The students’ specific learning needs, past experiences, and home location are taken into account. An attempt is made to have students near their home, but this is not guaranteed. A student can be placed up to 50 miles from home and the student is solely responsible for transportation to the agency.  

Request for reasonable accommodation in a field internship

In addition to needing a reasonable accommodation for the classroom, some students may need a reasonable accommodation for their field internship activities. It is the students’ responsibility to contact the University of the Pacific, Office of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) in order to receive the necessary documentation that allows a field agency to grant the accommodation (below).   Students are encouraged to also contact the Field Director so that she can consult with SSD as needed, as well as find an agency that will be able to provide a particular accommodation.   

Agencies onboarding requirements and student financial obligation

In order for a student to become an intern, the agency may require some or all of the items listed below.  While the Field Education Office provides guidance on how to complete these requirements, student may be obligated to finance them.  

  • security background investigations  
  • fingerprint checks  
  • initial drug screen and random drug screens  
  • physical examination  
  • TB test  
  • immunization verification, including yearly influenza vaccine  
  • valid CA driver's license and current automobile insurance  
  • trainings such as “blood-born pathogen safety” and HIPAA confidentiality  

Field admission criteria

It is important to note that a field internship is not guaranteed by Pacific’s MSW Program. A student has to demonstrate a certain level of professionalism, maturity and aptitude in order to be referred to an internship or to be accepted by an agency.  Other criteria for field admission include: 

  • the successful completion of all prerequisite courses 
  • attendance at all field orientations 
  • completion of a field application and accompanying documents 

Be prepared and ask questions

Field Education is the critical bridge between the social work classroom and “real life” practice.  The process of obtaining a field internship can be intimidating as there is much to know and understand. The Director of Field Education is available to answer questions and provide support to any applicant or interested party. 

Pacific is a leader in providing professional healthcare education in Northern California and we could not do this without strong relationships with local organizations. If your agency is interested in partnering with the Social Work program at the University of the Pacific, please contact Amber Herrera, Interim Field Director, at The Field Education Office is excited to partner with new agencies. 

2021 Field Calendar (PDF)

Agency/Field Instructor Roles & Responsibilities (PDF)