Placement / Practicum FAQs

Social Work programme placements give you the opportunity to apply the theory you've learned in class to real-world problems, giving you invaluable work experience. Read our FAQs below.

What is a practicum / placement?

Practicum is a term used to cover all aspects relating to a social work field placement experience. It is a chance for students to experience with a social services agency. 

How many weeks will I spend on practicums/placements?

Spending a total of 120 days on a supervised field placement is a requirement for a social work degree.

In the four-year Bachelor of Social Work degree, you will engage in a 60-day, full-time (Monday-Friday), formally-arranged field placement in Semester One of year 3 (April-July).

A further 60 full-time days are spent out on field placements in a different social services sector in Semester 2 in Year 4 (August-October).

In the two-year postgraduate Master of Social Work (Professional) programme, students engage in a 50-day, full-time (Monday-Friday) field placement in Semester Two (August-November) of their first year.

In their second year they will complete a 70-day, three days per week (Monday-Wednesday) field placement concurrently with other university papers. This three days per week field placement will begin in April and carry through into Semester Two finishing in October.

How are placements organised?

All placements are organised by and through the social work degree’s Practice Learning Team (PLT). The PLT will be teaching and getting to know students during their pre-practicum skills papers.

The PLT will liaise with individual students to figure out their priority learning needs, make sure they meet fit and proper standards and expectations, and discuss and match students with areas of practice (such as Youth, Child and Family, Homelessness, Family Violence, Mental Health and more).

The PLT will identify an agency within that area of practice that confirms an interest in interviewing and offering student placements at that time. The students will be prepared for presenting themselves and attending an interview in order to explore and secure a field placement with the agency they have been matched to.

What will I do on placement?

You will learn about the agency, its services and the people it serves, how it operates, what social service sector it operates within, what outcomes are expected from the services it delivers, what skills and knowledge and values and attitude are needed to work there.

Students are attached to a person within the agency called a field educator who takes the role of supervisor and coach, and mentors and assesses the student to learn about the agency as the student becomes more comfortable and ready to contribute to the work it does. 

As a student you operate under very clear expectations and standards and guidelines contained in a Field Placement Handbook which also has a specific learning contract for you to develop with the agency. 

We partner with agencies to support our students to experience, learn and build the necessary wide range of social work skills and knowledge needed to integrate theory learnt in the classroom into the day to day practice of the agency and critically reflect upon both self and society. You are usually part of a team within the agency and often work collaboratively with other agencies who may be offering complementary services.

Can students choose the organisation they do their placement at?

The PLT matches the student and negotiates with prospective agency/organisations. Students will be consulted and will have the opportunity to put forward their ideas and suggestions. The final decision as to where the student is offered an opportunity to experience their field placement, however, ultimately rests with the PLT who has the overview and detailed knowledge of what is available and will have the best learning interests of the student foremost in their mind.

What support do students have when on placements?

Students are thoroughly prepared through their prior papers and specific briefings for their field placement experience. They have a detailed handbook (which they have been introduced to) that guides and advises them every step of the way.

They have a direct field educator within the agency, supervision of a minimum of an hour a week is negotiated from a qualified social worker within the agency and students will have an assigned visiting lecturer from the University whom they will maintain a close relationship and accountability with, and who will visit them on placement.

What are some of the organisations the students might be placed in? 

We partner with over one hundred agencies/organisations in the Non-Government (NGO) and Statutory sectors. Statutory agencies are District Health Boards, Department of Corrections including Probation Services and Prisons, Police and Oranga Tamariki Care and Protection, Youth Justice, and Care Services. Non-Government agencies include Iwi Social Services, Pasifika, Asian and other ethnic-specific services, Child and Family Services like Anglican Trust for Women and Children, Barnardos, and Presbyterian Social Services.

We partner with many agencies offering engagement and services for targeting working with Youth, Mental Health, Housing, Poverty, Family Violence, Single parents, different abilities, community services, counselling and groups, projects, and research.

Are students likely to get offered a job at the organisation they are placed in once they’ve finished their degree?

Yes it is very common that students are invited to apply for jobs in the agencies they have completed successful placement in.

Are placements paid?

No, they are not paid. There are some occasional exceptions that you may discuss with your PLT.