Lengthy unpaid placements in social work: Exploring the impacts on student wellbeing

Lisa Hodge, Nicole Oke, Heather McIntyre, Shelley Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In Australia, there are 130,000 students studying social work across 30 universities. The Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) mandates the completion of at least 1,000 hours of field education for qualification, across at least two placements in different fields of practice. This means a full-time social work placement at 7.5 hours per day is typically just under 3.5 months’ duration. Yet, recent Australian research has demonstrated that students experience significant levels of financial and other stress during lengthy, unpaid placements. In response to this, we surveyed Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) students who were currently undertaking or had recently undertaken (n = 60) their first or second field placement at Victoria University, in Australia to elicit their feedback on their experiences of lengthy unpaid placements. The descriptive survey was completed anonymously online and consisted of 38 short answer questions that elicited demographic information and respondents’ opinions on key field placement criteria. The results of this study have important implications for field education, as it adds to the existing calls for a reworking of the AASW accreditation standards to address this issue. Future research could incorporate feedback from field liaisons, and field directors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)787-802
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Work Education
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes


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