Degrees That Typically Include Fieldwork Components For Hands-On Experience

Published on: July 07, 2024

While plenty of degrees can be completed entirely online, some also include fieldwork components. For these degrees, fieldwork is crucial for gaining hands-on experience and helping students enhance their theoretical knowledge by applying their learning in a real-world setting. Generally, careers that involve spending a lot of time outdoors will prioritize fieldwork, but this is not always the case. If you are interested in pursuing a degree with fieldwork components, the following are some of the most common.

How do Online Degree Programs handle Fieldwork Components?

A common concern for students interested in degrees with fieldwork components is how this is handled when studying online. However, online institutions employ a few common strategies to help ensure that students get the required field experience.

Local Placements

Internships, arranged in collaboration with local organizations and companies, are a common method for students to get hands-on experience. Some universities also provide the fieldwork components in partnership with local hospitals, schools, and other relevant organizations. Online universities can also pair students with local professionals as part of mentorship programs.

Residential Sessions

Universities that offer online degrees often require students to attend sessions on campus to complete the fieldwork components. These sessions tend to be short-term but intensive and are conducted under supervision. Some universities may also organize fieldwork retreats for students to participate in hands-on projects. Hybrid programs, where students complete the coursework online and the fieldwork through campus visits, are also common.

Virtual Environments

As technology continues to improve, advanced software that can simulate fieldwork scenarios is often employed as part of online degrees. These enable students to practice their skills in a controlled environment. In addition to virtual environments, some degrees also use virtual labs for fieldwork.

What Are The Most Common Degrees With Fieldwork Components? 


Agriculture is a popular degree with numerous concentrations, many featuring fieldwork components. Students can choose whether they are interested in the business, engineering, animal, or horticulture side of the industry, amongst other things. Depending on the concentration, fieldwork may include testing different crop management techniques, caring for and managing livestock, and implementing sustainable agricultural methods.

Anthropology & Archaeology

Both anthropology and archaeology degrees involve examining past cultures, which presents plenty of opportunities for fieldwork. These degree programs often use field schools to provide students with mentored field research. In addition, archaeology students can use resources, such as the Archaeological Fieldwork Opportunities Bulletin, to find listings for archaeological projects around the globe in which they can participate in fieldwork.


Biology is another degree path with many different concentrations and plenty of opportunities for fieldwork. Students might have the chance to study animals in their natural habitats, collect and analyze samples, use random sampling to compare habitats, and visit sites of conservation interest. Students may also be required to keep a field journal of their experiences to keep track of species, techniques, and more.

Criminal Justice

Criminal justice degree students can earn academic credit while working in placements across criminal justice settings. These can include defense, prosecution, and federal, state, and city criminal justice agencies. This fieldwork enables students to work on real legal matters and the different aspects of criminal cases, such as investigations, legal research, client and witness interviews, court filings, and more.


Students completing education degrees use fieldwork to apply their course knowledge in practical settings. This fieldwork is often done in conjunction with volunteer mentor teachers from local public and private schools who are paired with the student. The goal is to actively assist the classroom teachers and for students to deepen their passion for teaching.


Engineering has many fields, most of which are very hands-on, making fieldwork vital for degrees. For example, biomedical engineering students may be required to work in a lab, a manufacturing facility, or a think tank that develops prototypes as part of their fieldwork. Civil engineering degree programs may offer students summer internships within the industry and with government agencies or provide students with laboratory facilities that can be used for fieldwork.


Journalism students can typically choose hands-on fieldwork courses in areas such as news writing and reporting, publishing, or broadcast journalism. These offer students the opportunity to work at professional news outlets where they will be able to produce bylined or on-air journalism pieces under supervision. Some programs also offer volunteer, paid, or for-credit internships.


Nursing is one healthcare field requiring students to complete clinical or fieldwork for their degree. The fieldwork is typically done at hospitals, long-term care facilities, nursing homes, community health centers, and mental health facilities. It teaches nursing students how to communicate with patients and other healthcare team members, take vital signs, insert IVs and feeding tubes, and more.

Social Work

Fieldwork is a vital component of any social work degree and is typically a requirement for becoming a licensed social worker. While the coursework can give students an understanding of the types of situations they may encounter as part of their job, it is just as important to gain real-world experience. It is common for social work degree students to receive a foundation or generalist placement first to expose them to multiple social work roles. Once students have completed their foundational field placement, they are ready for specialized placement at schools, hospitals, prisons, rehabilitation centers, hospices, childcare centers, and more.


When selecting a degree program, especially from an online institution, it is important to familiarize yourself with how the fieldwork components are handled. Some learning institutions provide students with assistance, while others leave it up to students to gain the necessary fieldwork experience. If your chosen degree has fieldwork components, it is vital that the quality and integrity of these components are correctly maintained by the learning institution. For example, some universities assist students with finding appropriate internship positions where they are paid for their employment, graded on their job performance, and awarded academic credit.

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