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Forensic Social Work Certificate Program

The graduate certificate program in Forensic Social Work is a partnership between the College of Social Work and the College of Law. It is intended for currently admitted Social Work graduate students. It provides an opportunity for students to gain knowledge about a system impacting millions of people and will broadly expose students to the criminal justice system through a focused look at forensic social work through one course in the MSSW program and courses taken in the College of Law. This program provides students with the coursework and practical experience needed to provide forensic services and evidence-based interventions in a variety of settings including, but not limited to, prisons, juvenile justice settings, child welfare, public defender offices and legal aid, programming and policy development.


The United States has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. Additionally, over 7 million people are currently under some sort of community correctional supervision. Social workers are likely to come into contact with these individuals (and/or their families) regardless of specialization or setting. They should be equipped to collaborate with the criminal justice system and to utilize interpersonal, policy and practice skills to work toward ensuring all individuals have the opportunity to be safe, healthy, contributing members of their communities.

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Social workers have increasing opportunities to practice in criminal justice settings. This course of study leading to the Certificate in Forensic Social Work seeks to assist students in developing knowledge and skills for practice in diverse arenas. Forensic social work practice requires the knowledge, skill and ethical capacity to balance the mutual and conflicting interests of client and community.

Certificate Requirements

The Forensic Social Work certificate requires 12 credit hours of graduate/law course work and at least 6 credit hours in a field placement that focuses on work with and/or on behalf of populations impacted by the legal system.

Requirements (18 credit hours total):

Courses (12 credit hours)

Generalist Year:

  • Law 503 – Structure and Operation of the American Legal System (3 credit hours)
  • Law 504 – Introduction to Legal Reasoning and Communication (3 credit hours)

Concentration Year:

  • SOWK 573 – Forensic Social Work in the Criminal Legal System (3 Credit Hours) OR SOWK 574 – Forensic Social Work in the Civil Legal System (3 Credit Hours). Students must complete at least one of these two Forensic Social Work electives.
  • Choice between one elective from the College of Law (3 Credit Hours) OR a second Forensic Social Work elective (3 Credit Hours). Course offerings from the College of Law will vary by semester.

Field Component – at least 6 credit hours in a generalist or concentration MSSW field placement where student learning plans will include assignments related to Forensic

  • The field learning plan will include learning goals specific to the arena of forensic social work.

Application Standards/Procedure

Students will receive information about the certificate program at the time of their admission to the MSSW program.

To be admitted to this program, students must

  • Meet the Graduate Admission requirements for a certificate program.
  • Submit a departmental application at the time of their admission to the MSSW program and agree to program requirements. The application includes a brief personal statement describing 1) their reasons for participating in the certificate program, 2) their professional career goals, and 3) acknowledgement that they understand there are additional credit hours to be taken beyond the credits required for the MSSW.
  • Students selected for admission must be formally admitted to the certificate through the Office of Graduate Admissions

For questions regarding the Forensic Social Work Certificate Program, please contact:

Ali Winters
Forensic Social Work Certificate Program Chair, and Associate Professor of Practice