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Victim Advocate School and Certification Information

Most victim advocates earn degrees in social work, which are offered at all degree levels. Degrees in criminal justice can also give students opportunities to study victim advocacy. Voluntary certification for victim advocates can help with career advancement.

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Victim advocates are typically required to have a bachelor's degree or an advanced degree in social work. Many schools across the country offer Bachelor's, Master's and Doctoral degree in social work. Students should select a program that is accredited and fits their schedule. Internship opportunities are also major selling points.

Top 10 Social Work Schools

Below is a list of the top universities in the country that offer social work programs at all degree levels:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition and Fees (2015-2016)*
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI 4-year, Public Master's, Doctoral In-state: $20,966; Out-of-state: $42,016
Washington University in St. Louis St. Louis, MO 4-year, Public Master's, Doctoral $47,620
University of Chicago Chicago, IL 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral In-state (undergraduate): $51,351; In-state (graduate): $52,713
University of Washington Seattle, WA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral In-state (undergraduate): $11,839; In-state (graduate): $16,278
Columbia University New York, NY 4-year, Private Master's, Doctoral $44,176
University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC 4-year, Public Master's, Doctoral In-state: $11,074; Out-of-state: $28,285
University of California - Berkeley Berkeley, CA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Graduate Certificate Doctoral $13,431
University of Texas - Austin Austin, TX 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral In-state (undergraduate): $9,806; In-state (graduate): $10,934
Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, OH 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's, Graduate Certificate, Doctoral Undergraduate: $44,560; Graduate: $41,159
Boston College Chestnut Hill, MA 4-year, Private Master's, Doctoral $26,262

Source:*National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

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School Selection Criteria

There are many schools that have social work programs, so it is important to consider the following when choosing a victim advocacy program:

  • It's important for students to find a flexible social work degree program that gives them opportunities to study victim advocacy.
  • Schools with accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) ensure a social work degree program meets certain academic standards that give students ample preparation for work in the field social work and, by extension, victim advocacy.
  • There are programs that offer internships or field studies at social work agencies, which gives students hands-on experience working with victim advocates.

Bachelor of Social Work (BSW)

Bachelor's programs in social work typically take four years to complete and offer a general liberal arts education. These programs prepare students for entry-level positions in social work and provide a nice avenue to graduate school. Many bachelor's programs offer courses related to specific groups of people, like children and youth.

Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice with a Focus on Victim Advocacy

Bachelor's degree in programs in criminal justice, especially those with an emphasis in victim advocacy, can provide a more direct learning experience. In programs like these, there is a strong focus on the social, cultural, and economic pressures that many individuals face. Prevention of domestic violence is another learning goal of programs like this.

Master of Social Work or Master of Science in Social Work

Master's degree programs in social work typically take two years to complete and offer courses and fieldwork that prepare students for leadership positions as social workers. Some programs allow students who hold BSW degrees to apply for advanced standing in the master's program. This allows students to complete the master's program as quickly as one year. Some programs allow students to choose concentration area within the field of social services, such as community organization, social policy or human services.

PhD in Social Work

Doctorate programs are usually really competitive and take at least three years to complete. These programs emphasize training in research methods and teaching. Students are generally required to complete a dissertation based on original research. Coursework is focused primarily on research methods. Students are also usually able to tailor their program to meet their research interests, including victim advocacy.

Victim Advocate Certification

Certification or licensure isn't necessarily required to be a victim advocate, but voluntary certification may lead to more career opportunities. The National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) offers many different types and levels of certification. There are even special certification programs through NOVA like the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Advocate Certification Program.

Individuals interested in becoming a victim advocate should pursue a degree in social work. There are different degree options, so individuals should consider their career goals before choosing a program.

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