Overview of Online Certificate Programs in Forensic Social Work
Certificate programs in forensic social work are usually designed for students who are or have studied social work at the graduate-level and are interested in studying the relationship between social work and law. Students in these certificate programs take both social work and law courses to help prepare them for working with clients in the legal system. These programs may help prepare students to take cases involving areas of the law like immigration, domestic relations law, child welfare, family violence, and more. There are also related graduate-level certificate programs that may provide a broader overview of the criminal justice system.
Although most of these forensic social work certificate programs are only available on-campus, there is at least one certificate program in forensic social work that is available in a hybrid format. Applicants to certificate programs in forensic social work generally need to be currently admitted to a social work graduate program or already have graduate-level training in the field. Some of these certificate programs can be completed in as little as 1 year and may include a variety of in-person and/or hands-on experiences.
There is also a related online graduate certificate in criminal sentencing and sentencing advocacy that is designed for students with a bachelor's or master's degree in social work or other related areas, like criminal justice. These programs are intended for those wishing to work as mitigation specialists or victim advocates.
Requirements for Online Forensic Social Work Certificates
Students in forensic social work certificate programs gain the necessary skills to work with diverse populations, provide testimony in the courts, and/or work in a variety of settings involved in the legal system, such as correctional facilities, mental health hospitals, and the juvenile justice system. Some programs may offer a mix of in-person and online coursework to provide students with flexibility in their studies. Other related certificate programs may be available fully online.
Certificate programs in forensic social work and related fields may range between 14 and 23 credits. Hybrid certificate programs in forensic social work may provide a final capstone experience that can be completed online or completed in-person as an internship experience. In this capstone course, students may be required to complete a presentation, publication-quality paper, and a professional portfolio. Other on-campus programs in forensic social work may require students to complete a field placement and/or volunteer experience.
Courses in legal issues may take on a broad perspective, providing students with an overview of legal issues in social work policies and practices, or may take on a more specific focus, such as examining legal issues related to a particular area of social work, like domestic violence.
Forensic Social Work
Students in these courses get an overview of forensic social work and learn about the role of social workers in the legal system. Students may discuss the practices, laws, and policies for forensic social workers, and some of these courses may focus on a particular area of the legal system, such as the criminal and/or juvenile justice systems.
Forensic Social Work Skills
Students typically take a hands-on course that provides practical training in interviewing, documenting evidence, evaluating clients, testifying, and/or providing treatment to clients. Some of these courses may be available in an online format and/or offered in conjunction with a field practicum experience.
Career Outcomes with a Certificate in Forensic Social Work
A certificate in forensic social work does not qualify students to work as social workers, but does provide them with the necessary skills to focus their work in the criminal justice system. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most of these professionals need to have at least a bachelor's degree in social work, but a master's in social work to be a clinical social worker. In general, social workers help to meet needs and solve problems in their clients' lives through treatment and/or resources.
There are several different kinds of social workers and the pay and job outlook for various areas of the field differ. For example, child, family, and school social workers made a median annual salary of $47,390, as of 2019, and had a job outlook of 7% from 2018 to 2028, per the BLS. While the BLS does not report the job outlook for forensic social workers, PayScale.com reported a median salary of $47,349 for them, as of May 2020.
Certificate programs in forensic social work are rarely online, but at least one hybrid program and some alternative programs are available. Students in these programs may finish in as little as 1 year and take coursework in both social work and law.