In the field of social work there are many paths that you could choose to take. One of these paths is to become a forensic social worker. Forensic social workers are social workers that have general qualifications to practice as a social workers, as well as additional certifications behind their names which make them experts in terms of how social work relates to the law and the legal issues that can arise.
Becoming A Forensic Social Worker
It is important to note that the area of forensic social work is not considered to be a separate discipline. In fact there are no schools that offer specific degree in forensic social work and most current forensic social workers received their status as such by doing continuing education credits and extra certification courses. There are a number of schools that offer social worker degrees that also offer additional courses and certification programs in forensic social work that students can choose to attend once they have obtained their degree. This is a field of social work that is only just coming into its own and it has yet to be defined as an independent discipline in the social sciences. There are a number of steps that you can follow in order to become a forensic social worker:
- Firstly you will need to complete a bachelor’s degree in social work. Often employers are more likely to hire individuals with master’s degrees, so you may want to consider obtaining this degree as well. The school you earn your degree form must be accredited.
- You then need to complete 3,000 hours of paid work experience prior to sitting for your state license, which will require taking an exam that will license you as a forensic social worker.
- You must also complete a field placement, in which you will be working individuals in the criminal justice system.
- Once you have fulfilled all of the requirements you need to apply to the State Board of Behavioral Examiners to write the exam which is both oral and written. Passing the exam will earn you a licensing number that will be kept on record and that will allow you to be a forensic social worker in your specific state.
A forensic social worker is responsible for doing the following in his or her job:
- A forensic social worker is general engaged in educating various people and groups regarding the legal issues surrounding the social work case in question, including clients and employers.
- In addition you will be responsible for helping legal authorities understand a client’s situation in such a way that the clarity may be shed on the legal issues being faced.
- As a forensic social worker you will be required to offer an expert opinion on proper treatment or resolution of a legal matter relating to social work.
- You will also diagnose and treat prison and juvenile detention populations.
- Forensic social workers evaluate the mental state of those involved in legal disputes.
- A very important function involves assessing children’s interests as well as their level of ability in legal matters, such as whether or not they are able to testify in court.
- You will also evaluate and treat criminal justice workers.
- In many cases you may be called to testify as an expert witness in court (knowledge of legal proceedings and terminology is therefore essential).
Often you will find that the above duties will be easier if you have completed a basic course in law in addition to you forensic social worker qualifications and your general social work degree. This will make it far easier for you to understand that legal proceedings that will form such an important part of your job. However the best way to learn about these matters is through practical experience. In some cases you may be allowed to work with current forensic social workers who are experienced in the domain in order to become an expert, so long as this does not infringe on confidentiality.
Reasons To Become A Forensic Social Worker
There are a few reasons why people choose to become forensic social workers. The first reason is that there is a serious lack in the legal profession regarding education of the general public about their rights and about the procedures that they need to go through in order to successfully navigate the legal system. In many cases you may come into contact with clients who are completely unaware of what legal steps they can take in order to protect themselves and prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future. This is information that is not widely known, nor is it taught in schools. Consequently professionals who have expert knowledge regarding social work issues as well as regarding the law (specifically how the law relates to situations that fall under the heading of social problems) are in great demand. In short you will be able to fill a gap in society that is currently gaping. In addition there are a number of emotional rewards that you can benefit from. You will be making an impact on the lives of specific individuals that need your help, and this will leave you with a sense that you have accomplished something meaningful with your life, something that not many other professionals can say about their occupations. In many cases social workers get extremely good employment packages that include a number of excellent non monetary compensation benefits. These benefits could include things such as paid holidays and good retirement plans that will cover you well when you leave the profession. because there will always be a need for social workers in this line of work, because the need for social workers in this line of work is growing, and because the field remains strong despite economic fluctuations, it is a very stable career to choose.
Classes And Education
Technically speaking there are no actual degrees for forensic social work. Instead you will have to earn a bachelor’s and then a master’s degree in general social work and do additional training programs and certification courses. There are a number of universities that offer these certification courses in the same location as their degree programs. These universities are more convenient option to choose as you will be able to receive all of your education in one place. Examples of such universities include:
Georgia State University
P.O. Box 3995
Atlanta, GA 30302-3995
California State University
5151 State University Drive
Los Angeles. CA 90032
California State University Fullerton College Park, Suite 100
2600 Nutwood Ave.
Fullerton, CA 92834-6870
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
4505 S. Maryland Parkway
Las Vegas, NV 89154-5032
Generally speaking you should aim for degree programs that offer a heavy concentration on the legal aspects of social work as this information will help you more in your job as a forensic social worker than other general degree programs. Generally speaking, however, you will need to take an additional certification course in forensics and social work law ion order to get this qualification. There are a number of topics that will be covered in such a certification program. They include the following:
- Child welfare
- Domestic and family law
- Adult criminal and juvenile justice
- Mental health
- Disability laws
- Public policy
Like in all other areas of social work you need get field experience to become a forensic social worker. You could be placed:
- In courts
- With child custody workers
- In forensic mental health hospitals
- In domestic violence advocacy firms
- In law enforcement
- In child welfare work environments
- In victim assistance programs and law enforcement
Employment And Job Outlook
There are a number of careers that certification in forensic social work will make you eligible for:
- You will be able to work in situations where you will consult, train and educate attorneys, lawmakers and law enforcement workers in legal issues related to social work.
- Forensic social workers also diagnose and treat criminal populations when the need arises, which it frequently does.
- One of the main areas that you could be employed in as a forensic social worker is in the court system where you can serve as an expert witness.
- Some people who complete forensic social work certificate programs enter public policy or advocacy positions.
This is not a clearly defined sector of social work and is yet to be separated from the general profession. Consequently there is not a lot of information available at this point in time specifically regarding the job outlook for the forensic social work profession. This information will be more readily available in the future. However if we look at the other social worker careers for which there are available statistics we can see that some of them are increasing at a faster than average rate in comparison to most other professions at present. This means that there will soon be an increase in the number of certain social worker jobs. Even those areas of social work that are not growing faster than average are still growing at a rate consistent with most other professions at present. We can infer from this that the job outlook for forensic social work is probably fairly stable at this point in time. Individuals with specializations in forensic social work are also employable as general social workers, which means that they will have additional opportunities for employment across the board.
Salary Of A Forensic Social Worker
In the year 2010 the average salary for a forensic social worker was in the region of $39,000. This is not a bad salary at all, bearing in mind that social work is not a career that is meant to make you rich, but rather one that exists to give you the opportunity to serve others. This is very similar to averages for most other social work career:
- Clinical social workers earn about $38,000 a year
- Other social workers earn about $41,000 a year
It is important to note that the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not consider forensic social work to be a separate discipline. Consequently you will usually find that any mention of the salary that you can earn in this line of work will consist of a general reference to the overall average salaries that all social workers in the United States can expect to earn. The difference lies in the preference of your employers, so in order to determine how much you will be eligible to earn as a forensic social worker you will need to do your own research into jobs in forensic social work in your area. Where you work as a forensic social worker can have a major impact on the salary that you are eligible to earn. Forensic social workers can be employed in the civil and criminal justice systems, by government agencies and in residential facilities. The salary differences are as follows:
- State government forensic social workers can earn an average of $39,600 a year
- Residential care center forensic social workers can earn an average of $34,270 a year
Consequently, in terms of salary, it is better to work for the government as a social worker than in a residential facility.
This could be considered as a specialist area of social work. However, because there are no schools that offer specific programs for those who want to become forensic social workers, these qualifications are normally obtained through continuing education courses and certification programs that are not exactly formalized. This is a good career move to make as you will not only be in a position to work as a general social worker, but you will also be in a position to be hired in legal matters related to social work and thereby have more job opportunities.