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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.

Ragan Schriver

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.


The certificate requires 11 credit hours of graduate/law course work and 6 credit hours in a field placement that focuses on work with and/or on behalf of populations impacted by the legal system. (Note: All graduate certificates require 3 credit hours (1 course) over and above that which is required for the MSSW program.)

Required courses:

  • Four (4) credit hours that will be taken during the generalist year of the MSSW program:
    • LAW 990 – Legal Research, Writing, and Analysis for the Non-JD Student, 2 credit hours
    • LAW 998 – Structure and Operation of the American Legal System, 2 credit hours
  • Seven (7) credit hours that will be taken during the concentration year of the MSSW program:
    • SOWK 573, Forensic Social Work, 3 credit hours
    • Two electives from the College of Law (2 credit hours each, totaling 4 credit hours).

Additional Course Requirements:

  • Twelve (12) credit hours in a field placement that focuses on work with and/or on behalf of populations impacted by the legal system (i.e., a placement in which more than half of the student’s time is spent working within forensic related systems).
    • The 12 credit hour field placement must be approved by the MSSW Field Coordinator.
    • Forensic social work students will develop a field learning plan in preparation for their concentration field that focuses on forensic social work-specific learning. The field learning plan will include learning goals specific to the arena of forensic social work.

Application Standards/Procedure

  • To be considered for this certificate, students must submit a departmental application at the time of their admission to the MSSW program.
  • Students will receive information about the certificate program at the time of their admission to the MSSW program.
  • Entry into the certificate is on a first serve basis. Students should apply early if interested.
  • Students selected for admission, must be formally admitted to the certificate through the Office of Graduate Admissions.
    • The application includes a brief personal statement describing reasons for participating in the certificate, acknowledgement that they understand there are four additional credit hours to be taken beyond the sixty credits required for the MSSW and professional career goals.
  • Admitted students will be directed to contact the Chair of the Forensic Social Work Certificate to make arrangements to meet the course requirements.

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

Dr. Ragan Schriver
Forensic Social Work Certificate Program Chair, and
Knoxville campus MSSW Program Director
302 Henson Hall