Steps to Become a Forensic Social Worker
To begin a career as a forensic social worker, there are educational, experience, social worker licensure and certification requirements. These are some of the common steps you can pursue:
1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in social work or related field.
A bachelor’s in social work (BSW) degree may help you save time by completing some master’s level social work education requirements. If you’re interested in a BSW, look into programs that are accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). Most Master of Social Work (MSW) programs will consider this accreditation when accepting candidates. However, a BSW is not always required for MSW admission. BSW degrees help with admission to advanced standing MSW programs.
2. Earn a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree.
An MSW is typically a requirement for forensic social work and is always a requirement for clinical social work licensure, which may be an area a forensic social worker works in. Again, look for programs that are accredited by the CSWE, since CSWE accreditation will likely be a requirement for state licensure. You can also search for MSW programs that offer specializations or courses related to forensic social work. If you already have a BSW, you may be able to apply for an advanced standing MSW program and complete your MSW in less time than non-BSW degree holders.
3. Get social work field experience.
To become licensed, gaining field experience in social work is typically required. Some of this field experience occurs during your BSW and MSW program. If you want to provide forensic social work counseling in a clinical setting, it’s necessary to gain clinical experience to become a licensed clinical social worker. If you want to become licensed but don’t want to focus on clinical social work, you might look into supervised field experience in a different area related to criminal justice or legal settings. You can also look into volunteering in a criminal justice setting if you’re not able to get an internship with one.
4. Pursue state licensure.
With the proper education and field experience, you can apply for a social worker license in the state you want to practice in. Social worker licensure is typically required for any social worker role that’s not an entry-level administrative or direct-service position. Each state’s social worker licensure will have different requirements. To become licensed, you’ll likely have to pass standardized exams administered by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB), which may be the advanced generalist or clinical exam.
5. Obtain forensic social worker certification.
Clinical social workers can apply to become a Certified Forensic Social Worker (CFSW), which is a credential for those who hold a MSW or Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) degree who work with juvenile and/or adult criminal offenders. There are also advanced practice specialty credentials offered by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). These types of credentials can benefit social workers as they apply for jobs, since some roles may require a specific certification.
6. Apply for jobs.
Once you have a social worker education, experience and licensure, you may apply for forensic social worker jobs you qualify for. Use your school’s alumni network and career services for job assistance.