The Advance Certificate in Forensic Social Work is the application of social work skills, knowledge and principles within the context of the legal system. It is a new and exciting social work specialization which is growing in prominence as more social workers are integrated into, and promoted within, the court system and the agencies that serve it. The program leading to the Certificate in Forensic Social Work is designed to provide the knowledge and skills required for social workers to practice effectively and to advance to leadership positions within the specialization.

While academically rigorous, the Forensic Social Work Certificate Program is designed to be easily accessible to the social worker who is working fulltime. A social worker with no background in this area could expect to complete the program within a year. Those social workers who have already satisfied certain course requirements will complete the program in less time.

The program consists of successful completion of the following components:

(1)            Social Work and the Law   

(2)            Clinical Forensic Social Work

(3)            Seminar in Forensic Work

(4)            Skills Lab: Testimony and Working with Attorneys

(5)            Work, field or volunteer experience in a forensic setting.


Components (1) and (2) are 3 credit classes in the regular MSW curriculum at The University of Maryland, School of Social Work. Together they constitute the basic introduction to the field of forensic social work.  These courses are offered at a special rate to Certificate participants, who will be assigned to Friday and Saturday classes. Any Certificate participant, who has already taken and passed either course within the past 3 years, with a grade of B or better, need not repeat the course.

After completion of (1) and (2), the participant may enroll in the Seminar in Forensic Social Work.  The content will cover certain basic areas (e.g. Sentencing mitigation, ethics and the effects of pornography and violence exposure) in greater depth than could be achieved in the introductory classes, with time for those areas of particular interest to the participants.  The Skills Lab consists of two full days of training on testifying in court and working effectively with lawyers.

The volunteer experience is required only of those participants who have never had either a field placement or work experience in a forensic setting. The Office of Continuing Professional Education will assist in locating appropriate sites for those participants. Forensic settings include but are not limited to: State’s Attorney’s Offices, the Public Defender’s Office, the Courts,  Child Advocacy Centers, Domestic Violence service organizations, Victims Services organizations, Court Medical Services, private law firms, Department of Corrections, Department of Juvenile Services, Department of Social Services, Patuxent Institution, Perkins State Hospital, Police Departments, and certain hospital and private settings.

A social worker with no education or background in forensic social work could complete the Certificate program in one year by successfully completing the following abbreviated and intense courses through the Office of Continuing Professional Education:

• Social Work and the Law

• Clinical Forensic Social Work

• Seminar in Forensic Social Work, Skills Lab, and volunteer experience.

Participants who are unable to pass exams will not be permitted to advance to the next section of the program.  There are no make- up exams.  Competence and Writing Skills are highly important. Failure to demonstrate those skills can jeopardize a participant’s ability to complete of the program.

All questions regarding The Advance Certificate in Forensic Social Work Program may be referred to Seante A. Hatcher, LCSW-C.   She can be reached at 410-706-1839 or at

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