I taught a graduate course a few years ago about psychopathology. It was designed as a mental health course that focused on severe mental illnesses but much of the discussion eventually centered on the role social workers have in the criminal justice system. Many students were interested in exploring the intersection of the mental health and the criminal justice system. They were particularly interested in whether or not they could work in the criminal justice system once they graduated with their social work degree.
Individuals who want to work in the criminal justice field and who are attaining a degree in social work may consider themselves forensic social workers. There are degree programs across the country that focus on forensic social work but they’re relatively sparse, compared to other social work programs. You can read more about those programs at the National Organization For Forensic Social Work (NOFSW) website.
One of the many benefits of having a social work degree is its versatility. Below is a list of possible jobs that one could hold in the criminal justice system with a social work degree. Many require a master’s degree in social work but not all of them.
15 Criminal Justice Career Options for Social Workers
1. Mental Health or Drug Court Coordinator/Program Manager
2. Guardian Ad Litem (court-appointed individual who represents the best interests of the child in a divorce or parental responsibility case)
3. Parole or Probation Officer
4. Assisting a team of lawyers investigating a case of possible innocence (i.e. Innocence Project)
5. Victim Advocate
6. Sex Offender Therapist
7. Policy Analyst
8. Providing expert testimony in a legal trial
9. Assistant to a public defender
10. Forensic Investigator at the local Medical Examiners’ office
11. Custody Evaluator
12. Mental Health Evaluator
13. Mitigation Specialist
14. Case Manager for offenders leaving prison and transiting back into society
15. Conflict Mediator
Interested In Other Careers In Social Work? Check out [amazon_link id="0826154050" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]101 Careers in Social Work [/amazon_link]
Are you a social worker who works in the criminal justice system? If so, what is your role and what steps did you take to get there?