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New Certification for M.S.W. Students

Dorianna Valerio

C.W. Post is offering a new certification for individuals with a Master of Social Work degree or a professional degree in a related field. The Forensic Certification, which was approved this fall by the New York State Education Department, is ideal for professional social workers interested in obtaining advanced education in the field of forensic social work. The program was created in conjunction with the already-existing forensic concentration in social work.

The program allows professional social workers to gain legal and psycho-sociological knowledge to practice within the criminal justice field. “This is a developing field, and we are at the vanguard of advancing the role of social work in criminal justice,” said Dr. Ilene Nathanson, who is the director of the program.

According to Nathanson, there is no program like it within the tri-state area.  She added, “Our curriculum is unique in its focus on the social work forensic professional as a clinician and agent of change.”

M.S.W. student Lisa Ganz, who felt the forensic concentration was incredibly enticing but chose her concentration in alcohol and substance abuse, said,  “I think the interest in forensic science and law enforcement is incredibly large and still growing in today’s society, especially as a result of television and media.” She added, “It’s also a field that is becoming more recognized and is in need of unique perspectives that social workers can offer.”

M.S.W. students can qualify for the certificate while completing work in their concentration. Students would need one more course to complete the certificate beyond the M.S.W., said Dr. Nathanson.

The certificate requires one additional course on top of four courses required for the concentration: four in social work and one in forensic science. Nathanson said, “The social work courses offer an overview of the criminal justice system.” She added that it also “prepares students for generalist as well as clinical functions, particularly in areas related to alcohol and substance abuse and domestic violence.”

According to Dr. Nathanson, the certification is part-time. “Students can take as many courses as they like but probably can do it in one academic year if they wish,” Dr. Nathanson added.

Ganz said students in all concentrations are required to complete the same amount of hours in order to obtain the M.S.W. degree. “The concentration courses are the only ones that vary and are, essentially, only different in content, not the amount of work required,” she added.

There are five concentrations available for students enrolled in the M.S.W. program are: Alcohol and Substance Abuse, Non-profit Management, Gerontology, Child and Family Welfare and Forensic Social Work. The Non-profit Management and Gerontology concentrations also offer certificate programs.

According to Nathanson, opportunities for students are as broad as in any other area of social work.  Graduates with the Forensic Certification may be employed in prisons or parole, probation, the juvenile justice system, rehab facilities or private practice. She added, “Opportunities exist in legal defense and prosecution. Social workers work with both victims as well as perpetrators.”

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