Criminal Justice and Social Work Double Major

From its founding, the social work profession has been involved in criminal justice and legal settings. Social work advocacy, for instance, helped create the first juvenile court in the United States. With the rapid increase in incarcerated populations, the need for social workers in criminal justice and legal settings is on the rise.

Social workers in these settings provide critical services to vulnerable populations, consisting of both offenders and victims, on a variety of levels including individuals, families, groups and communities. Social workers are employed in both public and private agencies and throughout criminal justice and legal settings including courts, police departments, and community based treatment programs. Jobs include:

  • Probation officer
  • Parole officer
  • Correctional treatment specialists
  • Juvenile justice counselor
  • Family court social worker
  • Forensic social worker*

Core competencies and skills for social workers in criminal justice and legal settings:

  • Knowledge of the legal system and terminology
  • Strong assessment and interviewing skills
  • Ability to advocate for needs of clients, including advocating for community resources
  • Work successfully as part of an interdisciplinary team


*Forensic Social Work refers to the practice of social work that focuses on the law, legal issues, and litigation in both criminal and civil legal systems.  Forensic social workers are employed as mediators, victim’s advocates, family court evaluators, mental health evaluators, and expert witnesses. Forensic social work is an area of specialty practice and requires a master’s degree.