What is the difference between a forensic social worker and a correctional treatment specialist?

Ready to start your journey?

DegreeQuery.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

DegreeQuery has posted several articles on Forensic Social Work. At the bottom of this piece, the links provide additional information on the profession.

DegreeQuery.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

What is Social Work?

First, we will look at social work in general. The profession involves efforts to help individuals, families, groups, and communities cope with problems that arise as members of society. The work integrates various disciplines, such as psychology, sociology, criminal justice, public health, law, economics, social sciences, and more. For those who struggle with the challenges imposed by daily life, there is someone to turn to for assistance.

Poverty, substance abuse, violence, criminal involvement, incarceration, juvenile delinquency, and child neglect are examples of incidents that social workers may offer services. A court of law may mandate the intervention of a social worker. The social worker can act as a court-appointed advocate for an abused child.

What is Forensic Social Work?

DegreeQuery articles have elaborated on the profession in other posts. To reiterate, it involves individuals whose activities have brought them before the judicial system.  Therefore, the behavior of a person resulted in an arrest, juvenile detention, civil or criminal court, and related circumstances.

What is a Correctional Treatment Specialist?

Before examining any differences or similarities with forensic social work, we need to establish what this occupation entails.

Correctional treatment specialists, also referred to as case managers, complement the work of probation, and parole officers. In this capacity, they provide inmates with counseling, education, and employment plans to reintegrate the parolee back into society. Other duties include preparing reports of meetings with inmates, corrections’ personnel, and medical professionals. The specialist’s reports may determine if the inmate receives probation or parole. The report may also make recommendations for psychiatric or psychological treatment upon release. As well as other measures, the correctional specialist deems necessary to further the chances of the parolee adjusting to society.

The responsibilities of the CTS concentrate on services provided during the individual’s time in prison. As outlined above, they consult with prison supervisory personnel and clinical psychologists to evaluate an inmate’s rehabilitation. Therefore, the primary role of the CTS is his or her involvement during a person’s incarceration.

The forensic social worker’s role can overlap with the CTS during the person’s jail-time. The difference is that the FSW continues the social services upon release. At this point, the FSW may provide counseling or open doors to community services that will help the parolee. Leading up to in inmate’s release, the CTS may confer with the FSW to decide what treatment or social services the individual may require.


There appears to be more latitude in your degree choices for the CTS. A bachelor’s degree is the norm in either sociology, social work, psychology, criminal justice, or criminology. Students who have not majored in one of these can still enter the field of corrections treatment. You would require courses related to the behavioral or social sciences. A behavioral science degree is another option that explores social psychology, social problems, and applied behavioral science, for example.

At the undergraduate level, the aspiring FSW has limited choices. There are few if any programs in Forensic Social Work, per se. Your best educational path is a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) with a curriculum that consists of criminal justice, law, psychology, and criminology. An FSW should have a foundation of classes that will suit your future interaction with the justice system.


There is a difference between the FSW and CTS regarding licensure. Most states require social workers to be licensed. Each state has its respective licensing qualifications. You may find work as an FSW without a license in a select number of states for entry-level assistant positions. Other states require a master’s degree; for example, candidates must have a master’s degree in Florida for all social work licensure.

In contrast to the Correctional Treatment Specialist, they do not require a license or certification. The Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC) does have a voluntary Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) program. Their renewable certification must meet strict eligibility requirements that include advanced education and work experience. The CRCC attests that certified rehabilitation counselors earn over $13k more than their counterparts in Clinical Mental Health do and Community Counselors do.

Salary and Job Growth

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports on the occupation of Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists as one group. The median income was $53,020 (May 2018) with a Bachelor’s degree. As of 2016, there were 91,300 working in this job category. The BLS reported the job growth at 6% or a change in 5,200 for over ten years (2016-26).

The BLS numbers for Social Workers are more favorable regarding growth potential. The median wage is slightly lower at $49,470. However, the job outlook is much higher, at 16%. This percentage represents a change in 109,700 positions over the same ten years. Therefore, more than 10,000 jobs might be available each year! As expected, the salaries vary by state, which you can peruse at the BLS site to see which states and cities have higher wages.

Related Resources

What Salary Can You Earn With a Master’s in Social Work Degree?

What Can I Do With A Social Work Degree?

How Do I Prepare for a Social Work Degree While in High School?

What Is the Difference Between a Social Work Degree and a Psychology Degree?

What Is the Difference Between a Criminal Justice Degree and a Social Work Degree?

What Classes should I take to Specialize in Forensic Social Work?

What are the Careers in Forensic Social Work?

What are the Benefits of Pursuing a Degree in Forensic Social Work?

What Classes Will I Take in a Criminal Justice Degree?