The first of its kind in the nation, our animal-assisted social work (AASW) master’s certificate explores social justice from the perspective of humans, animals and the environment. This certificate is only available to students enrolled in our Denver Campus MSW Program, and you’ll complete the certificate and your MSW program at the same time. Together, the MSW and certificate will prepare you to consider humans, animals and the environment in practice settings that range from therapeutic programs to animal shelters and sanctuaries.

Offered by the Graduate School of Social Work and the Institute for Human-Animal Connection, this certificate will add three specialized elective courses to the MSW curriculum during your concentration year. The certificate also includes field internships that examine critical human, animal and environmental connections in the U.S. and internationally.

Want to learn more about the animal-assisted social work certificate?

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Student and pig

Hands-On Learning

Explore how animals change lives, transform trauma and improve the welfare of children, adults, families and communities. Train a professional therapy dog during graduate school, build your clinical social work skills to incorporate pets and other animals into therapeutic environments, or develop policy and programs for your macro social work practice.

International Courses and Internships

Animal-assisted social work certificate students can gain a global perspective through optional international courses and internships.

  • Intern Alongside Giant Pandas

    Learn how human behavior influences habitat protection for animals such as the giant panda by studying biodiversity protection issues while completing an internship at the Giant Panda Research Base in Chengdu, China.

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  • Advocate for Wild Animals in Kenya

    Learn about the illegal wildlife trade, wild animal protection and advocacy as you participate in anti-poaching work while on assignment with our partners at Africa Network for Animal Welfare in Kenya.

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Your Career Options

By completing the animal-assisted social work certificate, you’ll graduate with an additional professional credential and a competitive advantage in your job search. Your social work career could include:

  • Creating, implementing and evaluating animal-assisted intervention programs in which an animal becomes a teacher, therapist, facilitator and support system
  • Selecting the most appropriate animals for particular therapy modalities
  • Caring for animals in accordance with national animal welfare standards
  • Identifying, assessing and intervening in “link” violence—the frequent connection between animal abuse and violence toward people
  • Integrating concepts of nature-based therapeutics, humane education and conservation in your social work practice
  • Becoming an advocate for animal welfare and ethics

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"This is an internship that I look forward to. There’s nowhere else I could be getting this great of a hands-on experience."

Kaylee Keuthan, Denver Campus MSW Student

Key Faculty

Philip Tedeschi

Philip Tedeschi

Clinical Professor

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Sarah Bexell

Sarah Bexell

Clinical Associate Professor; Faculty Director, Center of Sustainability

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Nina Ekholm-Fry

Nina Ekholm Fry

Director of Equine Programs, Institute for Human-Animal Connection

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Carri King-Bussard

Carri King-Bussard

Adjunct Faculty

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Jazzy Salter chose to pursue her Master of Social Work degree with the Animal-Assisted Social Work (AASW) Certificate through the Graduate School of Social Work and Institute for Human-Animal Connection because of the many different career paths available, including animal welfare.

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Shanti Hill-Gauer earned her MSW and AASW certificate in 2013 and is now the owner and clinical director of the Wish Fulfilling Tree – Therapeutic Ranch. The Wish Fulfilling Tree provides animal-assisted therapy services to youth in Sonoma County, California.

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Application Information

2021 Advanced Standing Denver Campus MSW Program Deadline