The LGBTQ Certificate provides supplemental content and skills to existing professional master’s degrees at Penn with specialized courses and fieldwork addressing the legal, physical and mental health care, social service, and educational needs of LGBTQ communities and issues of gender and sexuality, more generally, across the lifespan. This education takes the form of deep intellectual engagement with history, theory, policy and professional practice relating to gender identity and sexuality through cross-professional coursework and field/clinical work. The LGBTQ Certificate has been developed in conjunction with Penn Futures, a collaboration between Penn’s Graduate School of Education, Penn Nursing, and SP2 to address pressing social issues that affect Philadelphia’s most vulnerable children and families. In this initial stage, the LGBTQ Certificate is available to MSW students within the School of Social Policy & Practice. In the future, the certificate program may be available to students at Penn Nursing and GSE in the future as well as other schools and programs that approve the certificate.

For years, students across professional programs have been asking for a greater focus on the needs of LGBTQ communities, echoing a critique of graduate professional education offered by scholars across the fields of social work, education, nursing, and medicine (see references below). Demand for health care, social services and education that see the whole person, including their gender identity and sexuality, is increasing well beyond the Academy, yet real-world opportunities for professionals to understand the needs of LGBTQ communities have been limited to “gay days,” guest lectures, and occasional special events within our professional programs. Professional students across sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) require more coursework and more field/clinic opportunities relating to gender, sexuality, and working with LGBTQ communities to meet these demands and be competitive for the best jobs.

Burnes T and Stanley JL, editors (2017). Teaching LGBTQ Psychology: Queering Innovative Pedagogy and Practice. Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

Byers, DS, McInroy, LB, Craig, SL, Slates S, and Kattari, SK (2019). Naming and Addressing Homophobic and Transphobic Microaggressions in Social Work. Journal of Social Work Education.

Dykes FO and Delport JL (2018) Our voices count: the lived experiences of LGBTQ educators and its impact on teacher education preparation programs. Teaching Education, 29:2, 135-146.

Englund H, Basler J, Meine, K. (2019). Nursing Education and Inclusion of LGBTQ Topics: Making Strides or Falling Short? Nurse Educator.

Greene MZ, France K, Kreider EF, Wolfe-Roubatis E, Chen KD, Wu A, et al. (2018) Comparing medical, dental, and nursing students’ preparedness to address lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer health. PLoS ONE 13(9).

McNiel PL, Elertson, KM. Advocacy and Awareness: Integrating LGBTQ Health Education into the Prelicensure Curriculum. J Nurs Educ. 2018;57(5): 312-314.

Paiz JM (2017). Queering ESL Teaching: Pedagogical and Materials Creation Issues TESOL Journal 9.2.

DeVita T, Bishop C and Plankey, M (2018). Queering medical education: systematically assessing LGBTQI health competency and implementing reform. Medical Education Online, 23:1.

Shelton J and Dodd SJ (2019): Teaching Note—Beyond the Binary: Addressing Cisnormativity in the Social Work Classroom. Journal of Social Work Education.

Wagaman  MA, Shelton J and Carter R (2018) Queering the Social Work Classroom: Strategies for Increasing the Inclusion of LGBTQ Persons and Experiences, Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 38:2, 166-182.

SP2 is the first US-based social work program to offer an LGBTQ Certificate. Students who complete the certificate will be positioned to work with LGBTQ populations and LGBTQ-related issues across a wide array of job titles and roles relating to counseling, health care, education, and law.

Philadelphia is a national leader in LGBTQ issues as demonstrated by the 2013 LGBT Equality Bill, the ongoing work of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs, extensive network of social service and health care organizations in the region, and the annual national Trans-Wellness conference sponsored by Mazzoni Center. The University of Pennsylvania has also demonstrated leadership through its 35-year-old LGBT Center and queer-friendly policies for students and staff.

Faculty Director


The LGBTQ Certificate is open to all part-time and full-time MSW students (clinical and macro) but is not recommended for Advanced Standing students because it is unlikely that they will be able to complete the certificate requirements within one year. Part-time students should note that required certificate courses may only be available during the day.


Students customize their course of study, with guidance from specialization faculty, by choosing from a wide-range of electives while completing the following requirements. At least one of these courses (below) must be taken outside the student’s home school.

Course requirements

Course in queer theory, queer history, or history of gender and sexuality.

Existing courses that would meet this requirement include:

  • EDUC678 Gender and Sexuality in Education (Cross)
  • EDUC590 Gender and Education (Jacobs)
  • HIST670 Topics in Transregional History. Courses including Race, Gender, and Biopolitics in Comparative Perspective and Gender and Sexuality in Modern American History have been taught under this course number.
Course in human sexuality.

Existing courses that would meet this requirement include:

  • SWRK756 Human Sexuality (Alvarez)
  • EDUC587 Human Sexuality (Schultz)
Course in advanced clinical (physical and mental health) or applied practice (legal, policy) with LGBTQ communities.

Existing courses that would meet this requirement include:

  • SWRK798 Supporting LGBTQ Individuals over the Lifespan (Chando)
  • MSSP/SWRK 741 Gender & Social Policy (Castro Baker/staff)
Elective related to gender, sexuality and/or LGBTQ communities.

Existing courses that would meet this requirement include:

  • SWRK798 LGBTQ Communities and Social Policy
  • Students can meet this requirement by taking a second clinical or applied practice course as described above.

Field requirement

Students are required to complete a minimum of 150 hours of practicum/clinic/field work in a setting that offers experience working with LGBTQ communities and/or work relating to gender identity and sexuality. For most MSW students, their first or second-year field placement (including those in school and hospital settings) will meet this requirement. NOTE: Participation in the LGBTQ Certificate does not require nor does it guarantee placement in a setting or agency that primarily serves LGBTQ populations.

Pro-seminar requirement

Students are required to participate for at least two semesters in a monthly no-cost non-credit pro-seminar led by the Faculty Director and focusing on mentorship, managing personal LGBTQ identities in the workplace, and discussing challenging cases. Students are welcome to participate in the pro-seminar during more than two semesters and/or to choose the two semesters in which they participate.

Completing the Certificate

Upon acceptance to the MSW program, students may submit an online “intent to complete” form for the LGBTQ Certificate, and all students should submit an “intent to complete” form as early as possible. However, forms submitted later in a student’s course of study will be reviewed to ensure that the student still has time to complete the certificate requirements. After completing the “intent to complete” form, students will meet with the Faculty Director to plan a course of study. Students are responsible for making sure they complete the certificate requirements. Upon graduating, students will receive a paper certificate and the completion of the LGBTQ Certificate will be noted on their final transcript.

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