In this article, you will learn about how you should select your forensic psychology degree. We will explain what a forensic psychologist does, the best type of degree to get to work in the field, and common courses you will need to take. We also will provide you with some recommendations on universities to attend online to earn your forensic psychology degree.
What Is a Forensic Psychology Degree?
A degree in forensic psychology is most often a master’s degree that focuses on how the study or practice of psychology interacts with the law. The American Psychological Association states that a forensic psychology degree studies the application of clinical psychology to the legal field; this encompasses both legal institutions and the people who may come into contact with the law.
A forensic psychology degree will provide you with expertise and knowledge in three key areas:
- Clinical psychology: Diagnosis, treatment, testing, measurements of intervention and ethics
- Forensic psychology: Study of the tools and techniques to assess symptoms and capacities that relate to criminal law questions
- Legal area: Focus is on legal system knowledge, state and federal law, and how to obtain key legal information
A degree in forensic psychology also must provide you with the advanced skills to address complex psychological problems and questions that are related to legal proceedings. Legal proceedings that a forensic psychology degree should cover include both criminal and civil law.
To practice as a forensic psychologist, you must have at least a master’s degree. You will study these types of courses:
- Abnormal behavior
- Criminal behavior
- Crime, psychology and the law
- Forensic psychology research
- Criminal investigative analysis and profiling
- Violent crime and psychological aspects
You can earn a bachelor’s degree in many fields that will prepare you for getting a graduate degree in forensic psychology. A bachelor’s in psychology, sociology or education can be a great choice.
You can practice as a forensic psychologist with a master’s, but you may choose to get your doctoral degree later as this will enhance your skill level and will put you in line for a career in academia.
Why Earn a Forensic Psychology Degree?
Earning a master’s degree or more in forensic psychology is going to be a smart choice for many years in the future. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the growth rate for psychology jobs will soar by 19% by 2024, and it is believed that forensic psychologists specifically will enjoy a similar growth rate.
There should be strong growth for psychologists generally for years to come because of the recent federal health care legislation. That program is covering more mental health services, so there will be more people enjoying those benefits by seeing psychologists.
Earning a degree in forensic psychology also makes sense from a financial standpoint, as the median wage in the field as of May 2015 was $72,580.
Also, many people interested in psychology specifically choose forensic psychology because they want to work at the intersection of psychology and law, which provides a very interesting career path. Forensic psychologists work in many fascinating areas that could be of great interest to you:
- Child custody and family law
- Violence risk assessment
- Jury selection
- Civil or personal injury law
After you earn your graduate degree, you must earn your license to work as a forensic psychologist. You can learn about the state requirements for licensure from the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.
Also, after you have earned your degree and have your license, you also may choose to obtain board certification in forensic psychology. Earning this certification that is offered by the American Board of Professional Psychology will certainly enhance your career prospects.
Forensic Psychology Program Options
As you consider which graduate program in forensic psychology to choose, you should keep these questions in mind below. You will be able to choose a better program that suits your needs if you do so:
- How many students does the program accept each year?
- What is the percentage of students who graduate annually?
- What is the program’s teacher to student ratio?
- Does the program require you to visit campus, or is done entirely online?
- How much research does the forensic psychology department produce?
- Are all of the instructors full time Ph.D. professors?
With those factors in mind, we recommend that you consider these graduate programs online in forensic psychology:
Nova Southeastern University
Nova Southeastern University offers a Master of Science in Forensic Psychology online. It is a 36 credit hour program that will offer you the insights at the intersection of psychology and law. You will gain a complete understanding of what goes into a successful career in forensic psychology.
You will receive the training that you need to work at a high level in all forensic psychology settings that you may work in, from courts, law enforcement to criminal justice, prisons and national security offices.
Your core classes are as follows:
- Introduction to Forensic Psychology Science
- Psychotherapy and Personality Disorders
- Methods and Tools of Psychological Risk Assessment
- Evaluation, Methodology and Psychological Research
- Ethical Concerns and Multicultural Issues
- Mentally Ill and The Criminal Justice System
- Communication in Forensic Psychology
Many of the students who attend this program have specialized in the past in law, mental health or other health care services, and they want to work in the area of forensics. This can be a terminal degree so that you can then enjoy a long and productive career in forensic psychology. Or, it can serve as a foundation for a doctoral degree in forensic psychology.
Eisner Institute for Professional Studies
If you do decide to earn your doctorate in forensic psychology, you should consider the Psy.D. program offered at the Eisner Institute for Professional Studies. This program is appropriate for the experienced forensic psychologist who wants to further hone her skills, or for the professional who wishes to enter academia and research.
This two year doctoral program offers several specialty classes that can be appropriate for highly specialized career goals, including expert witness testimony and psychology of criminal behavior.
All full time students are to complete their Psy.D. degree in two years; there is no thesis or dissertation requirement. But there is a capstone requirement that consists of either a position paper or a research proposal.
You will have the chance to focus on many exciting forensic psychology subjects in the criminal, civil and family law areas. Major courses include:
- Current Case Law
- Family Law
- Expert Witness Testimony
- Advanced Forensic Psychology
- Mediation and Dispute Resolution
- Forensic Psychological Assessment
Choosing a master’s in forensics psychology program is important, and you can make the selection easier by ensuring that the university has been accredited by one of the following regional accreditation agencies that are approved by the US Department of Education:
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- Higher Learning Commission
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
By ensuring that your university is fully accredited, you can be confident that you will be able secure employment as a well paid and respected forensic psychologist.
The forensic psychology field is growing rapidly, and there are many exciting directions in which you can direct your psychology career. It is very likely that strong job demand will continue for years in the field of psychology, so now is a good time to start planning your career by earning your psychology degree.