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Forensic psychology is the application of psychology to the law, and this online forensic psychology degree concentration combines general training in psychology with specialized course work in criminal law, criminal behavior, the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders and legal decision-making.
Forensic psychology programs may allow you the opportunity to contribute to your community, participate in the treatment of offenders, and support victims of crime.
Obtaining your bachelors degree in forensic psychology may also offer a good return on your investment. This rewarding career path offers a positive job outlook over the next decade as well as higher than average salaries.
Online Forensic Psychology Degrees
Earning your bachelors in forensic psychology online may provide you with the foundation you need to pursue careers in this field. Some of these positions include probation officer, court liaison, social worker, counselor, police officer, and crime analyst.
A program’s coursework is often a combination of a general bachelors degree curriculum with courses specific to forensic psychology programs.
Forensic psychology major courses may cover topics such as psychology, criminal justice systems, and advocacy. For example, psychology and law, correctional psychology, criminal behavior, juvenile delinquency, abnormal psychology, and victim advocacy could all be studied.
With your undergraduate degree from either on-campus or online forensic psychology programs, you may qualify for positions in government and private business as well as in the nonprofit sector. You may work with nonprofit organizations that provide services related to criminal justice reform, child or victim advocacy, or mental health and addiction services.
After completing your bachelors degree, you may enter the field of forensic psychology with a bachelor-level position, or you may decide to pursue graduate-level studies. Graduate studies may include enrolling in a master’s degree program and then going on to earn your PhD or PsyD.
With a doctorate in forensic psychology, you may qualify to obtain a state license to become a psychologist.
Forensic Psychology Careers & Salaries
With a bachelors degree in forensic psychology, you may qualify for a variety of forensic psychology positions. These positions range from delivery and management of social services to law enforcement and investigation.
Careers in social services may include counseling, social work, and community service management. In these jobs, you may have the opportunity to support individuals with mental health, family, social, and criminal justice challenges.
Your role may entail assessing a client’s state of mind and need for treatment. You may also assess a client’s suitability to execute various daily functions, such as performing parental responsibilities or reintegrating into the community following imprisonment.
According to the Bureau of labor statistics, there are a number of rewarding and successful career paths you may pursue with a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology.
|Careers||Annual Median Salary|
|Social and Community Service Manager||$69,600|
|Police or Detective||$67,290|
|Probation Officer or Correctional Treatment Specialist||$55,690|
|Private Detective or Investigator||$53,320|
|Social Science Research Assistant||$49,210|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, or Mental Health Counselor||$47,660|
|Correctional Officer or Bailiff||$47,440|
|Case Work Aide||$35,960|
|Family Service Assistant||$35,190|
With an undergraduate degree in forensic psychology, you may also be eligible for positions in law enforcement, such as a police officer, investigator, or correctional officer. In these roles, you may need to interact with individuals engaging in or suspected to be engaging in criminal activity.
In some social service positions, you may participate in developing and implementing programs for different groups of the population. For example, you may be involved with programs that support young offenders, newly released adult offenders, or victims of crime.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a positive career outlook over the next decade for many jobs in the field of forensic psychology. This includes probation officers and correctional treatment specialists (4%), police and detectives (5%), and investigators (8%).
Additional positions that have strong successful career outlook potential include social workers (13%), social and community service managers (17%), social and human service assistants (17%), and substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors (25%).
Forensic Psychology Curriculum & Courses
Earning your bachelors from either in-person or online forensic psychology programs may require you to complete a variety of courses, including both general curriculum and specific forensic psychology courses.
Here are some sample courses that your forensic psychology degree program may include:
- Introduction to psychology: This course gives an introduction to psychology as a social and natural science, covering theories of perception, cognition, development, interaction, psychological research, and more.
- Introduction to forensic psychology: This course gives an overview of theories linking psychology to criminal justice systems, the law and fundamentals of forensic science, including a look at human behavior, victimization, memory, trials and juries, and defense strategies.
- The American criminal justice system: This course includes an in-depth examination of different features and functions of the American criminal justice system through a historical and current lens.
- Theories of crime: You’ll take a look at theories based in sociology, psychology, and criminology to explore criminality, decision making, and behaviors in crime.
- Forensic behavior investigations: You’ll study an exploration of the psychological principles and methods used in the criminal scientific investigations process when dealing with forensic science concepts such as witnesses to crime, human behavior, victims of crime, and criminals themselves.
- Victim studies: You’ll examine the impact of the legal system on victims of crime, ranging from domestic violence and hate crime to advocacy for victims.
- Child advocacy: This course takes a look at the structures and perspectives surrounding the mistreatment of children as well as the role of advocacy and law in prevention and response.
- Legal psychology: This course is an overview of the legal system and how psychology intersects in areas relating to juries, court and trial proceedings, criminal investigations, and decision making.
- Crime analysis: You’ll be introduced to the methodologies used to analyze crime and criminal behavior, including recidivism rates, patterns of criminality, and predictions of crime in a community.
- Juvenile delinquency: You’ll analyze youth criminal activity and the youth court system as well as examining the role that friends, family, and the community play in reducing juvenile delinquency.
Other forensic psychology courses that you may take when completing your forensic psychology degree program include forensic clinical psychology, research methods (qualitative research and quantitative research), adult development, cultural and ethnic psychology, human cognition, and abnormal psychology.
How to Become a Forensic Psychologist
If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a forensic psychologist, you will need to complete additional schooling after earning your bachelor’s degree and complete the necessary steps to become licensed in your state of practice.
The process of becoming a licensed forensic psychologist includes the following steps:
- Earn a bachelors degree: You may first graduate with a bachelors degree from an accredited program.
- Earn a master’s degree: You may pursue a master’s degree in forensic psychology or a related discipline from an accredited postsecondary institution.
- Complete a PhD or PsyD: The path to becoming licensed requires the completion of a PhD or PsyD from an accredited institution after earning a master’s degree Some dual programs exist that allow you to complete a master’s degree and doctorate at the same time.
- Pursue state licensure: After earning your doctorate, you may complete the requirements set forth by state boards to become a licensed psychologist. The specific requirements for licensing vary from state to state.
To practice in a clinical setting and provide therapeutic and counseling services, you are generally required to hold a current license in the state that you work or provide services.
Forensic Psychology Licensing Requirements
To become a licensed forensic psychologist, you may be required to complete a doctoral program accredited by the American Psychological Association. APA accredited programs may not be mandatory for licensing in some states.
In situations where you have not attended an APA accredited program, your doctoral degree may be more highly investigated during the licensing process.
In addition to holding a doctoral degree, such as a PhD or PsyD, you may be required to have accrued a minimum of 2 years of supervised work experience. The specific number of hours or years required varies from state to state.
You may also be required to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) before being approved by the licensing board.
Typical admissions criteria for a bachelor’s degree program at forensic psychology colleges include meeting standards that verify your academic standing and overall competencies. Some admission requirements may include:
- Evidence of high school graduation with a minimum GPA.
- ACT scores that meet a predetermined threshold, if required.
- Transcripts of prior coursework from previous postsecondary studies, if transferring.
In addition to the criteria listed above, some academic programs may require you to submit an online application and pay a fee for it to be processed.
Regional accreditation affirms the academic quality of a postsecondary program. You may consider attending accredited academic programs for your bachelors degree in forensic psychology if you’re interested in pursuing further education, including a masters, doctorate, or dual master and doctoral program.
Accreditation can also be an important factor during the hiring process for various employers. They tend to give higher regard to schools and programs that have earned accreditation status. A program’s accreditation status may also impact your ability to qualify for or obtain financial aid from state, federal, or private aid sources.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
There are several state, federal, and private aid options available that may help qualifying students cover some of the costs of their undergraduate education.
State and federal governments offer various loan and grant options that you may qualify for to help you pay for your studies. Loans are funding options that are required to be repaid while grants generally do not require repayment.
You may also qualify to obtain scholarship funding, which may be offered by private businesses or through the postsecondary school you choose to attend. You can apply for financial aid by filling out the Free application for federal students aids, on the US Department of Education’s website.
What Is Forensic Psychology?
Forensic psychology is the study of the relationship between psychology and criminal justice systems.
This may include the use of psychological principles coupled with an in-depth understanding of the legal system to perform work relating to criminal offenders, witnesses of crime, and victims of crime.
Forensic psychology can extend beyond working with individual persons. You may be involved in courtroom and trial proceedings by acting as an expert witness, or you may support investigations as a criminal profiler.
What Does a Forensic Psychologist Do?
A number of students wonder what a forensic psychologist does, or sometimes, what criminal psychologist do. Professionals in this field perform a number of duties, ranging from criminal profiling to counseling and consulting.
A key responsibility may include assessing criminal offenders. You may evaluate an offender’s state of mind, providing insight into decision-making processes and criminal motivation.
As a forensic psychologist, you may also have the opportunity to work with victims and witnesses of crimes. You may choose to specialize in working with child victims as well. You may provide therapeutic counseling services to help victims and witnesses cope following the aftermath of their experience.
You may also act as an expert witness during trials and court proceedings. Your role in these instances may include speaking to the state of mind of the offender and providing a professional perspective on the use of an insanity defense or an offender’s fitness to stand trial.
Where Do Forensic Psychologists Work?
Due to the diversity of career paths in forensic psychology programs, there are several areas in which a forensic psychologist may work. These work environments can include jails or detention centers for youth and adult offenders, youth centers, legal offices, and private counseling office spaces.
As a forensic psychologist, you may work for government institutions and private companies. You may even operate your own business and offer services as an independent consultant or counselor.
In some cases, it’s possible to work in research or academia. This may include working at a postsecondary institution, like a university or college, with the opportunity to teach classes and perform research related to forensic psychology programs.
What Can You Do with a Forensic Psychology Degree?
This position is only one of the many diverse career options available to you with a degree in forensic psychology. After earning your forensic psychology bachelor’s degree, you may be well suited for positions in social services.
Positions in this field include social and human services assistant, community services manager, social worker, and substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselor.
Forensic psychology jobs may also include jobs in law enforcement. You may pursue a position as a police officer, detective, investigator, probation officer, correctional officer, or correctional treatment specialist.
How Much Does a Forensic Psychologist Make?
The average annual salary for a psychologist is $82,180 per year (Bureau of Labor Statistics). The highest reported salaries for forensic psychologists are more than $133,470 per year.
The industry you choose to work in may impact your earnings potential as a forensic psychologist. For instance, those working in government and healthcare generally have higher earnings than those working in primary and secondary education settings.
The state in which you practice may also impact your earnings potential, with psychologists in Washington, New York, and New Hampshire earning more on average than those working in other states.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Forensic Psychologist?
Forensic psychologist careers require a doctoral degree. The traditional timeframe to complete a bachelors is 4 years. A growing number of universities offer online undergraduate programs in forensic psychology as well as advanced degree options, which may make it easier for some students to achieve. Next, a masters degree generally takes 1 to 2 years to complete, depending on your program of choice.
After earning your masters degree, it may take approximately 3 to 5 years to earn a PhD or PsyD in doctoral programs. In some cases, you may be able to attend a dual masters and doctoral program in psychology to reduce the time required to complete your education.
In addition to on-campus graduate programs, some students take advantage of online opportunities, earning, for example, masters in forensic psychology online or even an online Phd in forensic psychology.
Before becoming licensed with your state, you may also need to accrue a certain number of work hours and pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP).
What Is the Difference Between a Degree in Criminal Psychology vs. Forensic Psychology?
When considering how to become a criminal psychologist, remember that criminal psychology focuses on crime and criminal offenders more specifically. This includes analysis into why people commit crimes, the decision-making and thought processes behind criminal acts, and criminal mindsets.
Forensic psychology, on the other hand, looks at the overarching relationship between criminal behavior, the criminal justice system, and law. This includes the study of offenders, crime victims, witnesses, trials and courtroom proceedings, and criminal profiling.
The field of forensic psychology studies a broader spectrum of individuals instead of being limited to adult and young offenders.
Is a Degree in Forensic Psychology Worth It?
Yes, a bachelors degree in forensic psychology is worth it for many students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting 12% job growth in community and social service occupations over the next 10 years.
Common forensic psychology careers in this field include counselor, social worker, social and human service assistant, police officer, and correctional treatment specialist. Earning a degree in forensic psychology may also act as a stepping stone to a masters or doctorate.
These graduate degrees may put you on the path to advanced positions as a teacher, researcher, or psychologist.
Some universities also offer online undergraduate programs in forensic psychology as well as online advanced degree programs.