Last reviewed March 4, 2021 by PSY Staff

Forensic Psychology Degrees and Programs

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Concordia University - Saint Paul MAHS in Forensic Behavioral Health
Get the skills you need for a career at the intersection of behavioral health, criminal justice and the legal system.
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Learn about becoming Forensic Psychologist

Forensic psychology is a fascinating field that is gaining more popularity as a degree program for people that are interested in fields such as psychology, sociology, law, and crime. Individual backgrounds, personality traits, and family history are a few data points that can be used to understand why a person commits a crime and potentially red flags for future offences.

Forensic psychologists are an important part of understanding the mindset and mental health of criminal offenders. After a crime has been committed, a forensic psychologist may be called upon by law enforcement to interview and assess the perpetrator. The assessment that is created can help law enforcement determine the overall mental health of the suspect. This is important because defendants must be mentally competent during a trial.

This type of mental assessment is useful in cases from misdemeanors to violent crimes. Violent or sexual offenders are also often assessed by forensic psychologists. The psychologists determine if there are any mental illnesses, which can help prosecutors decide proper methods for treatment or punishment. In cases that involve personal duress or damages, forensic psychologists may also be called upon by attorneys to determine the level of psychological damage that occurred through accidents or other related happenings.

University Program Admissions
University of West Alabama Online Psychology and Counseling Degrees
Multiple programs: Bachelors in Psychology, Master's in Experimental Psychology (Clinical, Healht & Sports Psych), Family Counseling, Guidance and Counseling, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and more.
Maryville University Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
The online BA in Psychology from Maryville University will prepare you with a strong foundation in the theoretical frameworks of modern psychology. No SAT or ACT scores required.
Methodist University Online Bachelor of Science in Psychology
Gain the skills for diagnosis, clinical interview procedures, behavior analysis, and more.
University of Texas Permian Basin Online BA in Psychology
Program provides a broad foundation of psychological science knowledge and emphasizes vital written communication and research skills that can inform and assist you in helping professions.
Pepperdine University Online Master of Psychology
Choose your path at Pepperdine: pursue licensure as either an LMFT or LPC and serve diverse clients with our online master’s in clinical psychology.
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Introduction to Forensic Psychology

Blending psychology with crime and law enforcement provides a new area of study for those interested in these fields. At the most basic level, criminal activity can be investigated from a behavioral perspective. Understanding how human behavior can play a role in predicting of criminal activity can set you on path for a career in forensic psychology.

Psychological theories seek to explain why specific actions may have contributed to the commission of a crime. Additionally, they research with punishments or treatments reduce the likelihood of future offenses.

As a forensic psychologist, you could potentially play a role in the investigation of crime, the legal process that follows the commission of a crime, or even research studies that work towards preventing criminal activity by individuals with different risk factors.

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What Does A Forensic Psychologist Do?

Forensic psychology professionals may also work with the justice system to implement rehabilitation programs for convicted criminals and help evaluate individual progress through those assigned programs. The identification of at-risk youth is another field that employs people in this specialty, since early-intervention is the best way to sway adolescents away from crime.

Common Forensic Psychology Job Responsibilities

While working as a forensic psychologist, you may find that your expertise is useful in a variety of settings. Forensic psychologists often use assessments to determine the mental state of offenders or victims after a crime. These assessments include a look into the person’s current mental state, personality traits, history of criminal activity, an appraisal of violence risk, and psychological competency.

After completing a report, the psychologist may deliver the results to law enforcement, attorneys, or submit it directly to the court. It is not uncommon for forensic psychologists to take the stand during trials to further explain the results of their assessment.

The information and insight provided by professionals in this field can give the court a better look into the mental state of a suspect, which can provide for a more accurate assessment of the individual’s crime. After a criminal has received a sentence, forensic psychologists may also be employed by parole boards to help determine the likelihood of recidivism. The likelihood of re-offending can contribute to the release of criminals that have been rehabilitated in a prison environment.

In preventative job roles, forensic psychologists may work to investigate the risk factors for criminal behavior and develop community programs that target at-risk individuals. This can include researching criminal files, interviewing convicted criminals, and conducting assessments.

Using this information, forensic psychologists can develop programs that speak to people with certain risk factors and help them rise above social expectations. These programs provide education and support for community members that are looking for resources to avoid entering a life of crime.

What Education Does A Forensic Psychologist Need?

In order to be an asset in the field of forensic psychology, it is important for you to gain the knowledge of mental illnesses and how they are related to crime, law, and the justice system. Degree programs in forensic psychology include studies into these mental illnesses and how they can contribute to criminal activity in people that suffer from them.

During a degree program in forensic psychology, students are often introduced to how maladaptive behaviors are related to psychopathology. This, in turn, can lead to a better understanding of why people with mental illness sometimes commit crimes and how they are identified through assessments and diagnostics.

Your first step to a better understanding of psychopathology and crime is obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology or related field. After completing a Bachelor’s degree, students must continue their education to obtain a Master’s degree.

Some students will go forward with a PhD or PsyD in Forensic Psychology. Completion of the relevant degree programs is not the only steps to being a part of this fascinating field, though. After completing the doctorate level degree program, graduates may be expected to complete field experience in the field of forensic psychology – either by supervised work experience or completing an internship.

Once this experience is received, graduates may be permitted to take the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology to move forward with licensure. In order to truly stand apart from other graduates, some students even consider becoming certified by the American Board of Professional Psychology in Forensic Psychology prior to applying for a license to practice within their respective states.

The licensing process may vary by state, but completion of the required board examinations, proof of graduation from an accredited university, and documentation of work experience is often needed in order to obtain credentials.

Testing Information

Earning your degree in forensic psychology can be an elating experience that excites you about your future in the field. The examinations that follow the experience requirement have been set forth to test your abilities in the field of psychology and ensure that you have what it takes to work with the public.

The Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) is a multiple-choice exam that consists of biological aspects, cognitive aspects, life-span, assessment and diagnosis, research, and ethics an legal issues in psychology. Completion of the exam is required to be licensed as a psychologist. It is important to consider an accredited degree program since graduates of these universities have a higher success rate.

The board examination for the American Board of Professional Psychology in Forensic Psychology consists of a credential review process, written and oral examinations, and a board vote for acceptance. This certification process is separate from the EPPP in that it focuses on the applications of forensic psychology specifically, rather than the overall practice of psychology.

Degree programs are designed to prepare you for the completion of these examinations, which brings to light the importance of a good-quality program. Experience requirements can also contribute to your success with these examinations by providing you with a first hand look at how psychological theories are applied in the legal system.

Common Psychological Theories of Crime You’ll Learn About

The theoretical aspects of psychology that contribute to a better understanding of criminal behavior and the law’s response provide insight into how people with criminal backgrounds inherit, develop, and maintain their lifestyles. Although different theories of psychology can be applicable depending on the circumstance, certain theories focus on human behavior and crime specifically.

The generalized theory of behavior psychology plays a big role in bringing meaning to the behaviors of criminals, which can go a long way when breaking apart the aspects of a crime. Behaviorism, or behavior psychology, is one of the major components of forensic psychology – providing a basis for understanding how conditioning from the environment can influence individual behavior. This theory looks into the environment as a method of determining how certain behaviors are inherited or created, so that forensic psychologists can learn about the environment’s role as a risk factor.

Other theories, such as the psychological theory of crime, focus on historical aspects of an individual’s life to determine if there were certain risk factors that may have contributed to maladaptive adult behavior. A history of abuse, neglect, or trauma may be considered using this theory, as well as whether or not a person has committed crimes in the past and their probability of committing crimes in the future. Some theorists may also encourage the use of linking intelligence with crime. This theory is best used on the research side of forensic psychology, which attempts to determine if people of various intelligences commit more crimes than others.

All of these methods are good examples of the theoretical aspect of forensic psychology, but by far not an exhaustive list. As you are becoming more in depth with your studies and assessments, you may find that some psychological theories are more appropriate depending on the individual you are working with.

Salary and Job Growth for Forensic Psychologists

Forensic psychology is an emerging field that continues to grow in popularity as the years pass. Even though a lot of the interest for these programs was encouraged by the use of forensic psychologists in television and movies, the acknowledgement of this field as a potential for those interested in both psychology and law has brought a profound interest. Psychology is finding its place in many different fields of society, since human behavior is a building block of nearly every component of everyday life.

If you are thinking of becoming one of these fascinating professionals, it is only natural to consider how much you would make and the overall outlook of the career field. As you probably know, crime and punishment are two aspects of society that may probably remain consistent as the years pass.

The interest in psychology as a means for understanding crime and providing proper ramifications is likely to rise in the future, providing job opportunities for years to come. Depending on the area in which you work and the specific field that you plan to invest in, you could see wages that range from $41,690 per year on average to $127,710 per year on average (BLS; 2015).

The ability to earn in this field can be affected by whether or not you plan to work directly with the justice system, deciding to delve in private practice, or becoming contracted with research agencies or the government.

The use of forensic psychology in the legal system provides a more inside look into the lives and personas of individuals that are involved in crime. If you decide to pursue a higher degree and licensure in forensic psychology, you may find that the career opportunities are diverse and provide a helping hand throughout the legal systems in America.

The opinions provided by this field play a part in determining just methods of punishment and rehabilitation for those that have engaged in criminal activity and possibly even the victims of crimes.

List of Programs

University Level Program Admissions
Concordia University - Saint Paul
Master MAHS in Forensic Behavioral Health Website
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