Forensic psychology has a broad definition. It encompasses any sort of psychological assessment of individuals who come into contact with the legal system. Opportunities in forensic psychology heavily depend on level of education—to claim the title “Forensic Psychologist,” a student must complete a doctorate, though there are many other uses for a degree in forensic psychology. This area of study is offered at the baccalaureate, master, and doctoral levels and can lead to careers within private practices, firms, schools, police departments, prisons, and government agencies. Licensed Forensic Psychologists weigh in on any number of matters, from mental states of criminal defendants to child custody to jury selection.
This degree is largely postdoctoral, so you won’t find more than a handful or two of schools that offer a Bachelor’s in Forensic Psychology. Even if one crops up, be aware that that the best programs are accredited by the American Psychology Association (APA). One such available institution is Maryville University. Most commonly, students will earn their undergraduate degree in either criminal justice or psychology (with a concentration in forensic psychology) before moving on to graduate school for more focalized study.
Career options for graduates with a bachelor’s in forensic psychology include: Court Liaison, Law Enforcement Officer, Probation Officer
If earning a doctorate is the ultimate goal, students can move directly from their undergraduate education into a doctoral program since a master’s degree is considered optional. Master's programs are a good way for students who didn’t study psychology or criminal justice during their undergrad to be introduced to the world of forensic psychology. The curriculum will consist of education on domestic violence, criminal assessment, mental health policy, and psychological treatment of adult offenders.
Careers for graduates with a Master’s in Forensic Psychology include: Jury Consultant, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, Juvenile Offenders Counselor, and Research Assistant.
While it won’t say “PhD in Forensic Psychology” on most diplomas, many schools offer this area of study under other titles. Some institutions will call it a PhD in Legal Psychology with a concentration in Forensic Psychology/Studies, while others have labeled it a PhD in Interdisciplinary Social Psychology with a specialization in Law and Justice.
There are two types of degrees that can be earned in this concentration, the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Doctor of Psychology (PsyD). PhDs take longer to obtain and are typically very competitive. Like with most PhDs, it’s very research oriented. The PsyD can be more closely compared to an MD in medicine and clinical experience begins much earlier in this three-to-five-year program.
Careers for graduates with a doctorate in forensic psychology include: Forensic Psychologist, Expert Witness, Psychology Professor/Instructor, and Psychology Researcher.