Online Forensic Psychology Degree Guide

Popular crime shows have brought forensics and forensic psychology to the spotlight in recent years. The word forensic is derived from the latin word forensis or forum which is where ancient Romans held their courts of law, and many people today show interest in the field of forensic psychology. 

A career in forensic psychology shows promise, too, with a projected 3% job growth rate between 2019-2029 with a median pay around $80,370.

In order to specialize and be employed as a licensed forensic psychologist, you need to first obtain a PhD or doctor of psychology (PsyD) degree and spend two years in an internship gaining supervised experience. 

Forensic psychologists may also become board certified through the American Board of Forensic Psychology

What is Forensic Psychology?

Forensic psychology is a fairly new psychology specialization that encompassas the practice of clinical psychology in the legal setting. 

The most common duty of a forensic psychologist is performing a psychological assessment of people who find themselves involved in the legal and court setting. 

Clinical and communication skills are extremely important in this job to successfully conduct;

  • Interviews
  • Draft reports
  • Conduct investigations
  • Research studies
  • Consultation
  • Development of treatment programs
  • Witness courtroom testimony

A forensic psychologist may be involved with many types of court cases including:

  • Threat assessments for schools
  • Child custody evaluations
  • Competency evaluations of defendants and the elderly 
  • Counseling services for victims
  • Death notification procedures
  • Screening and selection of law enforcement applicants
  • Assessment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Forensic psychologists are also involved in court cases involving “mens rea” or insanity cases where they assess the defendant to establish if they knew what they were doing was wrong at the time of the crime. 

What Degrees Do I Need to Get a Career in Forensic Psychology?

Although there are many careers in forensic psychology that only require a master’s degree, becoming a licensed forensic psychologist requires a PhD or doctor of psychology degree (PsyD).

To be accepted into a PhD or doctorate program, you must first obtain a bachelor’s degree, which doesn’t have to be in psychology. 

Some programs require a master’s degree, and others offer a combined degree program that results in both a master’s and doctorate degree. 

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Psychology

If you already know that you want to specialize in forensic psychology, then obtaining a bachelor’s degree (BA or BS) in psychology or criminal justice is the first step in moving towards your goal. It is also recommended that you take courses in forensics and abnormal psychology. 

Some schools offer bachelor’s degree programs that specifically focus on and prepare you for a career in forensic psychology, while others offer a general psychology degree. 

Admission Requirements

The minimum admission requirements to get into a bachelor’s of psychology degree program typically include:

  • High school diploma or GED
  • High school transcripts
  • 2-5 letters of recommendation
  • Writing sample/essay
  • ACT/SAT standardized test scores

Graduation Requirements

A bachelor’s degree in psychology requires about 160 units and usually takes about four years to complete depending on whether you attend full-time, part-time, online, or on campus. 

Some programs may require a culminating experience paper/project or internship hours to graduate.

Skills Learned

While working towards your bachelor degree, you will learn many essential skills including:

  • Social development
  • Interpersonal effectiveness
  • Critical thinking 
  • Collaboration
  • Effective oral and written communication

Career opportunities

Have a bachelor degree in psychology with an emphasis in forensic science makes you well suited for many entry-level positions in the legal field including:

  • Forensic science technician
  • Detective and criminal investigator
  • Accountants and Auditors
  • Corrections or parole officer

Courses in Undergraduate Forensic Psychology Programs

There are a vast array of psychology courses offered in an undergraduate program that include both core curriculum classes and speciality courses that are geared towards your interests. If you plan to focus on forensic psychology, you can expect to take the following types of classes.

  • Intro to Psychology
  • Behavioral Psychology
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Biological Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Statistical Methods
  • Psychology Seminar
  • Criminology
  • Criminal Law
  • Developmental Psychology

How Long Does it Take to Get a Forensic Psychology Bachelor’s Degree?

Online bachelor’s of psychology programs are becoming more abundant, and many schools allow online students to complete the degree on a part-time or full-time basis. The biggest benefits of online learning include:

  • Flexibility and self-paced learning
  • Better time management
  • Improved virtual and communication and collaboration
  • No commute
  • Faster graduation times
  • Ability to work from anywhere

On average, an online bachelor’s degree in psychology usually takes about four years to complete. However, this timeline is dependent on whether you study full-time or part-time, as well as previous education completed.

Bachelor’s degree programs in psychology typically require about 160 credits depending on your area of concentration and program modality.

Accelerated programs are also available and allow you to complete the program in as little as one year. However, these programs are faced-paced and rigorous. 

Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology

Obtaining a master’s degree in forensic psychology can open up many opportunities to advance your career, salary, and expertise in the field.

Entry into a master’s program typically requires a bachelor’s degree, GRE score, letters of recommendation, official transcripts, and a written essay.

Courses in Graduate Forensic Psychology Programs

Course curriculum depends on the school and program you choose, but a sample of classes offered in a master’s of forensic psychology degree program usually includes:

  • Psychology and law
  • Advanced social psychology
  • Eyewitness testimony and memory
  • Diversity psychology
  • Assessment for forensic psychology

How Long Does it Take to Get a Forensic Psychology Master’s Degree?

On average, a master’s degree in psychology program usually takes about two years to complete, though this timeline depends on:

  • Whether you study online
  • full-time or part-time learning
  • Previous education
  • Your specialization
  • How long it takes to complete your thesis project 

Master’s programs in psychology typically require about 40 semester credits depending on area of concentration and program modality.

Additional Forensic Psychology Education Requirements

If you want to continue your education beyond a master’s degree and become a licensed forensic psychologist, then you will need to complete a PhD or doctorate of psychology degree program (PsyD), complete an internship, and also take a licensing and board certification exam.

Internships in Forensic Psychology

Psychology students usually complete an internship as part of a doctorate program. The internship allows you to gain hands-on, real world experience in different aspects of criminal justice and legal settings. 

A sample of internship placements for forensic psychology include:

  • Prison internships
  • Medical setting internships
  • Government internships
  • Research internships

Forensic Psychology Certification and Licensure

Many careers in forensic psychology require a license or certification to practice or obtain a job. It is important to research requirements for your desired career path, and choose a school, program, and speciality that prepare you to meet your career goals. 

The specific license or certification required varies by state. Make sure to check your desired field’s requirements before you commit to a school or program. 

Forensic Psychology Career Outlook and Salaries

CareerSalaryProjected Job Growth (2019-2029)About the Position
Forensic Scientist $59,15014%Forensic scientist technicians help collect and analyze data evidence and data related to a crime scene.  
Psychologist$80,3703%Forensic psychologists seek to understand people’s thoughts, emotions, and behavior that pertain to a legal case.
Probation Officer$54,2904%Probation officers provide social services, and rehabilitation to people who have been in trouble with the law.
Police and Detectives$65,1705%Police officers protect lives and property, while detectives focus on gathering facts, data, and evidence to help solve crimes. 
Source: BLS

Can You Earn a Forensic Psychology Degree Online?

Online and hybrid bachelor’s of psychology programs are becoming more abundant, and accredited online forensic psychology degrees match the quality of their on-campus counterparts. The biggest benefits of online learning include:

  • Flexibility and self-paced learning
  • Better time management
  • Improved virtual and communication and collaboration
  • No commute
  • Faster graduation times
  • Ability to work from anywhere

Forensic psychology programs may also require an internship or work experience that will have to be completed in-person.

Forensic Psychology Career Resources

Professional organizations are a great way to stay up-to-date on current psychology trends as well as a place to seek networking and educational opportunities. Here are a few options:

FAQ

What do you major in to become a forensic psychologist?

To become a forensic psychologist, it is best to major in either psychology or criminal justice.

What can I do with a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology?

There are many career options for people with a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology including forensic scientist, probation officer, corrections officer, and crime analyst.

Is forensic psychology a good career?

Yes, forensic psychology is a great career choice and is expected to grow 3% between 2019-2029, while forensic science careers are expected to grow 14% in the same timeframe.

How hard is it to become a forensic psychologist?

To become a forensic psychologist you need complete several years of rigorous schooling, internship programs, thesis projects, and license and board examinations.  

Sources:

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