Become a Forensic Psychologist
Criminal Forensic Psychology Degrees

Curious about forensic psychologist careers? Learn what criminal forensic psychologists do & where to get the best forensic psychology education & degrees.

The path to becoming a criminal psychologist is a difficult one. There are many years of schooling and training, and getting employed by a top firm or public office can take some time.

But if you have the patience and perseverance to see it through, the rewards can be truly amazing.

Criminal psychologists work on the side of justice, imparting wisdom and evidence to help the law system take criminals off the street, rehabilitate them, and also to care for victims of crimes.

What better way to spend your days than working to make the world a better place in which to live?

Forensic Psychologist Career Path
What You Need to Know

If you’re interested in travelling down that path to become a forensic psychologist, there are a few things you should know. We’ll provide the answers to such important questions as:

  • What is forensic psychology?
  • How do you get your forensic psychology degrees?
  • What coursework is involved in forensic psychology education?
  • How did forensic psychology get its start?
  • How much is a forensic psychology salary?
  • And what is the difference between forensic psychology and criminal forensic psychology?

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What is Forensic Psychology?

what is forensic psychology

In simple terms, forensic psychology is the study of the interaction between human behavior and law.

This isn’t to say that all the forensic psychologist does is test criminals. Rather, this specialist is devoted to all sides of the courtroom bench and all its applications in the world of Law and Order.

The forensic psychologist may be called upon to perform a wide variety of tasks, including:

  • Mediating civil or criminal disputes
  • Working with child victims
  • Assessing the mental stability of criminals and victims
  • Testing the competency of a company’s employees
  • And much more

This isn’t a job for people who want to do the same thing at their desks from nine to five. Instead, forensic psychology is for people who like to be active in a number of different roles and be away from the office for long stretches.

If you have what it takes to become a forensic psychologist, you can expect to earn $35,000 to $45,000 at the start. But with experience, training, and superior education, you can easily make six figures in a year.

Forensic Psychology Degrees

Most private—and many public—employers want to hire forensic psychologists with a doctoral degree. Getting your PhD can be a difficult task, but if this is a career you know you want, then it will certainly be worth it in the long run.

The first thing you need to do is earn a bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject area. This can be achieved by either taking classes online from a web-based college, or by attending a campus university.

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Getting you master’s degree is a bit more challenging, but can still be done through a campus or online institution. Some universities require that you study both psychology and criminal justice side by side to earn a degree in forensic psychology. Others have programs designed that already have these two topics integrated.

A doctorate degree isn’t mandatory, but it helps in landing your dream job. It's also worth noting that forensic psychologists with PhDs make exponentially more money, on average, than those with a lesser degree.

History of Forensic Psychology

hugy munsterberg

In 2001 the American Psychological Association finally recognized forensic psychology as a specialty, but the practice has been studied for more than 100 years.

Starting in the 19th century, scientists like Wilhelm Wundt, Hugo Munsterberg, and James McKeen Cattell paved the way for future generations with their experiments regarding the mind set of witnesses and how it can affect a criminal case.

Wundt’s base of operations was in Germany, but both Munsterberg and Cattell did their research in America—at Harvard and Columbia, respectively—where forensic psychology is perhaps the most advanced and utilized.

During the 20th century, these scientists and others coaxed forensic psychology into evolving. Books were written, lectures offered, and testimonies given in court rooms. This branch of criminal justice took off like a rocket during the 1900’s.

Today, forensic psychology and criminal forensic psychology play an incredibly important role in Law and Order, and it is still evolving. As times change, as people change, and as laws change, the forensic psychologist must also progress.

While the history of forensic psychology is relatively short, it’s progression as a science has just begun.

Forensic Psychology Jobs

forensic psychology jobs

Forensic psychology is a general title. In fact, there are countless jobs under that title that you can be employed to perform.

The first thing you need to decide is whether you want to work in the private or public sector. There are pros and cons to each side, but perhaps the biggest difference is the pay check—the private sector pays substantially more.

In truth, though, when you’re first starting out as a forensic psychologist, fresh out of school with your degree in hand, you shouldn’t be too terribly choosy about where you are first employed. Getting a job is priority number one.

Some of the many types of forensic psychology jobs include:

  • Child custody specialist
  • Company psychologist
  • Correctional specialist
  • Rehabilitation psychoanalyst
  • And much, much more

Criminal Forensic Psychology

Believe it or not, there is a great difference between forensic psychology and criminal forensic psychology. The first is merely an umbrella that covers everything within the relationship between human behavior and the law. The second, though, is aimed directly at the psychology of criminals themselves.

In criminal forensic psychology, the main responsibility is providing expert witness testimony for criminal trials. You will be expected to testify about the competency of a defendant, the likelihood that he or she will break the law again, and your own two cents about how long the sentence should be if convicted.

A day in the life of the criminal forensic psychologist is anything but typical. Because there are so many roles that the forensic psychologist has to play, each day may be very different from the last. But there are some things that will happen fairly regularly. These include:

  • Giving testimony at a trial
  • Training law enforcement officers
  • Consulting with organizations about programs

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