Criminal Psychology Graduate Programs with Degree Information

Oct 20, 2021

Essential Information

Criminal psychology is a relatively new, but growing aspect of the criminal justice field. Students enrolled in Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology programs learn to apply psychological theories and skills to cases that arise in the criminal justice system. At the doctoral level, students focus on independent research, as well as specializations in several fields. Typically, Ph.D. programs in this area take four to five years to complete, with some programs offering online courses.

An undergraduate degree is an absolute prerequisite for most graduate programs in criminal psychology. Forensic psychology programs accept students with educational backgrounds in criminal justice, psychology, social work, counseling, sociology and similar subjects. A strong grade point average, communication skills and close attention to detail are also recommended for students considering graduate studies in criminal psychology.

Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology

The most basic component in a graduate degree program focusing on criminal psychology is an in-depth understanding of advanced psychological theories and concepts. Students then learn to use these theories in the context of the criminal justice and legal systems. They learn to work with lawyers and judges to select psychologically competent jurors, apply psychological tests to defendants and prosecutors, and submit psychological analyses in court.

The courses included in a Master of Forensic Psychology degree program cover both criminology and psychology. They include:

  • Foundations of forensic psychology
  • Psychology and law
  • Social and behavioral psychology, including criminal behavior
  • Diversity and psychology
  • Psychological profiling
  • Psychology and conflict management

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Forensic Psychology

Graduates from a master's degree program in forensic psychology or a similar field may continue their education with a Ph.D. program in forensic psychology at an accredited university or professional school of psychology. The most common degree that is offered at this level is a Ph.D. in Forensic Psychology; Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in Forensic Psychology programs are also available.

A Ph.D. program in this field often requires a great deal of independent research. Students typically choose one particular area of study on which to focus, such as risk assessments, clinical interventions or witness evaluations.

Program coursework in a Ph.D. program in forensic psychology can vary from student to student, as each individual is required to choose a particular subject to research thoroughly. Much of the work of a Ph.D. program in forensic psychology is done individually and oftentimes contributes greatly to a dissertation. Some required classes may cover the following:

  • Justice and legal systems
  • Domestic violence and psychological problems
  • Stalking, addiction, and their related psychological problems
  • Psychology and police stress
  • Forensic research
  • Criminology

Popular Career Options

Specialists in criminal psychology can hold many jobs, including psychological profiler, court appointed or prison psychologist, community mental health administrator, social service agent, juvenile court and state forensic psychologist, correctional treatment specialist, or criminal researcher. There are a few more advanced career options open to an individual who holds a doctorate degree in forensic psychology. These jobs include:

  • Forensic psychology professor
  • Criminal psychologist
  • Mental health facility administrator
  • Prison psychology administrator
  • Eyewitness testimony expert

Job Outlook and Salary Statistics

Psychologists in general are expected to see a 3% increase in employment from 2019 to 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), The BLS reports that psychologists, other than clinical, counseling and school psychologists, earned a median annual income of $101,790 as of May 2019.

Common graduate programs for aspiring criminal psychologists include a master of arts and doctor of philosophy in forensic psychology. These programs dissect the psychological aspects of crime, law, and related topics, preparing students for careers as professors, criminal psychologists, and more.

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