Forensic psychology master’s programs require students to complete a curriculum focused on psychology, law, and perhaps a specialization. This article provides an outline of what students could expect from the curriculum, including forensic psychology requirements.
Core Forensic Psychology Courses
Core forensic psychology courses are designed to help equip students with the knowledge and skills necessary to work within legal and justice system frameworks. Many courses focus on psychology but intimately connect materials and lessons to law. Increasingly, more online courses and degrees have become available within this field, though be careful to check that the online programs will make you qualified for certification.
Many forensic psychology core curricula include subjects such as:
- Social science, mental health, and the law
- Statistics in the social sciences
- Research methodologies
- Psychological testing (psychological assessment)
- Psychological theory, discourse, and practice
- Counseling and clinical methodology
In addition, students typically choose elective courses that allow them to focus or specialize in a particular area. Some examples of elective courses include:
- The psychology of criminal behavior
- Violence and aggression
- Victims (this elective might include a sub-focus such as child victimology, women victimology, minority victimology, etc.)
- Social science and evidence in court
- Ethical issues in forensic mental health
- Evaluation and counseling of sex offenders
- Empirical evidence and crime scenes
- Developmental Psychopathology
Psychopathology is worth abstracting from the list of core requirements in recognition of the important role it plays in the major. Psychopathology, or mental disorder, distress, and maladaptive behavior, is often times at the core of forensic psychology curricula because study of the subject allows psychologists to understand the mentality of individuals who work for or otherwise become a part of the legal system.
Psychopathology courses typically provide students an opportunity to engage in the in-depth study of the DSM IV and to study other diagnostic tools that professionals use to identify mental and behavioral disorders.
In most forensic psychology programs you will have one if not several courses that focus on the subject of psychopathology, like developmental psychopathology.
Forensic Psychology Training, Concentrations and Professional Associations
Students earning a degree in forensic psychology often choose concentrations, participate in externships and/or internships, and join professional associations. They do so in order to complement their studies and to gain valuable experience and exposure while earning their degrees.
By choosing a concentration, forensic psychologists may become more competitive in the field. Students who want to choose a concentration should conduct research to determine the demand for their particular concentration and to better understand the concentration’s duties and job possibilities (including pay and availability) in the field.
Students also participate in internships and/or externships. Many forensic psychology programs require students to complete an externship as a part of their program, and many students choose to participate in internships in order to potentially earn money and gain valuable experience. As a student of forensic psychology, you might consider completing an externship in forensic psychology (which may, indeed, be a requirement of your program) and an internship in law.
In addition, many students join professional associations while in school. Forensic psychology students commonly join the American Psychological Association or the International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology.