United States Masters in Forensic Psychology Programs

Masters in Forensic Psychology Programs prepare students to apply psychological concepts in a variety of legal settings. Students may deepen their knowledge of psychology and human behavior, while also developing an understanding of the justice system and how these two interact. Typically a two-year program, a Masters in Forensic Psychology could be great for students who aspire to help understand crime and stop it in the future.

Masters in Forensic Psychology Programs

What is Forensic Psychology?

Forensic Psychology is the application of psychological research and methods to issues related to the criminal justice system. This may be in a clinical or research capacity. Forensic psychology might be used in jails, law enforcement, government agencies (like Social Services or the Department of Homeland Security), law offices, or in private practice, to name just a few. Forensic psychologists may counsel offenders or victims, provide court testimony and assessment, or provide insight to lawyers and other members of the justice system.

Research to better understand criminology and its social and physical influences may be conducted at universities, government agencies and other organizations. This may help influence policy and inform decisions regarding criminal profiling, crime trends, effective treatment for offenders, and crime prevention. Forensic psychology covers any application of psychology to issues relating to the legal system however, so it's uses could be limitless.

Masters in Forensic Psychology Program Overview

Masters in forensic psychology programs come in a variety of forms, mirroring the vast nature of the field. And each may be designed to achieve slightly different goals. First, they may be offered as a psychology program with an emphasis in forensic psychology or in forensic psychology itself. Either may result in a Masters in Science (MS) or Master in Arts (MA) degree. While all of these cover core concepts in forensic psychology, they could have different approaches to the subject matter. Read program details and descriptions to see which might fit your needs.

Additionally, there are two primary tracks in forensic psychology masters programs to choose from: licensure and non-licensure. Are you interested in research? Or hoping to practice in a clinical setting? While some forensic psychology masters programs prepare students for state-licensure and certification, others do not. Furthermore, some masters in forensic psychology programs are designed to lead into PhD programs. It is important to understand your goals prior to choosing a program. This way you can use your studies to prepare for your career or future training.

Masters in Forensic Psychology Potential Curriculum

Forensic Psychology Masters programs' curricula combine core and elective coursework covering psychology and legal subjects. Students are also typically required to complete a thesis paper and an externship. In class, students study legal cases, past psychological research and basic criminal justice concepts. This may help them develop an understanding of the judicial system and of the psychological theories that apply to criminology and a range of legal proceedings. Students may also learn to locate, analyze and present forensic findings for courts, judges, attorneys and counseling or rehabilitative agencies. Common courses might include the following.

  • Forensic sciences
  • Conducting forensic research
  • Abnormal behavior psychology
  • Police and correctional psychology
  • Criminal behavior
  • Criminal justice ethics
  • Juvenile forensic psychology

Some masters programs in forensic psychology also offer specialized areas of concentration. This may allow you to further focus your studies and dive deep into a particular population or application of forensic psychology. Focus areas might include juvenile forensic psychology, terrorism, cyber-crime, public policy or criminal justice. Programs vary so research a few options to see which best matches your interests.

Applying to Masters in Forensic Psychology Programs

Admission to a masters in forensic psychology program typically requires a bachelors degree from an accredited university. While some programs may prefer a bachelors degree in psychology or a related field, others may accept students with different majors. However, these students may need to pass prerequisite psychology courses prior to enrollment. Students may also be required to submit official transcripts and GRE test scores. Every masters in forensic pschology program is unique, so following up directly to learn more about how you might apply.

Choosing a Forensic Psychology Masters Program: Online or On Campus?

Master in forensic psychology programs may come in two different forms: online and on campus. The online program format could be great for working students and those juggling multiple responsibilities. Most online forensic psychology masters programs allow students to access classes on their own schedule. Plus coursework, discussion boards and assignments are accessible anywhere with an internet connection.

Forensic psychology masters schools are great for those who prefer in person learning. Classes meet at regular times on campus and allow students to work side by side with peers. This could be especially helpful for those looking to practice their interview and counseling skills. Plus many schools have additional resources on campus, such as libraries, career centers and student activites. Programs vary so follow up directly to find out more.

Is a Masters in Forensic Psychology Degree For You?

A masters degree is required to become a practicing forensic psychologist. Those with a masters in forensic psychology might pursue a career as psychological assistant in clinical, counseling, or research settings.i They might also pursue a role as a mental health counselor.ii This being said, completion of a PhD or PsyD in psychology may increase employment and salary opportunities. Most clinical psychologists need a doctoral degree. If this is your intended career path, earning a masters degree in Forensic Psychology will support further studies. Additionally, once you have obtained a masters degree in forensic psychology, you can seek American Board of Forensic Psychology certification (ABFP).i

FUN FACT: The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) classifies forensic psychology as a recognized specialty and offers certification examinations.

What is a Forensic Psychologist?

Forensic psychologists apply their understanding of human behavior and thought processes in diverse legal situations. Their knowledge of psychological principles is used to help judges, attorneys, and other legal specialists understand the psychological aspects of a particular case. Examples might include determining a defendant’s mental state or competency to stand trial, helping to develop a suspect’s psychological profile, or assessing a witness’s credibility. You might also be in the position to identify an offender based on their behavior, or counsel a victim after an offence has occurred. Forensic psychologists often testify in court as expert witnesses and typically specialize in family, civil, or criminal casework.iii

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the overall employment of psychologists is projected to grow 19 % from 2014 to 2024. This is considered faster than average. Forensic psychologists might work for federal government, agencies such as correctional agencies, judicial courts or with counseling agencies.

The BLS also reports that job applicants with a master’s degree will face competition for most positions, and many of them will find jobs with alternative titles. This is because almost all states restrict the use of the title “psychologist” to Ph.D. or Psy.D. degree holders.i

Ready to Pursue a Masters in Forensic Psychology?

Why not review forensic psychology master programs to find one that aligns with your vocational and academic goals? Whether you are looking for a Forensic Psychology School so that you can pursue your master’s degree on campus, or are looking into distance-learning, GradSchools.com can simplify your search.

A location search is perhaps the best way to find masters in forensic psychology programs in a city, state or country of your preference. Or, you can browse forensic psychology masters online programs for a convenient way to earn your degree. Once you find programs you like, contact them directly by clicking the link and filling out the simple on page form.


Sources: [i] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm#tab-4 | [iii] bls.gov/careeroutlook/2009/spring/art02.pdf

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