District of Columbia Graduate Forensic Psychology Degrees

Forensic Psychology Graduate Programs explore the intersection of psychology and law. These programs prepare students to apply psychological theories and practices in the justice system and related settings.

Through the study of advanced concepts in psychology, the legal system and topics in research and analysis, students may gain a better understanding of criminal behavior and how biological, psychological and social factors impact it. This could prepare them to conduct evaluations for courts, testify as expert witnesses, provide therapy or conduct research.

Graduate forensic psychology degrees could be applied to a variety of settings, ranging from hospitals and prisons to government agencies in social work or homeland security.i So, if you want to help solve crimes or prevent future ones, forensic psychology graduate programs may be a great place to start.

Forensic Psychology Graduate Programs

Attending Graduate Programs for Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychology graduate programs typically offer a mix of core and elective classes in both psychology and research practices. Additionally, many programs may allow you to select a a minor, track or emphasis. This could help focus your studies and may determine how your graduate forensic psychology degree might shape or enhance your career.

Specializations could include cyber-crimes, family violence, military studies, terrorism, victimology and police psychology. You might also be able to delve into a specific application of forensic psychology. These could include psychopathology, forensic assessment, or risk assessment.

Finally, some programs may prepare you for research heavy roles, while others are better suited for those interested in clinical responsibilities.

Each program likely has its own goals and objectives. Contact schools directly to learn more. Or read course lists to determine which graduate programs in forensic psychology may fit your needs.

Common Core Classes in Forensic Psychology

  • Abnormal psychology
  • Criminal psychology
  • Psychological profiling
  • Theories of criminal behavior  
  • Courtroom and legal issues
  • Children and adolescents in the legal system
  • Consultation and testimony
  • Interrogation and interviewing
  • Family law
  • Victimology
  • Evaluation and treatment of offenders
  • Substance abuse
  • Counter-intelligence

Potential Electives

  • Human memory
  • Developmental psychology
  • Social psychology
  • Multicultural and cross-cultural psychology

Forensic Psychology Research and Analysis

In forensic psychology master’s and doctorate programs, you might take a healthy dose of qualitative and quantitative research courses. Some subjects you might study include the following. 

  • Principles of research and advanced research methodologies in psychology 
  • Individual testing and case study techniques
  • Statistical methods in psychological assessment
  • Experimental methods
  • Multivariate statistics

Internships and Practicums in Forensic Psychology Graduate Programs

In addition to coursework, students may be able, or required, to gain hands on experience through internships, externships, or practicums. These might occur in a variety of settings and could be tailored to fit your interests.

Students might be placed in rape crisis centers, departments of children and family services, prisons, probation offices and sheriff’s departments, just to name a few. Programs may help find and secure positions for students. Others may have partner organizations.

Every school is different, so contact a few to see what opportunities are available.

Types of Forensic Psychology Degrees

Schools for forensic psychology may offer masters, doctorate or graduate certificate programs. While each of these may cover core concepts in criminal psychology, the depth of study and requirements will vary.

For example, certificate programs may provide a basic overview of the field or look at one topic in depth. Masters and doctorate programs, on the other hand, dive deeper into subjects and often provide training outside the classroom. Consider your goals and experience to determine which forensic psychology degree might be great for you.

Masters Forensic Psychology Degrees

Masters in forensic psychology programs, perhaps one of the most common options, typically offer a Master of Art or a Master of Science degree. Either type might be in psychology with an emphasis in forensic psychology or in forensic psychology itself.

While a doctorate is often required to pursue roles as a psychologist,  a masters degree may be sufficient to work as a psychological assistantii or mental health counseloriii in clinical, counseling, or research settings. Some programs are also designed to be a stepping stone towards a doctorate.

A master in forensic psychology:

  • Might be earned through one to two years of full time study
  • May require studnets to write a thesis, complete an internship, and take a comprehensive exam
  • Typically requires a bachelors degree in psychology or forensic psychology. Those with degrees in other areas might have to take prerequisite psychology courses to gain admittance. Programs vary.

PhD Forensic Psychology Programs

Forensic psychology PhD programs typically offer a Doctorate of Psychology or Doctorate of Philosophy degree. A Ph.D. is a research focused degree, while the Psy.D. is a clinical degree. Either might focus primarily on forensic psychology or offer a forensics track.

It's important to note that most clinical, counseling, and research psychologists need a doctoral degree.ii Therefore this might be a great choice for those seeking to pursue these roles.

Forensic psychology doctoral programs:

  • May require four to five years of full time study
  • May include a dissertation requirement, internships, and a comprehensive exam
  • Often requires a masters degree in psychology. Some programs may accept students with bachelors degrees in a related field. Schools vary.

Graduate Certificates in Forensic Psychology

Graduate certificate in forensic psychology programs are shorter and less intensive. They typically introduce forensic psychology to students or enable students with a bachelors degree in psychology to specialize their knowledge. Programs might emphasize forensic psychology broadly or focus on one aspect.

While earning a graduate certificate in forensic psychology:

  • Students commonly take six to ten courses over the course of one year of full time study
  • Some students, upon program and school approval, might transfer their certificate credits to a forensic psychology masters or doctorate program.
  • Students might study at the graduate or postgraduate level. A bachelors degree or masters degree may be required respectively. Programs vary.

Forensic Psychology Licensure and Certification

Depending on where you intend to work and in what capacity, you may need to pursue certification or licensure after graduation. In most states, practicing psychologists require licensure. Additionally, in all states psychologists who practice independently must be licensed where they work.ii

Requirements vary by state. However, most clinical and counseling psychologists need a doctorate in psychology, an internship, at least 1 to 2 years of supervised professional experience, and to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. Certification may require a doctoral degree in psychology, state license or certification, and specific criteria for the field.

As you are looking at graduate schools for forensic psychology, you may want to ensure that the schools are accredited and that their programs meet the requirements for licensure or certification in your state. Some programs may even be aimed towards specific licensure objectives.

This could be an important component of finding great forensic psychology graduate programs for you. Contact specific programs to learn more.

Forensic Psychology Graduate Programs: Online or On Campus?

Forensic psychology schools seek to make degrees available to a variety of students. For that reason, multiple learning formats may be available.

Earning an online forensic psychology degree may be a perfect solution for busy adult students. Online programs allow you to attend class wherever you are, and often on your own schedule. They may also integrate chatrooms, streaming video and digital libraries and resources to more fully emulate the traditional classroom.

It is important to note that some may still require practicums or internships at a local setting. There may also be short campus visits. Programs vary.

Finally, be sure your chosen online program meets your state's licensure requirements, if this is your goal. Many online forensic psychology programs are designed with their home state in mind, which may vary from yours.

Graduate forensic psychology schools, on the other hand, put you in a classroom, side by side with peers. This could be great for practicing interviewing techniques or developing interpersonal skills. Additionally, a grad school for forensic psychology may have relationships with local organizations. This may make it easier to secure internships and build your professional network.

Whichever you choose, be sure to talk to an advisor at your preferred school. Potential benefits and requirements will vary regardless of format. This may help you determine which might fit your needs, from meeting licensure requirements to fitting your education into your lifestyle.

Review Graduate Programs in Forensic Psychology

It's easy to take the next step in finding a forensic psychology graduate program. Just begin here!

Browse the listings on this page, or use the menu to explore certificate, doctorate or masters programs in forensic psychology. You can also search for on campus or online options, and by state.

To learn more about each program, click the link. There you can also contact the school directly to ask questions and get started today!


Source: [i] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm#tab-3 | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm#tab-4 | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm#tab-4

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