Virginia Forensic Psychology Graduate Programs
Forensic Psychology Graduate Programs explore the intersection of psychology and law. They 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 equip them with the skills and knowledge to conduct evaluations for courts, testify as expert witnesses, provide therapy, conduct research and more.
Graduate forensic psychology degrees could be applied in 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, earning your forensic psychology degree may be a great place to start. Start here to learn about forensic psychology or jump below to browse forensic psychology schools and the varied programs offered.
Attending Grad School for Forensic Psychology
Forensic psychology graduate schools typically offer a mix of core and elective classes in both psychology and research practices. Additionally, many programs may allow you to select 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 graduate forensic psychology programs may prepare you for research heavy roles, while others are better suited for those interested in clinical
responsibilities. As each program likely has its own goals and objectives, it's best to contact schools directly to learn more.
You might also read course lists to determine which graduate programs in forensic psychology may fit your needs.
Common Core Classes and Electives in Forensic Psychology Graduate Programs
While all forensic psychology schools set their own curriculum, there are a few common top topics you might expect to find.
List of Forensic Psychology Common Courses
Certificate (1-year full-time)
Master’s (2 years full-time)
Doctorate (3-5 years full-time)
Theories of Criminal Behavior
Advanced Abnormal Psychology
Psychological Aspects of Violent Crime
Psychology and the Legal System
Psychology of Criminal Behavior
Legal Issues and Social Change in Forensic Psychology
Psychopathology of Crime
Personality and Behavioral Assessment
Offender Rehabilitation and Reintegration
Aggression, Violence Risk, and Threat Assessment
Advanced Issues in Forensic Psychology
Mental Health Professionals, Social Science, and the Law
Criminal Behavior and the Prison Systems
Criminal Investigative Analysis and Profiling
Potential Electives You Could Take in Graduate Programs in Forensic Psychology
In addition to core courses, you might further customize your forensic psychology graduate program through electives.
- Human memory
- Developmental psychology
- Social psychology
- Multicultural and cross-cultural psychology
- Social services
These are just a sample of core and elective courses. Research individual programs to learn exactly what you might study while earning your forensic psychology degree.
Forensic Psychology Research and Analysis
In forensic psychology master’s and doctoral 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 and could prepare students for their chosen careers in forensic sciences. 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.
Your forensic psychology graduate program may help find and secure a position for you or have partner organizations. Others may leave students to find their own. Every forensic psychology school is different, so contact a few to see what opportunities are available.
How to Become a Forensic Psychologist
- Earn your bachelor's degree from accredited college or university. Typically, most students major in psychology but an alternative is to major in law and minor in psychology.
- Earn your master's degree: the typical path for graduate school is to pursue your master's degree in forensic psychology
- Many students will also earn their Juris Doctor degree although this is not mandatory. Some schools offer coordinated dual degree programs leading to a Juris Doctor (JD) and either a PhD or MA degree commonly called a JD/MA or JD/PhD degree.
- Earn a doctorate psychology degree. There are two main types - the PhD in psychology which is usually research oriented, and the PsyD which is typically geared for those who focus on treatment of patients.
- Obtain state licensing - each state oversees its own licensing requirements but most likely one will be needed.
- Become board certified - apply for professional certification with the American Board of Forensic Psychology (ABFP). This may not be a requirement but will certainly differentiate yourself.
Types of Graduate 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.
Popular Forensic Psychology Graduate Programs
Forensic & Legal Psychology
Criminal Justice - Forensic Psychology
Doctor of Psychology
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.
A master in forensic psychology degree:
- Might be earned through one to two years of full time study
- May require students 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.
While a doctorate is often required to pursue roles as a psychologist, a forensic psychology masters degree may be sufficient to work as a psychological assistantii or mental health counseloriii in clinical, counseling, or research settings..
Plus many programs are designed to be a stepping stone towards a doctorate. If this interests you, try to find forensic psychology master programs that include research opportunities, as this could be an important part of your application.
PhD in Forensic Psychology Programs
Forensic pscyhology doctorate degree programs typically offer a Doctorate of Psychology (PsyD) or Doctorate of Philosophy degree. Forensic psychology PhD programs are research focused programs, while the Psy.D. is a clinical degree. Either might focus primarily on forensic psychology or offer a forensics track.
Both PsyD and PhD forensic psychology 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.
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.
Graduate Certificates in Forensic Psychology
Graduate certificate in forensic psychology programs are shorter and less intensive. They typically introduce core concepts in forensic psychology or enable students to further specialize their knowledge and explore a specific area in depth. Some certificates may also be offered as an add-on to a Masters in Pscyhology program and function like a minor at the undergraduate level.
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.
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
Specific licensure requirements vary by state. However, most clinical and counseling psychologists need a doctorate in psychology and to complete an internship. They may also need at least 1 to 2 years of supervised professional experience and to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.
Additional certification may require a doctoral degree in psychology, state licensure, and specific criteria for the field.
As you are looking at graduate programs in forensic psychology, you may want to ensure that the schools offering the programs are accredited and that programs meet the requirements for licensure or certification in your state. Some programs may even be aimed towards specific licensure objectives. Contact an advisor to learn more.
Forensic psychology has its roots in research on witness testimony. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, psychologists began to study issues such as whether emotion affected eyewitness testimony and whether adults provided different testimony than children when both witnessed the same event.1
Forensic Psychology Graduate Programs : Online or On Campus?
Grad schools for forensic psychology 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.
Also, be sure your chosen 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 forensic psychology school 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 forensic psychology schools and graduate programs might fit your needs, from meeting licensure requirements to fitting your education into your lifestyle.
Review Graduate Programs in Forensic Psychologyin Virginia
Browse the listings on this page to find a forensic psychology graduate program, or use the menu to explore certificate, doctorate or masters in forensic psychology programs You can also search for on campus or online options, and by state.View programs to contact the school directly.
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
- Some of the nation's most affordable tuition rates, from a private, nonprofit, NEASC accredited university
- Qualified students with 2.5 GPA and up may receive up to $20K in grants & scholarships
- Multiple term start dates throughout the year. 24/7 online classroom access
Liberty University Online
Liberty University’s Master of Science in Criminal Justice – Forensic Psychology, 100% online program, trains current and prospective criminal justice professionals in the application of psychological principles...
- Arlington, VAArlington, VA
The program provides graduates with the skills and knowledge they need in a variety of forensic settings.