Is a Forensic Psychology Degree Right for You?
Earning a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology is a good choice if you’re interested in a field that combines criminal investigation, applied psychology, and law. As a professional forensic psychologist, you would interact with clients or criminal offenders to determine the state of their psychological health and then report your findings in court. Students in this program learn about the motives and patterns of criminal behavior, definitions of insanity, eyewitness memory, criminal profiling, and treatment and rehabilitation used in corrections.
After they graduate, students can apply their degree towards earning a master’s or doctoral degree, which is required to practice psychology in most states. If you plan to go all the way with your educational career, then a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology could be for you. However, some related careers require only a master’s or bachelor’s degree.
Advice for Earning Your Forensic Psychology Degree Online
the decision to earn a forensic psychology degree online depends on your career goals. If you plan to pursue a PhD and become a forensic psychologist, it’s important to apply to the best undergraduate psychology programs you can, many of which will only be available on-campus. However, if you’re considering earning a forensic psychology degree you should make sure the school you’re going to enroll at is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education-recognized accrediting agency, such as the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Accreditation is granted by regional and national organizations if an institution or specific program is found to meet a certain standard of quality. Also, some degree programs in this field will be offered as psychology bachelor’s degree with a concentration in forensic psychology.
Online Forensic Psychology degree programs typically include courses in criminal justice, forensics, psychology, sociology, and more. More general psychology coursework may be included in programs that offer forensic psychology as a concentration. Required coursework might include:
- Sociology of Deviant Behavior
- Criminal Psychology
- Forensic Psychology
- Forensic Law
- Introduction to Criminal Justice
Common Career Paths
Some potential careers for those with a bachelor’s degree in Forensic Psychology include:
- Expected Growth: 22%
- Average Annual Salary: $75,505
Forensic psychologists apply their expertise of psychology in the legal and criminal justice system. Similar to other psychologists, they conduct interviews and make observations, find patterns that help understand behavior, and identify and diagnose mental and behavioral disorders. They then help judges, attorneys, and others in the legal system understand their findings. Forensic psychologists often appear in family, civil, or criminal court as expert witnesses.
Regardless of the specialization, psychologists typically need a doctoral degree and state licensure to practice, although the requirements vary by state. A bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology allows students to take the prerequisite classes they’ll need to enroll in a graduate program while also establishing a base of knowledge in the subject. The above salary and employment growth figures were gathered from the BLS, and represent average incomes.
Mental Health Counselors
- Expected Growth: 37%
- Average Annual Salary: $43,905
Forensic mental health counselors often work with corrections organizations, prisons, and other programs that work to rehabilitate incarcerated or paroled criminal offenders. They often work under a forensic psychologist or mental health practitioner. Most counselor positions require that you have a master’s degree in counseling and that you be licensed. In many cases, you will need to pass an exam and complete the necessary experience to the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) credential. Figures above were provided by the BLS.
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
- Expected Growth: 18%
- Average Annual Salary: $55,835
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists work for government agencies and local correctional department. They meet with parolees and offenders on probation on a one-on-basis, evaluate their progress, and file reports on their findings. The goal of the probation officer to ensure each client meets the terms of their probation. Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists need a bachelor’s degree in psychology, criminal justice, or a related field to qualify for the job. Figures above were provided by the BLS.
- Expected Growth: 25%
- Average Annual Salary: $48,550
Social workers are mental health and social services professionals that offer two different kinds of services. Some social workers are trained to connect their clients with the resources they need to solve their problems, while clinical social workers offer rehabilitative and counseling services. A background in forensic psychology can prepare social workers to interact with criminal offenders and to work within the court system. To become a licensed social worker with a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology, you need a Master of Social Work (MSW) as well. Figures above were provided by the BLS.