Online Courses in Criminal Psychology: Course Descriptions

Online courses in criminal psychology are commonly included in Master of Arts (M.A.) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs in forensic or criminal psychology. Introductory courses in this field may also be offered online to students pursuing undergraduate degrees in forensic psychology or criminal justice.

Essential Information

Criminal psychology programs apply psychological theories to the law, offenders, and the criminal justice system. The focus of online forensic psychology programs is learning special skills, such as how to assess a criminal for mental competence or testify as an expert witness in a court case.

Distance education graduate programs in criminal or forensic psychology prepare students for careers as clinical psychologists, forensic case managers, jury consultants or court liaisons. Some of these programs can be taken entirely online, while others include on-campus components.

Online Criminal Psychology Courses

The following course descriptions highlight the curriculum of the most common online criminal psychology courses.

  • Psychology and the Legal System Course: Students focus on the relationship between law and psychology, specifically through the lens of mental illness and criminal conduct in the legal forum. Ethics and the law, risk assessment screening and standards of legal competency in regards to insanity are also discussed.
  • Ethics in Forensic Psychology Course: This course explores ethical and legal conflicts and dilemmas that might be encountered in the legal system. Students also examine ways to resolve conflicts, while paying attention to forensic psychology standards.
  • Psychology of Criminal Behavior Course: Through this course, students are introduced to personality theories and learning styles in the context of criminal and violent behavior theories. Discussions focus on historical and modern theories of criminal behavior, including behavioral, cognitive, developmental and biological doctrines.
  • Maladaptive Behavior Course: Criminal psychology students learn about etiologies and definition of disorders using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This course also looks at various methods of treatment for disorders prevalent in the criminal population.
  • Psychopathology: This course offers a comprehensive examination of a wide variety of mental disorders so students can learn to diagnose and treat them. The focus is on research and treatments that have been tested empirically. Psychopathology also investigates gender, culture and their relationship to mental health.

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