Criminal Psychology Schools and Colleges in the U.S.

Criminal psychologists, often referred to as forensic psychologists, analyze the various psychological factors involved in legal court cases. These psychologists may specialize in assessing the mental competency of court witnesses or defendants, evaluating child custody cases or counseling victims of crime. Licensed criminal psychologists must have a doctoral degree, such as a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) in Clinical Forensic Psychology.

How to Select A Criminal Psychology School

Postgraduate criminal psychology students can choose programs that lead to either a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. degree and a number of universities and colleges offer these forensic psychology programs. Students will want to consider which type of degree they should earn and if that chosen school's program is accredited. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, APA-accredited programs include those that provide doctoral students with internship opportunities within their chosen field of study (www.bls.gov). When choosing a school, the following considerations are worth noting:

  • A bachelor's or master's degree alone is of little value to a prospective criminal psychologist, since professional state licensure guidelines typically require individuals to hold a doctoral degree in the criminal/forensic psychology field.
  • Ph.D. programs in criminal psychology focus on training graduates for careers conducting research or teaching at universities while Psy.D. programs are designed for students who wish to gain employment as practicing criminal psychologists.
  • To qualify for state licensure upon graduation, prospective criminal psychologists should ensure that their school of choice offers a doctoral program that is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA).
  • Criminal psychology students need to complete an internship before obtaining licensure and should select schools that offer these opportunities as part of a program curriculum.

Criminal Psychology Program Overviews

Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Psychology

Students can gain introductory knowledge of the criminal psychology field by earning a bachelor's degree in forensic psychology or criminal justice. Subjects covered at the undergraduate level include personality assessment, evaluation of offenders and psychopathology. Students may take courses on topics such as:

  • Abnormal psychology
  • Social psychology
  • Intervention strategies

Master's Degree in Criminal Psychology

A master's degree in criminal psychology can be applied to further schooling at the doctoral level or to careers in administration or research with mental health agencies. At the graduate level, criminal psychology students may be required to complete coursework, research projects and community internships. Course subjects may include:

  • Forensic mediation and dispute resolution
  • Victimology
  • Mental health law

Doctoral Degree in Criminal Psychology

A Psy.D. in Clinical Forensic Psychology program prepares students to obtain licensure as forensic psychologists so that they can provide their expertise in family, criminal and civil court cases. Psy.D. programs combine hands-on career training with coursework in areas such as:

  • Family systems
  • Biological bases of behavior
  • Criminal behavior

A Ph.D. in Clinical Forensic Psychology program, which involves both coursework and fieldwork, may focus on topics such as:

  • Research and evaluation
  • Advocacy
  • Ethical legal standards

Top 10 Criminal Psychology Schools

College/University Institution Type
University of Maryland-College Park 4-year, Public
University of Albany-SUNY 4-year, Public
University of Cincinnati 4-year, Public
University of Missouri-St. Louis 4-year, Public
Pennsylvania State University-University Park 4-year, Public
University of California-Irvine 4-year, Public
Florida State University 4-year, Public
Michigan State University 4-year, Public
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey-Newark 4-year, Public
CUNY-John Jay College of Criminal Justice 4-year, Public

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