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Online Criminal Psychology Degree Program Options

Dec 02, 2019

Learn about online degree programs with criminal psychology courses. Get an overview of the program types, requirements and course descriptions available for this field.

Essential Information

Individuals interested in studying criminal psychology online can consider a graduate degree program in forensic psychology. This type of program is not widely available online, though at least one bachelor's-level program is offered and several master's degree programs are available. Most or all of the coursework can be completed online, but some schools require a short on-campus residency. Other in-person requirements may include field experience or internships.

Some master's-level programs have specialization options, like community forensic psychology, mental health, corrections or legal systems. Prerequisites include a bachelor's degree and may require a specific GPA. At the bachelor's level, forensic psychology is the major that includes courses in criminal psychology.

Forensic Psychology Master's Degree

The overall focus of this program is on merging psychological theories and applications with U.S. law and the legal system. A bachelor's degree is a prerequisite for entrance to this program; some schools may also require a minimum undergraduate GPA. The curriculum is a mix of behavioral and social science classes. Because this is a non-licensure master's degree program, graduates may pursue employment in a number of related fields, but are not eligible to sit for any type of licensed counselor certification exams. Successful graduates have a wide range of fields to choose from, including criminal law enforcement, mental health and social services.

Information and Requirements

Depending on the educational background of the student, this master's degree program can be completed in as little as 1.5-2 years of full-time study. Courses may be offered fully online or as part of a hybrid program, which incorporates a mix of both online and traditional classroom learning. Many schools that offer a hybrid option may require a short, in-person field experience internship in addition to classes. A computer with Internet connection is the most basic technical requirement for the program. Students can communicate with both the instructor and fellow classmates through the school's online learning website, which typically provides e-mail, chat rooms and message boards in addition to the content of the class curriculum.

Descriptions of Common Courses

The program's curriculum expands into several relevant areas, including criminal justice, substance abuse, sociology and crisis management. Various types of psychological fields are also included.

Criminal Behavior

This course explores the various theories behind the origins of criminal behavior. Topics in criminal profiling and in-depth studies of specific types of criminals, such as sexual predators and psychopaths, are discussed.

Psychopathology

An overview of major mental disorders is the primary focus of this class. Signs and symptoms, as well as the management and treatment of individuals who have these disorders, are addressed.

Social Psychology

This course focuses on the psychology behind social behavior and social cognition. The curriculum provides insight into the motivations behind various feelings, perceptions and social interactions. Explanations for certain types of motivations and behaviors are also taught.

Trauma and Crisis Intervention

The curriculum of this course focuses on various types of trauma, as well as the crisis intervention techniques and treatments used to address trauma-related problems. Specific types of trauma, such as child abuse, surviving a natural catastrophe and combat experience are among the many topics discussed.

Juvenile Delinquency

Primarily meant as an introduction to the juvenile justice system, this course also provides a psychological insight to what constitutes normal juvenile development. Changes being made to the juvenile justice system based on emerging research are also discussed.


Career Information

Prospective students should be aware that forensic psychology programs don't prepare them to become licensed counselors or psychologists. Graduates may be qualified to enter jobs as forensic treatment specialists, correctional officers and case managers.

Depending on the field chosen, career statistics can vary widely. Per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, graduates who seek employment as a correctional treatment specialist can expect to earn $58,790 yearly on average. Mental health and substance abuse social workers earn an average of $49,630 per year. Graduate degree holders can expect greater chances of earning higher wages and being promoted (www.bls.gov).

Criminal psychology can be studied online at the bachelor's or master's levels, though students should be aware that these programs do not set them up to become licensed counselors or psychologists. Programs typically require some in-person components, and students will take online courses such as psychopathy, criminal behavior, and trauma and crisis intervention.

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