Forensic psychologists work with legal professionals like judges and attorneys to conduct forensic research, interview criminals and act as witnesses in legal cases. A 2-year master's degree is required to become a practicing forensic psychologist. Some programs offer specialized areas of focus, such as juvenile forensic psychology, public policy or criminal justice. Most programs require that students complete thesis papers or externships with local legal systems.
A forensic psychology master's degree program requires students to have a bachelor's degree from an accredited university. Although the bachelor's degree does not need to be in psychology, there may be psychology courses that need to be passed prior to enrollment in the master's degree program. Students are required to submit official transcripts and GRE test scores for evaluation.
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Masters Degree Programs in Forensic Psychology
Most courses in a forensic psychology master's degree program are conducted in traditional classrooms. Students study legal cases, past psychological research and basic criminal justice concepts. Courses provide students with understanding of the judicial system and of the psychological theories that apply to criminology and various legal proceedings. Students learn to find, analyze and present forensic findings for courts, judges, attorneys and counseling or rehabilitative agencies. Common courses include:
- Forensic sciences
- Conducting forensic research
- Abnormal behavior psychology
- Police and correctional psychology
- Criminal behavior
With a master's degree in forensic psychology, students can become forensic psychologists with legal systems, judicial courts, correctional and government agencies and family counseling organizations. Some forensic psychologists work as criminal court psychologists who work with witnesses, defendants and prosecution teams to analyze and present forensic findings. Most forensic psychology positions are research-intensive and require psychologists to study past legal cases, criminal law and court rulings. Many psychologists also pursue part-time teaching positions with high schools, colleges and universities, reported the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov).
Continuing Education Information
After obtaining a master's degree in forensic psychology, psychologists can apply for American Board of Forensic Psychology (ABFP) certification. With Forensic Board Certification, forensic psychologists can earn greater salaries and apply for advanced psychology positions with various legal systems. A Ph.D. in psychology or criminal law can also lead to research-based and advanced postsecondary teaching positions.
A master's program in forensic psychology can help students gain the psychology and criminal justice background they need to work in the legal system or with counseling organizations as a forensic psychologist. These programs can also qualify graduates to earn voluntary professional certification.