A Bachelor’s in Forensic Psychology is the ideal degree for students who have a notable interest in studying criminals and criminal behavior. Aspiring forensic psychologists are typically both creative and investigative in nature. These traits come in use when forensic psychologists perform job duties such as criminal profiling or providing expert witness testimony in court. Forensic psychology is the intersection of psychology, the legal system and criminal justice.
If this line of work sounds interesting to you, the following guide on how to become a forensic psychologist will provide you with all the details you need. It includes information on the career and salary outlook as a forensic psychologist, along with the educational requirements that students need to fulfill in order to become a part of this field.
What is Forensic Psychology?
Forensic psychology is a field that combines the practice of law and psychology into one degree. Those who work in this field make use of their psychological expertise and apply these to the criminal justice system. As per the definition from the American Board of Forensic Psychology, this field is the application of psychology to issues that involve the law and legal system. The interest in this field has grown tremendously over the past few years, with many leading institutes now providing dual degrees in psychology and law, or giving the option of a specialization in forensic psychology.
Should I Get a Bachelor’s in Forensic Psychology?
Earning a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology helps prepare students for different entry-level careers in the field of law enforcement and criminal justice. This degree is typically used as a stepping stone towards becoming a licensed clinical psychologist. Students who want to enter the career field directly after this degree usually end up in positions such as juvenile offender counselors, jury consultants or police and probation officers. However, students who want to become forensic psychologists go for higher education, such as a master’s in forensic psychology after completing their bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology.
Curriculum of a Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Psychology
The coursework involved in a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology would cover a variety of subjects, such as introductory level psychology, criminology, criminal law and science. The exact curriculum structure would vary from school to school, therefore students are advised to check with the school they intend to apply to for complete details of the course outline.
Concentration Options with a Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Psychology
Students enrolled in a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology would have multiple concentration options to choose from, depending on their personal interests, future career goals and the institute they are applying to. Let’s take a look at some of the common specialization options available with a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology:
- Forensic Psychology: This concentration would expose students to the subjects of psychology in the context of the criminal justice system. Students will focus on victim psychology, criminal minds, and the criminal justice system.
- Criminology: Degrees in this concentration cover the study of criminal behavior, with focus on offenses such as domestic abuse, juvenile delinquency and violent crime. Graduates with this specialization typically find work as criminal profilers or prison psychologists.
- Criminal Justice: This concentration combines the study of criminology with the practical skills that prepare graduates to investigate and solve crimes to aid the justice system in the country or in some cases, even the Department of Homeland Security.
- Forensic Science: Students enrolled in this program learn to properly observe, collect and analyze any forensic evidence in a criminal case. They may get further certifications in areas like fingerprinting.
- Crime Scene Investigation: This major helps students learn about the identification, collection and documenting of critical evidence at the crime scene.
How Long Does it Take to Complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Psychology?
The length of a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology depends on a number of factors. The time for completion can vary from school to school and can also depend on the format of the degree. For instance, some online programs may give the option of an accelerated completion time. The timeline may also depend on how quickly students can complete their curriculum and relevant internships. Typically, a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology would take four years to complete. Some online forensic psychology programs may also allow students to take more than average credits in a semester and complete their degrees earlier. Most bachelor’s degrees in forensic psychology take 120 credits to complete and can include practical experience as well.
Licensure and Certification Requirements for Forensic Psychology
In order to become a forensic psychologist, getting a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology is just the first step. After successfully completing this degree, students must then go on to enrol in a master’s degree in psychology, forensic psychology or psychology with a concentration in law. Following this, students must enroll in a doctoral program. A doctoral degree is the minimum required education for practicing forensic psychologists. However, it must be noted that forensic psychology does not require any special licensure beyond what is required for clinical psychologists.
As for certification options, graduates who hold a PhD in Forensic Psychology can go for the Diplomate in Forensic Psychology certificate through the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) and the American Board of Forensic Psychology (ABFP). The requirements for certifications would vary and students are advised to check with the governing body for a complete overview of requirements.
Careers with a Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Psychology
After completing a bachelor’s in forensic psychology, there are several paths students can take. One option is to go for further education and enroll in a master’s program. However, students who want to go directly into the job market would have several options as well. Let’s take a look at a few career options available to students with a bachelor’s in forensic psychology:
- Court Liaison: These professionals work to create a smoother work environment for the successful interaction of courts and law enforcement agencies. They perform tasks such as processing subpoenas, court filings, scheduling depositions etc.
- Crime Analyst: Crime analysts are professionals who use data analytics to study criminal behavior and patterns. Their analysis helps the police figure out critical elements of criminal cases.
- Forensic Case Manager: These professionals help individuals in the penal system, including former inmates in becoming productive members of the society. To do this, Forensic Case Managers help their subjects move towards specific recovery goals through critical mental health services and community resources.
- Psychological Assistant: This position may involve clinical research and experimental work under the supervision of a PhD psychologist. It must be noted that these assistants cannot directly diagnose conditions or treat clients. However, they may provide assistance to a professional psychologist where required. This job can be the ideal for experience for students who want to go for further education in forensic psychology.
- Victims Advocate: These professionals provide victims of various crimes with much-needed support in dealing with legal procedures, such as legal rights. In addition to that, these professionals also help their clients with paperwork and locating resources.
How much can I Earn with a Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Psychology?
Forensic Psychologist salary can vary based on a number of factors. These include the education level, prior experience and seniority level. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Psychologists earned an annual median income of $82,180 per year in 2020. The number of jobs in this field in 2020 was 178,900. The job outlook for psychologists is 8%, between the years 2020 and 2030, which will add an approximate 13,500 new jobs. It must be noted, however, that in order to become a psychologist, students would need at least a doctoral degree.
Students interested in this field may also become forensic science technicians. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Forensic Science Technicians made an annual median income of $60,590 in 2020. The number of jobs in this profession in 2020 was 17,200. The job outlook for the years between 2020 and 2030 was 16%, which is much better than average. This percentage increase would add nearly 2,700 new jobs into the forensic technician field.
How Much Does It Cost to Get a Bachelor’s in Forensic Psychology?
The cost of a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology would vary according to a number of factors, including the college’s reputation, format of the degree, degree specifications etc. Another major factor that affects the college cost includes where the student resides (in-state or out-of-state).
Public and private institutions would also have varied cost structures, as would for-profit and non-profit institutes. According to 2018 statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of attending a four-year long degree-granting college was $28,120 per year. This figure would have increased since 2018, therefore, students are advised to check with the admission boards of the colleges they want to apply to.