A master’s in forensic psychology can lead to a number of careers in the field of psychology and criminalistics. Students enrolled in a forensic psychology degree are exposed to a vast variety of subjects such as crime, psychology and the law, forensic evaluations, adult psychopathology, violence and risk assessment and sex offender behavior. The goals of a forensic psychology degree include ensuring that graduates are prepared to take up roles in criminalistics, law and order and forensic psychology.
If you want to learn more about this program, the following comprehensive guide will give you all the information you need, including a detailed look at the salary and career outlook.
What is a Master’s Degree in Forensic Science?
A master’s degree in forensic psychology is a 2-year long comprehensive degree that includes advanced psychology studies and quantitative research methods. Students enrolled in these programs acquire an understanding of criminal law, legal and psychological ethics, mental health and human behavior.
This master’s degree consists of 36 credit hours typically and students also have the option of selecting a concentration that can help them refine their career path. Common specialization options include clinical psychology, intelligence studies, mental health law and legal studies. Professionals in certain specializations also seek licensure or certifications to further their understanding of the subject.
The curriculum of a Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology
The coursework of a Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology degree includes a number of varied and detailed subjects. Let’s take a look at some of the common courses that you can find in a Master’s degree in forensic psychology:
Crime, Psychology and the Law
This course would cover the basic aspects of forensic psychology and its related subfields. Topics covered in this course would include correctional psychology, criminal profiling and criminal court proceedings. Students also get a chance to learn about the ethical and legal concerns that are involved in working with criminal suspects and offenders.
This subject enables students to carry out forensic assessments in legal frameworks. Those enrolled in this course would learn various processes such as diagnosis, judging the merits of an insanity plea, assessing the ability to stand trial and making recommendations about sentencing.
Psychopathology involves the study of behavioral and mental disorders. In this course, students will get to learn about diagnosing mental illnesses and creating relevant treatment plans. Students are taught a variety of practical elements such as conducting forensic evaluations and determining if a person is fit to stand trial or not.
How to Choose a Masters in Forensic Psychology Program
When looking for a master’s program in forensic psychology, there are several factors that students must consider. These include the accreditation, faculty qualifications, campus facilities, fieldwork options and thesis options. The forensic psychology work experience offered through career placements by the university is another important factor to consider. Students should also take into account factors such as the cost of tuition, accommodation and travel expenses when making a final decision.
Masters in Forensic Psychology Admissions
In order to get admission into a master’s in forensic psychology program, students will be required to fulfill certain prerequisites. The admission requirements tend to vary from university to university, however, there are certain requirements that are common to nearly all programs.
Students who intend to enroll in a master of forensic psychology program must have completed at least a 4-year long bachelor’s degree. Students may have a major in any field, though there are some colleges that would only accept those with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
Students should have completed certain coursework before applying for a master’s in forensic psychology, such as courses in psychology, research methods and statistics. The minimum GPA requirement to maintain at the undergraduate level is around 3.0 for more institutes.
In addition to meeting prerequisite requirements, students will also have to submit their GRE and GMAT scores, along with admission forms and fees.
How Long Does it Take to Complete a Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology?
A typical master’s degree in forensic psychology would take 1.5 to 2 years to complete with full time study, which is approximately 36 credit hours. Students enrolled in this degree would study advanced level courses and would also have to complete a capstone project.
Organizations for Masters in Forensic Psychology Students
The following list of organizations might be helpful for students of forensic psychology in terms of educational and career advancement.
American Psychological Association
The APA promotes the spread and enhancement of psychological knowledge, in a bid to improve lives. Currently, the association has more than 118,000 members that include psychologists, educators in the field, clinicians, students and consultants.
American Psychology-Law Society
AP-LS is a part of APA that focuses on the research and application of psychology in the legal framework. This association can be ideal for forensic psychology students looking for research funding and award opportunities, among other benefits.
American Board of Professional Psychology
The ABPP is an integral resource for students who intend to go for a doctorate or get a clinical license in forensic psychology. The resource center provides students with a wealth of material including comprehensive guides on certification requirements, exam processes and application procedures.
Society for Police and Criminal Psychology
This is a professional organization that aims to advance the scientific study of criminal psychology and police behaviors. Its studies revolve around the application of scientific knowledge to criminal justice issues.
Careers with a Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology
After completing a master’s degree in forensic psychology, there are several paths that students can take. Graduates can take up positions in the government, police stations, schools and law enforcement. Let’s take a look at some of the most common career options with this degree:
These professionals assist attorneys with jury selection. They also evaluate testimonies by witnesses and give advice to lawyers on preparing witnesses.
Police Officer or Detectives:
These professionals are responsible for enforcing law and order and responding to emergency calls. In addition to that, they also provide testimonies in court and help with crime scene analysis.
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists:
These professionals are responsible for providing rehabilitation services to law offenders and people in correctional facilities.
Licensed Forensic Psychologist:
These professionals typically provide mental healthcare facilities to people involved in criminal cases. They also offer assistance to victims of various kinds of crime or child abuse.
How Much Can I Earn with a Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology?
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median income for jobs in substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors was $47,660 in 2020. Jobs in this category are expected to grow by 23% in the years from 2020 to 2030, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. This high growth is expected to add nearly 75,100 more jobs to this field in the decade.
Employment growth is expected for these professionals as people seek services related to addiction and mental health counseling. Mental disorders and substance abuse experienced an increase in recent years due to the emotional toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to this, there will be a continued need for counselors to work with military veterans to cater to their mental health problems and substance abuse issues.
The top industry in terms of employment for this occupational category was outpatient care centers which had 63,110 employees in 2020. The top paying industry was business, professional, labor, political and similar organizations that paid an annual mean wage of $70,940.
The state with the highest level of employment in this occupational category was California, with an employment figure of 34,430, while the state with the highest pay in this category was Nevada, with an annual mean wage of $68,560. This was followed by Utah, which paid an annual mean wage of $62,250 and Alaska, which paid an annual mean wage of $61,980 in 2020.
Please note that all of the above statistical data has been taken from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for the occupational category of Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors for 2020.
How Much Does a Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology Cost?
The cost of a master’s degree in forensic psychology would depend on a lot of factors. Students will have to consider whether it is a private college or a public one, is there any accommodation involved in the charges, are there options in terms of scholarships etc. According to Study Portal, more than 15,000 master’s degrees had tuition fees over 20,000 USD per year, while more than 5000 master’s programs had tuition fees between 10000 to 20000 USD/year.
Students must keep in mind that the cost structure varies a lot from university to university. Therefore, it would be a good idea to visit the admissions office or the online portal for admissions information before finalizing programs.