Forensic Psychology Degrees: Bachelor, Associate & Online Class Info

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What will you learn in a forensic psychology degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Study Forensic Psychology: Degrees at a Glance

Forensic psychologists apply the principles of psychology to the criminal justice and legal fields. They typically aid attorneys, judges and others in the legal field in their understanding of the psychological findings associated with a specific case.

As a student in this field, you will take courses in general psychology, forensic science and criminal justice. Associate degree programs in forensic psychology are extremely uncommon and graduates of these programs will be unable to pursue work as a forensic psychologist without an advanced degree. If you are interested in forensic psychology, you can learn more about this field through associate degree programs in psychology and forensic science. Bachelor's programs in forensic psychology prepare you for graduate study and potential careers in criminal justice.

Although employment growth for psychologists was expected to increase according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), growth is highly dependent on specialties within psychology. With the exception of school, counseling, clinical and industrial-organizational psychologists, employment was expected to increase by 18% for all other specialties.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in criminal justice and psychology and those who wish to continue further study in bachelor's programs Students interested in pursuing graduate studies or entry-level careers in criminal justice
Common Career Paths (with approximate annual salary) - Mental health worker ($21,000-$40,000)**
- Forensic science technician ($25,000-$78,000)**
- Criminalist ($21,000-$68,000)**
- Youth counselor ($20,000-$37,000)**
- Police officer ($56,000)*
- Probation officer ($52,000)*
- Mental health case manager ($25,000-$45,000)**
Crime analyst ($27,000-$66,000)**
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements None Internship
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED High school diploma or GED
Online Availability Yes None found at this time

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 mean figures), **PayScale.com (July 2012 figures, 10th-90th percentile).

Associate in Forensic Psychology

Students interested in this field can pursue associate degrees in forensic science or psychology. Many of these programs offer classes specifically in forensic psychology. The majority of these programs are aimed at students who wish to transfer to a 4-year degree program and potentially pursue graduate studies.

If you are interested in an associate degree in forensic science, you can expect to learn about investigative techniques, criminal investigation, physical sciences, law and data analysis, in addition to general education courses in mathematics, English, humanities and the social sciences.

An associate degree in psychology will also help prepare you for further study in forensic psychology. As a student in this degree program, you will take courses in general psychology, statistical methods, and research methods. You will also be able to choose from a wide range of elective courses from different areas of psychology, including forensic psychology, abnormal psychology, developmental psychology, human sexuality and social psychology.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Most programs allow you to transfer credits to a bachelor's degree program
  • Some associate programs in forensic science and in psychology allow you to learn more about forensic psychology
  • Some programs offer online courses

Cons

  • Associate degree programs in forensic psychology are extremely rare
  • Advanced degree required for pursuing employment in the field
  • Some forensic science programs teach you very little about forensic psychology

Common Courses and Requirements

In addition to meeting general education requirements, associate degree programs in forensic science and forensic psychology span general psychology, investigation methods, law and examining evidence. Coursework in psychology associate programs is broad and covers a wide variety of courses such as research, interpersonal relationships, human behavior and social psychology. Topics in common courses include:

  • Fundamentals of criminal law
  • Criminology
  • Criminal evidence
  • Forensic psychology
  • Abnormal psychology

Online Course Info

Although not very common, it may be possible to find online courses for associate degree programs in forensic psychology, forensic science and psychology. If you are interested in taking classes online, you can check the course listings of the specific school you are considering and see if online classes are a possibility.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Since an advanced degree is typically required to be competitive in the field of forensic psychology, you can pursue bachelor's or graduate programs within the field to make yourself more marketable to employers and significantly improve your job prospects. In this way, your associate degree will provide you with the educational foundation and skills needed to enhance your applications to 4-year programs and, eventually, graduate schools.

Depending on your own interests, you can pursue advanced study in law, forensic psychology, clinical psychology and medicine. To prepare yourself for additional study within these fields, you can consider electives in law, specialties within psychology, criminal justice and medicine. Students in this degree program can also seek out student organizations on campus that will provide you with more resources on potential careers, advanced study and opportunities to enhance your skills.

Bachelor's in Forensic Psychology

As a student in a bachelor's degree program in forensic psychology, you will learn how to apply psychological principles to the field of law. This interdisciplinary degree program allows you to study both psychology and the criminal justice system. In addition to studying psychological theory, human behavior and psychological research methods, you will also learn about counseling, criminal behavior and criminal law.

Many schools that offer this degree program provide you with the opportunity to participate in seminars, internships and research programs as a part of their curriculum. Through these opportunities, you will be able to work closely with faculty members, other students and local police departments.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Prepares you for graduate programs or entry-level positions in the criminal justice field
  • Internships provide you with job skills and real-world experience
  • Small class sizes provide more interaction with other students and faculty members

Cons

  • Few schools offer bachelor's programs in forensic psychology
  • Advanced degree required for a career as a forensic psychologist
  • May not make you competitive for jobs that require a master's or PhD

Courses and Requirements

Your required coursework will span both criminal justice and psychology. Students in this degree program also learn about the effects of human behavior on the community, research methods, program development, crime prevention and crime analysis. Some programs also require an internship as a part of their curriculum, while others offer opportunities for research and seminars. Topics in common courses include:

  • Survey of forensic psychology
  • Abnormal psychology
  • Psychology of criminal behavior
  • Psychology research methods
  • Theories of counseling

Online Course Info

Online learning is typically not offered for most bachelor's degree programs in forensic psychology. If you are considering a career in mental health, criminal justice or plan to attend graduate school, you will benefit from the on-campus opportunities that many of these programs present, including internships and research opportunities. If online learning is an interest, you can contact schools to see which classes are offered online.

Stand Out with This Degree

If you have a specific career in mind or already know that you would like to work in the criminal justice field, you should take advantage of the opportunities for internships, field experience and research that many schools offer. These opportunities will make you more marketable to potential employers and provide you with an opportunity to gain experience in the field or in applied research. Participating in a research lab and internship experience will also enhance your graduate school application if you plan on furthering your education and receiving an advanced degree.

You can also seek out student clubs and organizations that are for students interested in forensic psychology. Doing so may help you get involved within the community, network with faculty and professionals in the field and gain additional knowledge that will help you upon graduation.

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