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Forensic psychology is a career that is both demanding and rewarding. Someone who is methodical, loves research and really strives to understand how people work; the motives and drives that cause them to take certain actions, would make a great forensic psychologist. Forensic psychology is part psychology and part criminology.

There are a variety of possible responsibilities for a forensic psychologist. You may be working to reconstruct a crime from the criminal’s point of view – doing your best to identify motives and reasons for the actions taken. You also may be using evidence from the crime and interviews with the subject to determine if there are any psychological diagnoses that contributed to the crime committed. You may serve as an expert witness in a trial, testifying as to the state of mind of the suspect when the crime was committed. There are also times where you may be responsible for determining if a suspect is mentally competent to stand trial.

Choosing an undergraduate school

Your first step toward a career in this field is a bachelor degree. There are some forensic psychology degrees available, but not many. Often, you’ll get your undergrad qualifications pursuing a degree in criminal psychology.

While getting your bachelor degree, you’ll take some prerequisite courses that are required for any bachelor degree, such as general English, Science and Math courses. Once these prerequisite courses are completed, you’ll likely be taking some more in-depth science courses such as chemistry, bio-chemistry, and biology. In addition, psychology courses you take may include criminal psychology, abnormal psychology, research methods for criminal psychology, as well as general psychology courses. Likely you will also need to take some law courses so that you understand the laws that affect criminals and generally how the justice system works.

Choosing a graduate school

Getting your undergraduate degree is just the first step in your education, you’ll need to get a graduate level degree and then pursue a PHD in order to become a forensic psychologist. Master’s degrees specifically in forensic psychology are not very common. Likely what you will get is a master’s degree in clinical psychology, with a specialization that matches closely to criminal psychology or forensic psychology.

Doctoral level programs

It is at the doctoral level that you are able to work fully as a forensic psychologist. You’ll be qualified to give expert testimony, asses and treat people with disorders that contribute to aggressive or criminal behavior, and be a consultant to law enforcement. As you go through your educational career and make choices on classes, it’s important to keep in mind that there are a couple of paths you can take when faced with your doctorate degree.

You can choose a Doctoral of Psychology degree or a PHD. The Doctoral of Psychology has more training and practice (internships) and a PHD has more research. Your choice will depend on whether you plan on working in more of an academic or clinical environment.

The path to become a forensic psychologist requires a lot of education, however once that education is finished, there are several very good career options ahead for you.

Find a Forensic Psychology Program

Chestnut Hill College
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Gwynedd-Mercy College
Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania

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