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Forensic Psychology at a Glance

Better understand criminal behavior with an online MS in Forensic Psychology program.

There is no shortage of television programs where crime scene investigators use forensic psychology to catch the bad guys. We’re fascinated by those experts behind the scenes who utilize the latest forensic science and criminal profiling techniques to help law enforcement identify suspects.

But forensic psychology is not some fictional superpower dreamed up in Hollywood—it’s a specialized branch of psychology for those interested in studying human behavior and the criminal mind.

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What Is a Forensic Psychologist?

Forensic psychologists understand of the processes of the human mind, and possess knowledge of legal theory and procedures. A forensic psychologist can serve as a consultant to law enforcement in matters of criminal behavior and psychological practices and ethics.

The American Psychological Association defines forensic psychology as “a specialty in professional psychology characterized by activities primarily intended to provide professional psychological expertise within the judicial and legal systems.”1

Due to its specialized and consequential nature, a career in the field often requires an MS in Forensic Psychology or higher. However, many positions are available in the field for those with a related bachelor’s degree, such as a BS in Psychology with a concentration in Forensic Psychology.

What Can Graduates Do With an MS in Forensic Psychology?

An online MS in Forensic Psychology program can prepare graduates to pursue nonclinical roles in areas such as investigative analysis, terrorism safety assessment, and victim advocacy. These forensic psychologists possess the skills to evaluate the psychological and social factors that precipitate criminal behavior, and help establish psychological approaches and strategies to improve the effectiveness and ethical standards of criminal justice systems. They can also communicate psychological principles, standards, care, and ethics to local law enforcement, promoting understanding of psychological issues and effecting meaningful social change.

What Can Graduates Do With a PhD in Forensic Psychology?

Forensic psychologists often provide assessments in “mens rea” (insanity) cases. The legal term “mens rea” translates from Latin as “guilty mind.” In the U.S., a defendant who did not know they were doing wrong at the time a crime was committed is not held responsible for the crime. A forensic psychologist may provide a professional opinion on a defendant’s mental state at the time of a crime. We know the term generally from television as “not guilty by reason of insanity.”2

This forensic assessment is extremely weighty for a forensic psychologist, as they bear the burden for both the welfare of the suspect and the safety of the community. It’s not a decision to be taken lightly, and it’s a responsibility only for extensively trained professionals with a PhD in Forensic Psychology.

Other serious determinations can include evaluations of competency, abnormal behavior, mental capacity, and post-traumatic stress disorder.2

Where Might a Forensic Psychologist Work?

Careers often associated with an MS in Forensic Psychology include government positions, working alongside law enforcement or within the court system. Jobs in the private sector can include working for attorneys or insurance companies.1

Individuals holding a PhD in Forensic Psychology have other options. Many work as independent contractors and provide their services for hire to attorneys, courts, insurers, and employers, in both civil and criminal cases.1

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for psychologists is expected to increase 8% between 2020 and 2030.3

Where Do I Start?

Walden University offers an online MS in Forensic Psychology program, as well as an online PhD in Forensic Psychology program.

The MS in Forensic Psychology curriculum explores the biological, psychological, and social factors surrounding criminal behavior, while evaluating the effectiveness of various approaches to dealing with offenders.

The PhD in Forensic Psychology program delves deeper into issues related to psychology and the courts, with further focus on forensic populations that include the incarcerated, released offenders, those with mental illness, and juvenile offenders. Coursework is also dedicated to producing forensic psychology reports.

Walden offers a range of other online psychology degree programs as well. And with Walden as your online learning partner, you can complete coursework on a schedule that works for you. Continue to work full time and manage your personal responsibilities as you prepare for your future.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering MS in Forensic Psychology and PhD in Forensic Psychology degree programs online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


1Source: www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/forensic
2Source: www.apa.org/ed/precollege/psn/2013/09/forensic-psychology
3Source: www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm#tab-6

Note on Licensure
The MS in Forensic Psychology is not a licensure program and does not prepare an individual to become a licensed psychology or counseling professional.

Note on Licensure
The PhD in Forensic Psychology is not a licensure program and does not prepare an individual to become a licensed psychology professional.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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