Forensic psychology is the study of human behavior in conjunction with the criminal justice system. Many people first become interested in this field either through their own academic interest in psychology or through popular culture such as crime shows. Forensic psychologists work in both the private and public sector, performing forensic and clinical duties. They may even offer opinions in legal cases.
A Bachelor’s in Forensic Psychology is the first step in eventually becoming a forensic psychologist. Although a doctorate is necessary for that career, a bachelor’s provides students with the fundamental understanding of psychology as a discipline and the basics in criminology. Students can then use this basic knowledge to get their foot in the door to the criminal justice field.
What kind of Forensic Psychology degree should you get?
While there are certainly Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degrees in Forensic Psychology, students can also major in psychology with an emphasis or minor in Forensic Psychology or Forensics. In these programs, just like any other undergraduate degree, students will be first required to take general education classes and then psychology major courses that deal with the field more generally. On top of that, students will take several electives pertaining to just Forensics.
Another method is to major in criminology or criminal justice with an emphasis in Forensic Psychology. Criminal justice degrees tend to focus more on the country’s legal system, while criminology is the study of behaviors that is related to crime activity. Both paths are great first steps at eventually becoming a forensic psychologist, as there is no one specific degree that employers are looking for.
Online schools are also an option. Check out College Choice’s ranking of the Best Online Forensic Psychology Degrees.
How much money do people make with a degree in Forensic Psychology?
Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide salary data for forensic psychologists, the median salary for psychologists in general is $72,580. According to Payscale, the median forensic psychologist salary is $62,700, but the total range is between $38,678 to $102,350. Career length is the major factor that determines one’s salary. While entry-level positions tend to receive seven percent below the national salary average, mid-career, experienced, and late-career positions receive 11, 27, and 83 percent above the national average, respectively.
According to the BLS, employment for psychologists is predicted to experience a growth of 14 percent until 2026, with an estimated number of 32,500 psychologists being hired. This is in part due to the aging population and the increased demand for psychological services in service organizations and the criminal justice system. Those who continue their education in Forensic Psychology and pursue a master’s or even a doctoral will have more career opportunities.
What can you do with a degree in Forensic Psychology?
Forensic psychologists are experts in human behavior and are often researchers and advocates in the criminal justice system. By studying behavior, these psychologists are then able to research and observe potential patterns that can then predict future behavior. Common places of employment include the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service, prisons, or schools. In order to become a forensic psychologist, one must receive a doctoral degree in psychology, all licensure necessary for the state he/she wishes to practice in, complete a minimum of 100 hours of education, and 1,000 hours of postdoctoral forensic psychology experience.
Because education to become an official forensic psychologist can take years, others may wish to pursue a slightly different but related career. Some potential careers that may only require a bachelor’s or a master’s degree include probation counselor, court liaison, or victim assistance worker. These are also great first jobs for those who wish to take a gap year before pursuing more education. Students who do not wish to pursue a master’s should talk with a career counselor about good entry-level positions upon graduation.
What are the requirements for a degree in Forensic Psychology?
A high school diploma from an accredited school or GED is required in order to apply. A suggested GPA of 3.0 or higher is also recommended. Students will also be required to send in standardized test scores, letters of recommendations, and any other supplemental essays if required. No other previous experience is necessary.
Generally, this degree is around 120 credits and will take four years to complete if taken full-time. Some schools will allow students to be enrolled part-time and/or take summer classes for maximum flexibility. Online programs are also available.
What are the best Bachelor’s in Forensic Psychology?
Below is CollegeChoice’s list of the five best Bachelor’s in Forensic Psychology. Schools were chosen based on institutional excellence and student success. Overall institutional excellence was calculated using a variety of data points such as endowment, student-to-faculty ratio, retention rate, and students’ entering test scores.
Student success was calculated based on early career salary projections, tuition costs, average financial aid given, and average student indebtedness. Data was collected from Payscale, individual college websites, the U.S. News & World Report, and the National Center for Education Statistics’ IPEDS database.
See our rankings methodology page.
CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice
College Choice Score: 100
Average Net Price: $8,530
The City University of New York John Jay College of Criminal Justice offers a liberal arts education for students who wish to work as leaders in public policy. The school had its roots in the mid-1950s, when issues between the community and police began to be more apparent. Before its founding in 1964, a police science program was formed, setting the foundation for what would be John Jay’s strong liberal arts education. Today the college is known nationwide as a reputable criminal justice school, that works with the city to promote ethical change.
John Jay’s BA in Forensic Psychology studies the relationship between psychology and the criminal justice system, using the empirical approach to understand human behavior.
- Sample Courses: Multicultural Psychology, Psychology and the Law, Correctional Psychology
- Eligible students may submit an honors thesis
- Internship program in hospitals, prisons, or other related agencies
This program is one of the most popular undergraduate majors, with 17 percent of its undergraduates enrolled in this degree.
Purdue University Global
College Choice Score: 97.95
Average Net Price: $18,462
Purdue University Global is an online university that is part of the Purdue University system, offering 180 degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate level. Although its flagship campus is located in West Lafayette, students can access their coursework at anytime anywhere. Professors and counselors work with students one-on-one to create a schedule and career path that best fits each person’s individual needs. Purdue Global’s online system also comes with live technical support so students can feel comfortable 24/7.
Purdue Global’s BS in Criminal Justice degree with a concentration in Forensic Psychology is ideal for those who wish to enter into law enforcement or private security.
- Purdue Global Tuition Cap to ensure that students only pay a fixed amount
- Accelerated master’s degree option available
- Three start dates
Some possible career placements upon graduation include but are not limited to prisons, homeland security, cybercrime, or parole and probation. Students should talk with a career counselor about all the options available.
Florida Institute of Technology
College Choice Score: 96.72
Average Net Price: $31,582
The Florida Institute of Technology began as the Brevard Engineering College in 1958, the same year that NASA was founded. Its founder, Jerome P. Keuper, Ph.D., was a physicist who wanted to create a scientific and technological university. Today Florida Tech has five colleges, with its Bachelor’s in Forensic Psychology located in College of Psychology & Liberal Arts. According to the U.S. News & World Report, Florida Tech is a tier 1 best national university. It was also named one of the best by the Wall Street Journal.
Florida Tech’s BA in Forensic Psychology program puts in practice psychological theory in the criminal justice system. Students will learn about human behavior and how it relates to policy enforcement.
- Eligibility to receive a Child Advocacy Certificate
- Opportunities to support research projects with the FBI
- Low student-to-faculty ratio
All students must complete an internship in their senior year. Some previous internships were at the local jail, state attorney’s office, or NCIS.
University of New Haven
College Choice Score: 96.67
Average Net Price: $31,263
The University of New Haven was founded in 1920 with the mission of providing a student-centered, liberal arts education. All students are encouraged to take initiative through various on-campus and community events, with the hope that they will be prepared to be the next global leaders. Currently there are about 7,000 students that are enrolled in New Haven. The university has also received a number of awards and accolades, with a prominent one being among The Princeton Reviews’ 2018 list of the best 382 colleges.
New Haven’s BA in Psychology with a concentration in Forensic Psychology degree prepares students to understand human behavior in conjunction with the nation’s legal systems.
- Sample Courses: Abnormal Psychology, Child Development, Criminology
- Part-time and full-time options
- Courses taken in both the psychology and criminal justice & forensic sciences colleges
According to research by Encoura, students who graduate with this major have opportunities to enter into positions with high level growth. For instance, a border patrol agent’s median salary is $59,000 and will experience a seven percent growth until 2027.
California Baptist University
College Choice Score: 86.65
Average Net Price: $25,875
California Baptist University is a private Christian university that is located in Southern California. It was established in 1950 by the California Southern Baptist Convention. The 160-acre campus offers beautiful Spanish architecture that is located in the city of Riverside. All programs seek to prepare students for their future careers while maintaining a strong spiritual life.
CBU’s BA in Psychology with a concentration in Forensic Psychology program integrates a Christian lens with secular psychological research and theory.
- 47 major units plus 12-15 concentration units
- Sample Courses: Epistemology & Worldview, Theories of Personality, Psychophysiology
- Internship and research programs available
With its liberal arts centered education, CBU aims to grow students in their faith journey while they study an area they are passionate about. Some common careers upon completion of this program include counseling, research, business, or education.