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Psychology Career Path: Forensic Psychology

Potential Job Titles

  • Forensic psychologist (M.A.,Ph.D., Psy.D.)
  • Clinical psychologist (M.A., Ph.D., Psy.D.)
  • Corrections or parole officer (B.S.)
  • Residential youth counselor (B.S.)
  • Crime analyst (B.S.)

Additional Resources for Students

To become more involved in forensic psychology or learn about the profession, here is what you can do.

What Is Forensic Psychology?

Forensic psychology is the application of psychology to the legal system. Forensic psychologists may deal with legal issues, such as public policies, new laws, and assisting in court decisions by providing expert testimony. Forensic psychologists also conduct research on jury behavior, eyewitness testimony, suspect interrogations, and ethics of law.

Additionally, forensic psychologists often evaluate suspects of crimes for determinations of competency to stand trial, especially those who enter pleas of not guilty by reason of insanity. Forensic psychologists may also work in forensic psychiatric hospitals with the goal of restoring individuals to competence to stand trial.

Clinical psychologists working in forensics may be employed in a variety of settings including prisons, state hospitals, federal and local law enforcement agencies, community mental health centers, juvenile detention facilities, universities, or private practice. Clinical and research psychologists conducting research in forensic psychology often work in universities, for federal law enforcement, or research institutions.

Many students are drawn to forensic psychology because of interest in “criminal profiling.” The reality is that most law enforcement agencies do not use criminal profiling procedures, and those who may use similar procedures are more likely to employ law enforcement personnel rather than a forensic psychologist.

Entry-level positions with a bachelor’s degree in this specialty are rare. However, to begin getting some experience and work before graduate school, one could work as a probation/parole officer, case worker, residential youth counselor, or victim advocate.

In order to have a career in forensic psychology, one will need a graduate degree, either a master’s or doctorate.

The purpose of this pathway is to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of psychology while providing students with a central focus on the application of psychological principles to the legal system.

Undergraduate Course Requirements

If you are interested in pursuing a career in forensic psychology, be sure to work with an advisor to develop an academic plan that is tailored to your interests. Your plan should lead to the completion of coursework that is useful for employment in an entry-level job working in the criminal justice system or admission to a graduate program in psychology.

University and College Requirements

In addition to the suggestions for the forensic psychology pathway, which are listed below, be sure to complete all other university and college requirements, including the foreign language requirement. We recommend beginning the foreign language requirement in your first year. NOTE: You may begin with a class higher than 1110 depending on foreign language placement test results. It is possible to place out of the foreign language requirement. Therefore, it is recommended that you take the placement test for any foreign language you completed in high school.

Psychology Courses

The following courses are highly recommended if you are planning on pursuing a graduate degree in the forensic psychology field:

  • PSY 2720 Psychology of Personality (3)
  • PSY 3110 Advanced Statistics (4)
  • PSY 3210 Sensation and Perception (3)
  • PSY 3310 Human Memory (3)
  • PSY 3330 Human Judgment & Decision Making (3)
  • PSY 3510 Motivation (3)
  • PSY 3520 Social Psychology of Justice (3)
  • PSY 3710 Introduction to Clinical & Counseling (3)
  • PSY 4710 Psychoactive Drugs: Therapeutic Agents & Drugs of Abuse (3)

Students who intend to go to graduate school in forensic psychology are encouraged to complete courses in Biological Sciences.

Additional Recommended Courses

Whether students complete the sociology minor*, they should consider taking classes relevant to the area of criminology and forensics, including any of the following courses:

  • ANTH 4470 Forensic Anthropology (3)
  • ANTH 4480 Blood, Bones, and Violence (3)
  • BIOS 2060 Drugs & the Brain (3)
  • BIOS 3640 Forensic Biology (3)
  • LET 1350 Intro to Corrections (3)
  • LET 1450 Intro to Criminalistics & Forensic Science (3)
  • PHIL 1300 Intro to Ethics (3)
  • SW 1000 Intro to Social Work & Social Welfare (3)
  • SW 3243 Social Welfare Law (3)
  • SW 3263 Chemical Dependency (3)

*Classes listed for the sociology minor are not listed above but are applicable and should still be considered even if one is not completing the minor.

Sociology Minor

Students interested in forensic psychology are encouraged to complete a sociology minor. A total of 18 credit hours are required. See the requirements for a sociology minor.

Forensic Studies Certificate

The certificate program requires a minimum of 18 credit hours. Additionally, students must earn at least a 3.0 GPA across all coursework leading to a Certificate in Forensic Studies.

Fieldwork and Research in Psychology

It is highly recommended that students interested in forensic psychology participate in research in a psychology lab and engage in fieldwork in settings related to the student’s particular area of interest.

  • PSY 3910 (1-4, 4 max) - Credit for volunteer work in a mental health or health-care setting.
  • PSY 3940 (1-4, 12 max) - Credit for participating in research under the supervision of a faculty member.