Criminal Psychology Majors: Salary and Career Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in criminal psychology and related programs in criminal justice and forensic psychology. Read on to learn more about career options along with certification and salary information. Schools offering Forensic Psychology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is A Criminal Psychology Major?

Criminal psychology focuses on the psychology behind criminal behavior and what prompts people to commit crimes. Majors in this field are not common, though programs are available in the closely related field of forensic psychology. Alternately, students may major in psychology and pursue a minor in criminal justice. Common career options for graduates include becoming a psychologist or a probation officer.

Psychologists focus on counseling and helping patients understand what is prompting them to act in a specific way. They help patients develop strategies to modify their behavior and conduct themselves in a socially acceptable way. Psychologists may also focus on research, conduct studies and analyze data to determine what prompts some people to make criminal behavioral choices. Probation officers work with convicted criminals after they're released from prison. They help them establish good patterns and try to ensure that they will not commit further crimes.

Psychologist Probation Officer
Degree Required Doctoral Bachelor's
Training Required Internship, residency, or supervised clinical experience Government probation-officer training
Key Responsibilities Help patients understand their problems and modify their behavior Choose a method of rehabilitation, supervise electronic and drug monitoring, monitor offenders through regular contact
Licensure/ Certification License required, certification optional Certification sometimes required
Job Growth (2014-2024) 19% (as fast as average)* 4% (little or no change)*
Median Salary (May 2015) $70,580* (for clinical, counseling and school psychologists) $49,360* (for probation officers and correctional treatment specialists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What is Criminal Psychology?

The purpose of criminal psychology is to understand why crimes occur and how to prevent them in the future. Your job will be to look at statistics and patterns, and gain skills in criminal profiling and preventing crimes. Some of the skills necessary to work in this field are analysis, research, problem-solving, critical thinking and listening.

When studying forensic psychology, you may find that the majority of courses focus in psychology and criminal justice. The psychology curriculum covers topics in development, personality, abnormal behavior, criminal psychology, forensic psychology, and crime and violence. You also take criminal justices courses in juvenile delinquency, court systems, research, culture, society, ethics and laws.

What Jobs Are Available to Me with This Degree?

Most jobs that are available with this degree are in law enforcement, corrections, social work, probation and court systems. You may also work with lawyers and officers to provide criminology and consult on crimes.

Becoming a psychologist or counselor is also an option for graduates in this field. As a psychologist, you help rehabilitate ex-convicts and recovering addicts. The main focus of correctional systems is to rehabilitate criminals, so that they will not commit the crime again after leaving the system. If you work in a clinical setting, you are required to be licensed in all 50 states. Check with your state's board of health to discover certifications and requirements for licensure. The American Board of Professional Psychology offers certification that is nationally recognized by employers (www.abpp.org).

What Kind of Money Can I Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015, clinical, counseling and school psychologists made a median yearly salary of $70,580, while probation officers and case managers made a median salary of $49,360 per year (www.bls.gov). As a probation or parole officer, you will use psychology to help get ex-convicts back on their feet.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

The work that mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists do is similar to the work of psychologists. Mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists usually need a master's degree. They help individuals and couples address issues in their behavior or relationships and work with their patients to help them eliminate negative behavior patterns and make good choices.

Substance abuse and behavior disorder counselors, who need a bachelor's degree, also counsel individuals with behavioral challenges. Their work is similar to the work of probation officers because they may work with individuals who have committed crimes due to addiction or behavioral challenges. These counselors help patients address the root of their problem that has contributed to their criminal activity.

Social workers also perform many tasks that relate to the work of psychologists and probation officers. They may help individuals who have been released from prison access resources, or they may counsel individuals with specific behavioral challenges or those whose lives have been affected by crime. They need a bachelor's or master's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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