Graduate Schools with Criminal Psychology Programs

Criminal psychology graduate studies explore human behavior and the motivation behind criminal activity. Learn about degree program requirements, online study options and practical training. Explore the coursework in master's and doctoral programs in criminal psychology. Schools offering Forensic Psychology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

The study of criminal psychology is typically undertaken within the larger field of forensic psychology. Learn about the schools that offer programs in this area at the graduate level and what these programs will entail.

How Do I Become a Criminal Psychologist?

Although you may be able to earn an undergraduate degree in psychology that has an emphasis on criminal or forensic psychology, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), states that you'll be required to earn a master's degree or doctorate in order to practice as a psychologist of any type (www.bls.gov).

Criminal psychology is a specialization of the broader area of forensic psychology. The American Heritage Medical Dictionary makes the following distinction between the two. Forensic psychology deals with applying psychology to legal matters in a court of law. Criminal psychology is focused specifically on criminal behavior.

Graduate courses dealing with criminal psychology are often found in programs leading to a master's degree in forensic psychology or a master's degree in counseling, with a concentration in forensic psychology. Depending on the school, master's programs are available on campus, entirely online or in a hybrid program. Hybrid programs are delivered partially online and partially on campus.

You can obtain postgraduate training in criminal psychology through programs leading to a Doctor of Philosophy in Forensic Psychology (Ph.D.) or a Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in Forensic Psychology (Psy.D.). The Society for Police and Criminal Psychology offers a database of a large number of schools that provide programs and courses dealing with criminal psychology at all postsecondary educational levels.

What Do Master's Degree Programs Entail?

A traditional master's degree program in forensic psychology can take two years full-time or four years part-time to complete. Schools may give you the option of completing a thesis, participating in an externship or both. Your externship or internship, depending on school policy, can be completed by assisting mental health professionals in an approved facility such as a hospital, prison or rehab setting. It may consist of 300 hours of clinical practice in addition to seminars. Your preparation and presentation of a thesis is to be completed in cooperation with and under the supervision of a faculty member. Typical courses relating to criminal psychology in the program include violence and aggression, criminal psychological assessment, hypnosis, psychopathology, human development and terrorism.

A hybrid program leading to a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology is usually intended for working professionals and is meant to be pursued on a part-time basis. You may be able to complete the program in less than four years. Often, the on campus requirements consist of a residency of a specified length, several times a year. During these times, you'll participate in face-to-face meetings and consultations with students and faculty members. You may also be required to complete up to 700 hours in a supervised clinical practicum at a school-approved facility. Online criminal psychology-related courses may include research methods, the study of addictive behavior and the relationship between health and dysfunctional behavior.

Some schools offer an online program leading to a Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology, which can be completed in a little over two years. Although the courses are delivered entirely online, you may be required to pay a 2-week visit to the campus. During this time, you'll participate in a forensics-related group project with other students. You may also be required to complete a short, supervised clinical practicum at an approved facility. Courses in the program can include such topics as psychology and the law, child psychopathology, profiling and criminal behavior, behavioral pathology, a faculty-approved independent study project and psychopharmacology.

Which Schools Offer Master's Programs?

A wide range of colleges feature degrees at the master's level focused on forensic psychology. Here a few such schools:

  • George Washington University provides a Master of Arts degree in Forensic Psychology.
  • The University of North Dakota has a Master of Arts program in Forensic Psychology.
  • New York University offers a Master of Arts degree program in Forensic Psychology.

What's Involved in a Doctoral Program?

Depending on your individual needs and internships chosen, you may be able to complete a postgraduate program leading to a Ph.D. in Psychology (Psy.D.) with a concentration in Policy and Law in less than five years. The program concentrates on the study of the relationship between psychology and the justice system. In addition to a number of practicums that will usually consist of a combination of research and consultation, you'll be required to develop and present a dissertation on an appropriate subject. Courses in the program can include a study of war crimes, civil rights, torture, organizational development, police psychology, juvenile delinquency, trial consulting, expert witness testimony and behavioral development.

A program leading to a doctorate in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in Forensic Psychology can take as long as six years to complete. The first two years of the program typically consists of courses that include cross-cultural psychology, consultation and testimony, forensic psychology, adult psychopathology, mental health and the law, sex offender evaluation and forensic assessment. You'll spend the next two years of the program participating in internships at school-approved facilities. The final two years of the program will be spent on a doctoral project or thesis related to forensic psychology.

Which Schools Offer Doctoral Programs?

A select number of schools feature programs at the doctorate level related to criminal and forensic psychology. The following are a few of the schools that offer such programs:

  • William James College provides a Doctor of Psychology program with a Forensic Psychology concentration.
  • Stanford University offers a combined JD/PhD program in Law and Psychology.
  • The John Jay College of Criminal Justice features a PhD program in Psychology and Law.

Many schools offer graduate training in forensic psychology and criminal psychology. Depending on your goals and career aspirations, programs at the master's or doctorate level can provide you with in-depth training you'll need for a career in the field.

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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The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

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