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Master's Programs in Criminal Psychology

Through a master's degree program in criminal psychology, you'll learn how to profile criminal activity as well as develop counseling skills used to prevent parolees and ex-convicts from causing crimes after their release from jail. Read on for the details of degree programs, online options and possible careers.

What is Criminal Psychology?

Criminal psychology is a combination of both criminal justice and psychology. Also known as forensic psychology, criminal psychology involves using interdisciplinary techniques to understand the criminal mind. To study this field at the graduate level, you can take on a master's degree program in forensic psychology or in criminal justice with a forensic psychology concentration. Through criminal profiling and other techniques, you'll study crime patterns and work toward predicting and preventing crimes before they happen.

Degree FieldsForensic psychology or criminal justice with a concentration in forensic psychology
Course TopicsMental development, ethics, crime mapping, abnormal behavior, juvenile delinquency
Online AvailabilityFull or hybrid formats available with possible in-person practicum requirement
Career OptionsForensic counselor, juvenile offender counselor, victim advocate
Median Salary (2019) $35,170 (for all victim advocates)*
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 13% growth (for community and social service specialists, all other)**

Sources: *PayScale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Study?

Since criminal psychology is a blend of psychology and criminal justice, many of the courses you'll be taking cover human development, psychology, the court systems, crime analysis and violence. To prepare for work in this field, you'll develop skills related to communication, critical thinking, problem solving, analysis and research. Some of the subjects you may study are as follows:

  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Ethics
  • Crime mapping
  • Societal laws
  • Violence
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Sex offenders
  • Mental development
  • Courtroom psychology
  • Society's attitudes toward crime
  • Criminal minds

Can I Earn this Degree Online?

Online degree programs in forensic psychology are available. Some colleges offer hybrid formats that allow you to earn your degree through online courses while attending a minimal amount of on-campus studies. You'll likely need to complete an in-person requirement, such as an internship or practicum, at a police station or correctional facility.

What Jobs Can I Consider?

With a master's degree in forensic psychology, you have a number of career options to consider. Among these are forensic counseling, juvenile offender counseling and victim advocacy. Master's degree programs also prepare you for doctoral-level study, which is required to become a licensed forensic psychologist.

In counseling roles, you can help rehabilitate criminals while they're incarcerated, getting them ready to reintegrate back into society by the time of parole. You will also counsel them when they first get out - a vital time in preventing them from committing additional crimes and in helping them join law-abiding society.

If you choose to work with child offenders, you'll work in juvenile corrections centers as well as in the homes of youngsters accused or convicted of crimes. You'll combine the treatment methods of such areas as anger management, drug abuse counseling and conflict resolution. Since young offenders differ in the reasons they engage in illegal activity, you'll likely work with a variety of other therapy professionals, such as those who work in art and music therapy.

As a victim advocate, you'll counsel victims of crime and their families. You'll help victims deal with any emotional or traumatic stress caused by their experiences, and you'll develop strategies to prevent them from being victimized again.