Graduate Certificate Programs in Forensic Psychology

This article describes the features of graduate certificate programs in forensic psychology. Read the article to learn about the common courses taught in the program and admission requirements.

Graduate Certificate Programs in Forensic Psychology: General Information

Forensic psychology combines the fields of psychology, law, and criminal justice to understand and analyze the dynamics of criminal behavior as well as society's response to criminality. A graduate certificate in forensic psychology can be useful for individuals interested in working in the areas of psychology, social work, psychiatry, criminal justice, and paralegal studies. Certificates may be designed to be earned prior to, concurrently with, or after a master's degree program. They are typically, but not always, between 12 and 16 credits total. Core courses in these certificate programs include topics such as forensic assessment, mental health law, theories of criminal behavior, forensic psychology, interpersonal violence, and forensic treatment.

Forensic Assessment

A course on forensic assessment focuses on a variety of methods used to evaluate forensic cases and their treatment. The course might also explain various interviewing techniques in a forensic scenario and the methods of evaluating the risk and violence of offenders. It might familiarize you with the process of writing reports for the court. The course might also introduce various aspects of forensic assessment, such as mitigation, psycho-legal concerns, and criminal responsibility.

Mental Health Law

These courses focus on criminal and sometimes civil laws as they relate to mental health. They are wide-ranging and might cover such topics as how the mentally ill may become involved in offenses, competence to stand trial, and relationships within the criminal justice system. You might also study topics like duty to warn, due process, community-based supervision, confidentiality.

Theories of Criminal Behavior

Criminal behavior theories attempt to explain the causes of crime. These theories might associate crime with various psychological and social factors. The course might familiarize you with constructing theories, creating hypotheses, doing research, and creating policies based on these theories. The course might also include theories regarding the punishment of crime.

Forensic Psychology

A forensic psychology course introduces the theories and principles related to mental health and criminal justice. The course might discuss the role of the psychologist in understanding and evaluating crime and the mindset of its perpetrator as well as topics like assessment, providing treatment to criminals, and predicting criminal behaviors. It might also introduce you to the challenges faced by specialists in forensic psychology as well as justifications for various punishments.

Interpersonal Violence

A course on interpersonal violence talks about the violence perpetrated by an individual upon another; for example, the course might focus on violence among family members or between romantic partners. The course might focus on the causes of these acts of violence and their impacts on interpersonal relationships. Topics of interest might include sexual and domestic violence, marital abuse, child abuse, homicide, and the response of the legal systems towards these crimes. The course might also discuss common psychological disorders found in those who cause violence and their victims.

Forensic Treatment

A course on forensic treatment focuses on the strategies and methods used for the rehabilitation and treatment of certain types of criminal offenders, such as drug dealers and abusers, psychopaths, juveniles, and cyber offenders. The course might discuss approaches like cognitive behavior therapy, group therapy, social skills improvement training, community-based programs, and religion-based programs. You might explore current policies and research regarding the subject as well.

Graduate Certificate Programs in Forensic Psychology: Admission Requirements

The minimum qualification for admission into graduate certificate programs in forensic psychology is a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. Some of these graduate programs might be at the post-master's level, in which case the minimum qualification is an accredited master's degree in a field related to psychology. At the time of application, you will be required to submit such documents as official transcripts of your academic degree(s), letters of recommendation, and resume. Some of these programs might also require you to submit a personal statement or essay that describes your academic and professional goals and your expectations from these programs.

Graduate certificate programs in forensic psychology may be post-baccalaureate or post-master's programs; admission requirements vary depending on the certificate level. These programs commonly offer courses on topics like forensic assessment, theories of criminal behavior, interpersonal violence, mental health, forensic psychology basics, and forensic treatment.