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Courses in Criminal Pshychology

Criminal psychology courses prepare students for a career in forensic psychology and solving crimes. Schools for criminal psychology train students how to determine a criminal's reason for committing a crime and understand the psychological motivations behind a crime. Colleges offer bachelor's degree and master's degree programs for those who want to become professional criminal psychologists or forensic scientists. Some schools also offer distance learning degree programs for students who want a more flexible schedule and prefer to take criminal psychology courses at their own pace.

Types of Criminal Psychology Courses

The most common types of criminal psychology courses available include:

  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • Introduction to Criminology
  • Criminal Law in Action
  • Contemporary Legal Policy Issues
  • Law Enforcement Administration
  • Criminal Procedure and Evidence
  • Introduction to Security Management
  • Criminal Investigation
  • Issues in Criminal Justice
  • Victimology
  • Psychology of Criminal Behavior
  • Psychological Testing
  • Mental Health Assessments

Criminal Psychology Programs

Criminal psychology programs train students in working through a criminal case and in understanding the psychological principles behind the criminal justice and legal system. Professionally-trained forensic psychologists may work in a family court setting, investigate criminal behavior, create criminal profiles and provide psychotherapy to crime victims or criminals who have been released from prison. Criminal court forensic psychologists work with witnesses and provide formal evaluations of mental competency.

Most programs are available at the bachelor's degree and master's degree levels at accredited forensic science and criminal justice schools. Colleges for criminal psychology provide both classroom and training through role-playing so that students can learn how to apply various theories and principles when evaluating criminal behavior. Students may choose to specialize in a certain field, such as retail crime, security management and organizational crimes.

These programs prepare students for a variety of careers and they may work in the following settings:

  • National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) in Quantico, VA
  • Mental institutions
  • Law enforcement offices
  • Law offices

Students who take a course or complete a degree at the master's or doctoral level may choose to pursue a career in teaching or research. Students interested in completing criminal psychology degree coursework for a position with the Federal Government must have at least a bachelor's degree with a minimum of 24 semester hours in psychology.

Attending Schools for Criminal Psychology Degrees

Students can choose from a number of schools for criminal psychology degrees and forensic research studies. The field is also referred to as forensic psychology because it involves the in-depth study of the criminal's mental state and thought process. Students are well-trained to work with expert witnesses, create criminal profiles and review details of a crime in order to draw precise conclusions.

Those who wish to practice criminal psychology need to pursue a Doctor of Psychology or Ph.D. degree program. These advanced degree programs provide more clinical experience than a bachelor's or master's degree in the field, and some give students a chance to acquire work experience by working with a professional criminal psychologist or in a court setting. Doctoral criminal psychology degree programs must be accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) and also meet National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) licensure requirements.

Students who do not live close to a school offering criminal psychology degree programs may be able to complete their education online. Some accredited colleges offer distance learning education programs for forensic scientists and aspiring criminal psychologists. These programs may include a clinical component where the student works with a local psychologist or in a court setting to gain work experience.

Careers with a Criminal Psychology Degree

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that approximately 34 percent of psychologists are self-employed as private practitioners. However, job opportunities for those with a doctoral degree are expected to remain high through 2018.

As of May 2008, the median annual wages of clinical, counseling and school psychologists were $64,140. Median annual wages for those working for the state government were $63,710 for that same year.

Career options include:

  • Criminal or victim counseling
  • Forensic research
  • Sociologist or political scientist
  • Teaching
  • Clinical work
  • Investigative careers
  • Legal assistant

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