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Forensic psychology is the study of behavior and mental processes applied toward the field of criminal justice. It is a discipline that requires intensive knowledge of psychology, as well as criminal investigation and legal issues. Forensic psychologists have a wide range of duties, including determining the mental competency of defendants to stand trial, counseling crime victims, or providing expert trial testimony. Most specialized advanced study for forensic psychology is taught at a postgraduate level, so earning a forensic psychology degree can mean up to seven years of full-time study.
Students who wish to practice as a forensic psychologist may need to complete schooling to earn a doctoral degree. To begin, you will first need to earn an undergraduate degree from a four-year university. Students are generally not required to focus their undergraduate degree on any specific subject. When you apply to forensic psychology graduate schools, they will typically require some minimum background training; therefore, you may want to take introductory psychology, criminology, and research methodology classes.
After earning an undergraduate degree, you can continue on your path to getting a forensic psychology degree by earning a master’s degree. First, you will need to apply to a graduate school that offers a forensic psychology program. Forensic psychology graduate programs are offered all over the world, including the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
During graduate school, you will complete specialized coursework in various areas of psychology, including clinical, abnormal, and motivational. These classes can help you learn how to understand people and their actions. Additionally, coursework in law and criminology is needed to prepare you for the criminal justice aspects of your career. Earning a master’s degree in forensic psychology will typically take around two or three years to complete.
Once you complete your graduate school program’s requirements, you can begin the final step of getting a forensic psychology degree: completing a doctorate program. A doctorate of forensic psychology degree will typically qualify you to become licensed and able to practice as a forensic psychologist. Many schools that offer a master’s degree program will also offer continuing education that allows students to advance and earn a doctorate without needing to find an additional school.
Requirements for a doctorate in forensic psychology differ depending on the program; however, students are usually required to complete a set amount of hours of coursework in psychology and law. Besides coursework, a doctorate will require you to complete hands-on research. After completing your program’s coursework, you will research, write, and present a dissertation. A dissertation is an original research paper produced based on findings obtained during your own research. After you finish the required coursework and dissertation, most programs will require you to complete a year-long internship in a clinical or legal setting before awarding you a forensic psychology degree.