Forensic psychology involves the use of psychology in a legal situation, especially in court trials or police investigation. Earning an online bachelor's degree in forensic psychology qualifies graduates for jobs in legal assistance, gathering evidence, summarizing findings, serving as expert witnesses, and testifying to witness credibility. Forensic psychologists can work for the prosecution or defense, or in corrections and probation for convicted offenders.
Job growth projections look good for careers related to forensic psychology. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 14% growth for psychologists and 23% growth for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors from 2016-2026.
A bachelor's degree is only the first step in becoming a licensed forensic psychologist. Long-term careers require a master's degree, and most professionals also pursue a Ph.D. or Psy.D. in forensic psychology.
What to Expect in an Online Bachelor's in Forensic Psychology Program
Students who want to earn an online bachelor's degree in forensic psychology should do careful research to choose the best program possible. Course offerings are an important factor; while courses vary by school, there are a few basic topics that most curricula cover.
Sample Courses for an Online Bachelor's in Forensic Psychology
Online bachelor's degree in forensic psychology curricula familiarize students with both psychology and statistics, providing the technical and mathematical skills needed to understand data. Forensic psychology also covers the basics of the legal system, and graduates develop communication and interpersonal skills, which help them work with other professionals and individuals from marginalized communities. Most programs do not require an internship or capstone course. Below are a few example courses you might take when earning a forensic psychology degree online.
|Forensic Psychology||This course focuses on the assessment and treatment of individuals within the legal system. Witness testimony is a primary element of forensic psychology, these expert testimonies are used to establish witness credibility. This course covers the basic principles of forensic psychology and effective strategies for using psychology in a courtroom.|
|Criminology||Criminology examines the psychology of criminals. Students learn to assess criminal behavior, identify behavioral patterns, and understand how social and psychological environments influence criminal motives.|
|Statistics||Descriptive and inferential statistics are both important in psychological practice. In this course, students learn about standardization, correlation, variance analysis, and hypothesis testing. They also familiarize themselves with statistics analysis software.|
|Social Psychology||Social psychology examines how social environments affect human thoughts, feelings, and behavior. This class covers ideas like persuasion, discrimination, prejudice, attraction, aggression, and antisocial and prosocial group behaviors , teaching students how to recognize and analyze these behaviors.|
|Adolescent Psychology||This course explores the mental health of adolescents, and covers moral, sexual, social, cognitive, and physical development. Gender roles, family dynamics, and environmental and cultural influences are also included.|
Online Bachelor's in Forensic Psychology Completion Time
The typical student can earn an online bachelor's degree in forensic psychology in four years, averaging about 120 credits for the entire program. Programs vary with regard to class and semester length, which determine graduation times. The flexibility of distance education may result in students taking more time to graduate, or accelerating their studies to graduate sooner.
Some programs use a cohort model, in which groups of students advance from one course to the next together. This model encourages networking and provides a more structured learning environment. Most programs are asynchronous; however, meaning students enroll in and complete programs at an individual pace.
Skills Gained in an Online Bachelor's in Forensic Psychology Program
Skills learned during an online bachelor's degree in forensic psychology include statistics, research methods, problem solving, critical thinking, and communication. More importantly, students learn how to understand and assess human thought processes and behavior, apply that knowledge to practical situations, and make determinations based on that information. Graduates of these programs are especially proficient in the following specialty skills:
Profiling is an investigative technique that compiles personality profiles of known convicts to identify demographic information for an outstanding case, which can lead to the identification and apprehension of suspects. It also helps investigators link cases committed by the same perpetrator.
This fundamental skill informs the legal system's response to criminality. Investigation involves the collection of factual evidence and summarization of findings to strengthen prosecution or defense in the courtroom.
Psychologists use statistical methods to analyze, organize, and present data. Understanding the effect of variables and being able to make informed predictions are key skills for a forensic psychologist.
Online vs. On-Campus Programs: What's the Difference?
An online program's curriculum is typically similar to the school's in-person program; the classes are the same and faculty often teach both types of courses. However, online programs offer flexibility through asynchronous instruction, where students can complete coursework at their own pace. This environment means more personal responsibility, and students who need more educational structure will likely do better in a traditional program.
When internships or clinical hours are required, online programs usually allow remote students to pursue local opportunities. Students should double-check the rules on requirements before enrolling online. Some online degree programs require in-person attendance at orientations, consider program requirements before committing to a school in another state.
Education and Training Beyond a Bachelor's in Forensic Psychology
Advanced degrees are necessary for becoming a practicing psychologist. Some schools and industrial organizations accept a master's degree; however, a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. may be preferred or required. A Psy.D. requires more coursework hours than a Ph.D.
The dedication and time needed for a Ph.D. or Psy.D. in forensic psychology are immense. To be accepted into a program, you need a master's degree in forensic or clinical psychology with a thesis concentrated in forensic psychology. Earning a doctorate takes about five years and requires supervised internship hours, practicum courses, and a dissertation, which can take several additional years to finish. A single practicum can cover 800 hours of supervised work in forensic psychology.
Independent psychologists must be licensed in the states where they practice, and many hospitals and clinics also require certification. Some states certify specializations like forensic psychology, and may require additional coursework for licensed psychologists to maintain their licenses.
Career and Salary Outlook for Online Bachelor's in Forensic Psychology Graduates
Graduates with a bachelor's degree in forensic psychology can pursue a variety of careers. For example, they could work in investigations for insurance companies, become paralegals, or work in corrections at a prison or parole facility. Graduates can also work as addiction or mental health counselors. Those with master's degrees can take on administrative or management duties.
|Claims Adjuster, Appraiser, Examiner, and Investigator||
Claims adjusters, appraisers, examiners, and investigators determine the validity of insurance claims. They consult physicians, employers, and legal counsel to expose fraudulent claims. They also determine settlement amounts, authorizing payments for legitimate claims.
Median Annual Salary: $65,670
|Forensic Science Technician||
Forensic science technicians usually work in labs at police departments, collecting and analyzing data and evidence in connection with criminal cases. Most forensic science technicians specialize in a particular area of laboratory analysis.
Median Annual Salary: $58,230
|Probation Officer and Correctional Treatment Specialist||
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists assist individuals in custody, on probation, or on parole in rehabilitation. They use interviews and evaluations to document progress and make plans for improvement. They may also perform drug testing and substance abuse counseling.
Median Annual Salary: $53,020
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselor||
Substance abuse counselors work with clients who suffer from drug addiction or alcoholism, individually or in group sessions. They assist clients in skill and behavior development to help them overcome addiction. Substance abuse counselors also work with their clients' families, teaching them coping strategies and ways to discuss addiction.
Median Annual Salary: $44,630
|Police and Detective||
Police officers and detectives are charged with the protection of people and property. They enforce laws and investigate criminal cases. They may also be the first line in connecting vulnerable populations, like people suffering homelessness, with services. It is common for police and detectives to work evening or graveyard shifts.
Median Annual Salary: $63,380