← Back

Q&A - Degree Outlook

Are there any books that I can read to help me decide if a forensic psychology degree is right for me?

Forensic psychology is a hot topic in pop culture right now, and there are several popular books, both fiction and nonfiction, that cover the subject. You can search on Amazon, Barnes and Noble’s website, Google and Wikipedia to locate various books and articles. And of course, there are your local bookstores, and public and university libraries from which you can check out introductory and advanced books, nonfiction and fiction, that are related to forensic psychology. These books can give you insight into the industry if you are considering traditional coursework or earning your forensic psychology degree online.

Some more specific examples include:

Without Conscience is a book about psychopathology. The author, Robert D. Hare, will be a familiar name to anyone studying forensic psychology because he created the standard diagnostic procedure for psychopathy. What is important about this book is the fact that he emphasizes why many psychopaths become criminals and how some avoid the legal system.

In The Forensic Science of Criminal Minds, Katherine Ramsland compares and contrasts the forensic psychology methods used on the television drama Criminal Minds with the tactics used by real life forensic psychologists. Ramsland similarly wrote The Forensic Science of C.S.I. about the hit television show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Dr. Barbara Kirwin wrote The Mad, the Bad and the Innocent to outline the psychological profiles of several infamous serial killers, as well as some cases she worked on during her 2 decades as a forensic psychologist. This is a great book if you are considering earning a forensic psychology online degree because Kirwin writes from the point of view of someone who has hands-on experience in the field.

For a different look at forensic psychology, you can read Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight, a psychological profiling of the classic superhero. This book, written by forensic psychology professor Travis Langley, a well-known expert on the psychology of superheroes, demonstrates how a psychological profile can be built for anyone real or fictional.

What are some online resources that will give me ideas about how to use a degree in forensic psychology?

The American Board of Professional Psychology provides its member publications online free of charge. This is an excellent way to see what is making news in the field and get an insider’s look at the specialties within professional psychology, including forensic psychology.

The American Psychology-Law Society publishes information for the practicing forensic psychologist including research abstracts. The website features a section for students completing forensic psychology coursework, a scholarship search for students enrolled in forensic psychology colleges and job listings in the field.

Many forensic psychologists are employed by the local, state or federal government and are members of Psychologists in Public Service. The organization’s website offers newsletters, articles and information if you are interested in pursuing a career in public service. It also offers a mentoring program for students and young professionals and posts regular updates and information on its Facebook page.

Another professional resource that students may find useful is the Professional Development section of Psychwiki, a collaborative wiki created by psychologists in order to share knowledge and tools online. The Professional Development section was developed by students from the Department of Social Psychology at the University of Southern California, addresses common questions about how you can excel in a career in psychology or while pursuing a traditional or online degree in forensic psychology.

The Tennessee Criminal Law Resources web page offers a comprehensive listing of forensic science resources including information on forensic psychology. From this page, you can find list servers, chat rooms and other social media links relating to forensic psychology.

What organizations accredit on-campus and online forensic psychology degree programs?

The American Psychological Association (APA) accredits general psychology programs in the United States and provides a
comprehensive list
of all forensic psychology degree programs, including accredited online forensic psychology degree programs. It is very important that you earn your psychology degree from an accredited program as accreditation ensures you will receive an education held to the highest standards, preparing you to pursue further degrees, certifications and clinical work.

While there is not yet an accrediting organization specifically for forensic psychology programs, the American Psychology Law Society publishes a brochure on graduate training programs in law and psychology. This brochure, which lists the top programs that specialize in forensic psychology, is divided into sections for clinical doctoral programs, nonclinical doctoral programs and masters degree programs.
While it is not an accrediting body, the society has evaluated these programs and approves of their curriculum and content. It should also be noted that all programs listed are APA-accredited programs, including online forensic psychology degrees.

Is a degree in forensic psychology recession proof?

Employment prospects for psychologists are expected to grow 22% before 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Forensic psychology is not experiencing the same job growth as the applied and clinical fields, but it still continues to grow faster than the average for most occupations. Those who hold an undergraduate degree in psychology had an unemployment rate of 6.1% and a median income of $43,000 in 2011.

While the outlook for forensic psychologists is positive, it is important to get the highest quality education available in order to prepare for a difficult economy. The best forensic psychology degrees online are masters programs offered in conjunction with traditional programs. If you are enrolled in 1 of these forensic psychology graduate programs, your degree will be identical to 1 earned in an on-campus setting.
Online degree programs that are not connected to a traditional brick-and-mortar institution are typically valued less in the job market than top forensic psychology degrees earned in a classroom setting.

What other areas of study are related to my forensic psychology program?

Students who earn a degree from a forensic psychology program typically focus on 1 specialty, such as family, civil or criminal psychology. Even so, the best forensic psychology programs offer exposure to all 3 aspects of the field. In addition, there are other related fields, which may interest you during your coursework.

Forensic psychologists often work closely with law enforcement and are sometimes even employed by police departments. While the jobs differ greatly, knowing when to apply the principles of forensic psychology is especially important to detectives and private investigators. Understanding law enforcement and the legal system is paramount if you are specializing in criminal courts. For this reason, some forensic psychologists also hold a Juris Doctor degree.

Mental health counselors, including marriage and family therapists, work directly with clients to diagnose and treat mental health concerns as well as solve issues in interpersonal relationships. These are the same illnesses and issues often diagnosed and discussed by forensic psychologists, but instead of working in the court system counselors and therapists practice in a clinic or hospital. Like forensic psychology, mental health counseling typically requires holding a doctorate. Many forensic psychologists also have a clinical practice.

Unlike most related jobs, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counseling positions do not always require you to hold a degree for employment. Addiction and behavioral disorder counselors work in a clinical or medical setting and deal with clients directly. Meeting with an addiction counselor is frequently ordered by a court due to the testimony of a forensic psychologist.

What internships should I pursue during my on-campus or online forensic psychology degree program?

Most top forensic psychology programs require an internship in order to earn a degree. There are internships available from federal and local governments as well as corporations and nonprofit organizations if you are enrolled in 1 of the accredited online forensic psychology programs. The FBI, CIA, NCIS and many large police departments offer internships for forensic psychologists.

A popular internship for forensic psychology students is to obtain clinical experiences with inmates in a prison medical center. You may also be interested in interning with a psychologist who operates a clinical practice or at a substance abuse center. These internships can be of great value to forensic psychology students, especially if the center is affiliated with the court system and handles patients who have been sentenced to treatment.

Even if you are pursuing 1 of the many forensic psychology online programs, your school may place you for an internship. In some cases, however, you may be responsible for securing your own. The Association of Psychology and Postdoctoral Internship Centers hosts a database of available psychology internships, including in forensic psychology. The American Psychology-Law Society also features a list of internship opportunities offered by members of the organization.

Are there any movies or TV shows that I might enjoy during my forensic psychology degree program?

The popular television series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation features a group of forensic experts who solve crimes based on scientific analysis and the psychological profiling of criminals. Although it is presented in a dramatized way, cases on the show are often solved using the same methods that a forensic psychologist would use to identify a suspect or diagnose a criminal.

Criminal Minds focuses on a fictional group of profilers within the FBI’s very real Behavioral Analysis Unit located in Quantico, Virginia. These forensic psychologists work to identify the patterns and motives of criminals in order to prevent future crimes.

NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service is a television show about a fictional team of special agents based on the real work of the NCIS. Forensic psychology and profiling is frequently used to solve or prevent crimes involving Marine or Navy officers on the show. There is also a version of the show set in Los Angeles called NCIS: Los Angeles.

The 4 Hannibal Lector movies, the most famous being The Silence of the Lambs, are based on books by Thomas Harris. The films feature a group of forensic psychologists based on the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit. They can be especially interesting to students of forensic psychology because of the many facets of psychopathy revealed in Hannibal Lector’s conversations with the protagonist.

Are there any accelerated campus-based or online forensic psychology programs to help me finish my degree faster?

The BA/MA Accelerated Program in Forensic Psychology offered by Fairleigh Dickinson University allows you to study for a masters degree while you complete your forensic psychology bachelors degree. This accelerated program takes just 5 years instead of the usual 6 and is available at the university’s main campus in New Jersey. The school also offers an 18-month accelerated masters degree in forensic psychology, which includes a required internship.

At Spalding University in Kentucky, you can earn a bachelors degree in psychology in 3 years through an accelerated schedule that meets once a week. The school offers each class 7 times a year, and each course is 6 weeks long. Once you earn your bachelors degree through this accelerated program, you can also earn your masters in forensic psychology from the school, though the degree is not available in an accelerated format.

Walden University offers 1 of the few accelerated forensic psychology programs online, allowing you to enroll in graduate courses as electives during your undergraduate years. Through this program it only takes 1 additional year to earn your masters degree after completing your undergraduate work.