Forensic psychology is where psychology meets the justice system. Forensic psychologists may be trained in any branch of psychology such as social, clinical, or organizational, but they will also need to demonstrate extensive knowledge of legal proceedings and skill in their interactions with legal professionals. They are frequently called as expert witnesses to present the psychological findings of a case, including information regarding competency, assessments of mitigating factors, or the future risk a defendant poses. Forensic psychologists may also provide treatment or sentencing recommendations. For this reason, it is important for forensic psychologists to have a comprehensive understanding of the philosophies, regulations, and standards of the United States legal system.
What Can I Do With an Online Degree in Forensic Psychology?
For those interested in pursuing a career in this field, finding schools that offer accredited online forensic psychology programs is a great first step in your research. Forensic psychologists usually work in one of three specializations: criminal court, family court, or civil court. Those specializing in criminal court will typically evaluate mental competency, work with witnesses (particularly minors), and perform psychological evaluations for defendants. Forensic psychologists in family court may offer counseling services, assessments in child custody cases, or aide in the investigation of child abuse cases. Lastly, in civil court, forensic psychologists may evaluate competency, provide counseling, and general psychological insight relevant to the case.
The job market for psychologists in general is expected to grow at an average rate, with a 12% increase from 2008 to 2018 anticipated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Prospects will be best for those holding a doctoral degree, while those with only a master’s degree will face very strong competition because of a limited number of openings for individuals with this level of education. Those with a bachelor’s degree will have very limited prospects, especially in the highly specialized field of forensic psychology. However, they may be able to fill positions assisting forensic psychologists, or performing data collection and analysis. Please note, this can be dependent on a number of factors including the general job climate, an applicant’s experience, and geographical location.
According to the BLS, the median income for psychologists in 2010 was $89,900, though this can vary based on employer, average salaries for your city and state, and professional experience. Some of the best opportunities for forensic psychologists can be found in federal, state, or local government. In fact, in 2010, approximately 29% of psychologists were employed in this industry, earning a median salary of $87,160. In terms of location, California, Florida, and New York have the highest employment levels, and Arizona, New Hampshire, and Maryland are the top-paying states for psychologists.
What Is It Like To Get An Online Degree in Forensic Psychology?
In terms of degrees you are likely to find through an online college, psychology is one of the most popular. When it comes to forensic psychology, schools may offer either a specific major in this subfield or specialized courses to supplement a general psychology degree. In addition to an overview of the common subfields such as clinical, social, or organizational psychology, prospective forensic psychologists should also expect to complete coursework in the study of violence and aggression, victimology, abnormal behavior, and law. Throughout the program, students at colleges for forensic psychology should develop a comprehensive understanding of psychological concepts and theories, effective communication skills, and the legal system’s procedures and philosophies.
Typically, those who wish to pursue a career in forensic psychology will need to earn a doctoral degree, including the successful completion of a dissertation based on original research. After graduating from an accredited doctoral program, forensic psychologists will need to take the appropriate steps to become licensed by the state in which they wish to practice. The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) also awards specialty certification in 13 areas, including forensic psychology. In order to become board certified, applicants must demonstrate that they have completed an approved doctoral program in psychology, and have adequate training and experience in the area of forensic psychology. Though certification is a voluntary process, it is highly recommended in order to demonstrate competency in the field, which is very important to a forensic psychologist’s credibility as a legal witness.