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Forensic psychology combines the practice of psychology with work related to the legal system. Forensic psychologists assess, diagnose, treat, and evaluate individuals who are involved with the legal system, whether as a defendant, a victim, or in another capacity. Forensic psychologists can also act as experts during trials or other legal proceedings, either for the defense or the prosecution.
A degree in forensic psychology is likely to have an excellent return on investment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, psychologists earn a median salary of more than $82,000 per year, and can often earn more, though it will depend on the type of work they do, their experience, and other factors.
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in this field, start by checking out the most affordable online bachelor’s degrees in forensic psychology. Once you’ve learned more about the schools and what they have to offer, you can choose the best program for your needs.
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The 10 Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Forensic Psychology of 2021
What can I do with a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology?
A degree in forensic psychology can help to prepare you for a career in forensic psychology or another area in the criminal justice or psychology fields. You can use this degree to obtain positions in law enforcement or find employment in other related areas — or you can opt to pursue a graduate degree in this or another related field.
How much can you earn with a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology?
As with any job, your earning potential will depend on what position and part of the field you choose to go into. A psychologist can expect to earn more than $80,000 on average, though the actual earning potential you have will rely heavily on your level of education, experience, and position. If you use your degree to work in another area of criminal justice, you may earn less money, but again, it will depend on a number of factors.
How long does it take to complete a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology?
In general, most bachelor’s degrees require you to earn 120 credit hours in total, which will take about four years to complete if you’re enrolled full-time. It may take slightly longer for students attending school part-time or for those majoring in multiple subjects. And, in some cases, you may be able to complete your degree in as little as three years if you enroll in an accelerated program.
Do you need a master’s degree to be a forensic psychologist?
A master’s degree or a doctoral degree is required to work as a psychologist — forensic or otherwise. That said, there are other jobs you can pursue with just a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology — and these jobs will not require an advanced degree.
Admission requirements for online bachelor’s degrees in forensic psychology vary by school, but most applicants must hold a high school or GED diploma and submit official transcripts. Applicants may also need to submit ACT or SAT scores. More competitive schools may require a minimum GPA or minimum ACT or SAT scores. Additional application requirements may include a personal statement, a resume, and letters of recommendation.
In addition to college admission requirements, forensic psychology students may need to meet the program’s requirements. Programs may require prospective students to pass exams or complete course prerequisites prior to being accepted to the major. Most bachelor’s degree programs require you to obtain at least 120 credits to graduate.
Courses in a Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Psychology Program
- Criminology courses examine crime and criminal behavior. Learners study topics such as mass incarceration, criminal justice reform, the criminal justice system, and criminal procedures and evidence. The course also covers the social and behavioral causes of criminal acts and the various theories of criminal conduct.
- Criminal Justice Research Method
- This course covers the quantitative and qualitative methods that criminal justice researchers use to perform their jobs. Learners study research techniques, procedures, and methodologies, examining topics like measuring variables and sampling. Students learn how to think critically and analyze the evidence and potential causes and motivations of criminal acts.
- Introduction to Psychology
- This course introduces students to the fundamental principles of psychology, covering the mental processes and treatments of psychological disorders. Learners study topics like human memory, cognitive functions, human development across the lifespan, psychological disorders, and social behavior. They may also learn about psychology research methods.
- Criminal Law
- Undergraduates studying criminal law learn about the different categories of crimes, such as personal crimes and statutory crimes, and the procedures of the criminal justice system. They also study common terminology, definitions, and elements of criminal prosecution. Additionally, students learn how to research criminal codes and write legal documents.
- Ethics in Criminal Justice
- This course teaches students how to approach ethical challenges in the criminal justice system and law enforcement. Students explore various ethical scenarios to understand how to uphold professional standards. This course also explores the methodology used to examine ethical misconduct through philosophical inquiry and critical thinking and analysis.
Career Path for a Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Psychology
There are a surprising number of career paths available to someone with a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology. First, people who choose to earn this type of degree often plan to be forensic psychologists, or perhaps work in some other branch of the psychology field.
Someone with this degree may also choose to work within the criminal justice system in a variety of capacities. For example, someone with a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology may be well suited to jobs such as criminal profiler, law enforcement officer, crime scene investigator, crime analyst, or work with victims of violent crimes.
Some of the more common career paths for this degree include:
- Victim advocate
- Expert witness
- Correctional counselor
- Court liaison
- Jail supervisor
- Jury consultant*
- Federal government employee
- Research assistant
- Police consultant
- Forensic social worker*
- Licensed clinical counselor*
- Forensic psychology professor*
- Probation officer
*These jobs may require advanced degrees in some states.
Job Outlook & Salary
One of the most lucrative career paths for someone with a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology is to continue your education and become a psychologist, either forensic or otherwise. The job is expected to grow at an average rate, but the median annual salary for this job is about $82,180, which is roughly double the median annual salary for all occupations.
The lowest-paid 10% of psychologists earn less than $46,270, while the highest 10% earn more than $137,590, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Your earning potential will, of course, heavily depend on your level of education, experience, and where you choose to work as a psychologist. Government psychologists earn a median yearly salary of about $100,360, while those working in schools earn an average salary of about $77,560 per year.
That said, it’s important to remember that you will need an advanced degree to become a practicing psychologist in most capacities and in most states.
Becoming a psychologist isn’t the only option you have, though. There are plenty of other career fields available to someone with a degree in forensic psychology. These include:
|Median Annual Salary||Employment Growth Rate|
|Police and detectives||$67,290||5%|
|Forensic science technician||$60,590||14%|
|Social and human services assistant||$35,960||17%|
Who Can Apply: Students who submit an outstanding paper during their undergraduate career focused on the study of psychology and law.
Amount: $150 - $1,500
Deadline: June 30
Who Can Apply: Students enrolled on a full-time basis in an academic program at the undergraduate or graduate level who submit a paper directly related to criminology.
Deadline: August 31
Who Can Apply: Full-time undergraduate students entering at least their sophomore year or full-time or part-time graduate students enrolled in a forensic science or criminal justice program at an accredited college with a GPA of 2.5 or better.
Deadline: August 31
Psychology is the study of human behavior and the mind. It’s one of the most popular bachelor’s degrees available. Someone with a degree in psychology could be eligible for a wide range of job opportunities in all fields. Those hoping to work as a psychologist must obtain a master’s degree, but there are many other related jobs in lateral fields that won’t require a master’s degree, including community worker, caseworker, law enforcement officer, and others.
Criminology is the study of crime from the social perspective, including its impact on society and the causes behind someone commiting crimes. Those with criminology degrees are a natural fit for many jobs within the criminal justice system, such as law enforcement officer, criminologist, and paralegal. Someone with this type of degree could also pursue jobs such as attorney or psychologist, but first must pursue an advanced degree.
Criminal justice is a broad term that refers to our entire criminal justice system. Criminal justice students study the three primary areas of the system: policing, the courts, and corrections. People who study criminal justice often find work in law enforcement in some capacity, though it’s also a popular undergraduate degree for those planning to pursue law school.
Online Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Psychology Concentrations
Forensic psychology graduates can find jobs in settings like courts, law enforcement agencies, social services organizations, and universities. Many programs offer concentrations that allow students to tailor the degree to their career goals. For instance, a concentration in juvenile justice prepares graduates to work with adolescent offenders. Learners study topics like case management, abnormal psychology, and family and domestic violence.
Students who want to work as law enforcement officers, jury consultants, or forensic science technicians can pursue a concentration in crime scene investigation. This concentration covers topics like forensic chemistry analysis, forensic fingerprint analysis, and leadership practices in criminal justice.
Concentrations typically comprise 20-30 credits, or about 4-5 courses. Programs often feature internships that give students hands-on experience in the field while providing valuable professional networking opportunities.
Angelica Leicht is the schools editor at Best Value Schools who oversees our college rankings, school profiles, and other higher education coverage. She previously served as an education reporter at Kearney Hub, and an editor at the Dallas Observer and Houston Press. Her writing has appeared in Affordable Colleges Online, Bankrate, The Simple Dollar, and elsewhere.
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