Criminal Psychology Degrees

criminal psychology degree

Every day we hear of crimes being committed that often make us wonder what the criminal was thinking and what made them do what they did. There are professionals who research and study these very questions and provide answers. These professionals are criminal psychologists, and they study criminal psychology, and. Continue reading and learning about this profession and what it takes to be part of this career.

What is Criminal Psychology?

Criminal psychology is a field that studies the behavior, feelings, events, and thoughts of criminals and offenders. Criminal psychologists not only study the behavior and thoughts of criminals but also evaluate their behavior, perform research, and write up reports.

They are an important part of the criminal justice department and often use their knowledge and expertise to testify in court. In some cases, they are called upon to evaluate the offender and determine if he or she is mentally fit to stand trial. Criminal psychologists and forensic psychologists are very similar in both education requirements and job duties. Working in the field of criminal psychology typically requires a degree.

Criminal psychology combines psychology with criminal justice. Depending on the criminal psychology degree level chosen, the candidate may pursue a degree in criminal psychology, psychology, or criminal justice. These degrees are often offered as an associate, bachelor, or master’s degrees.

What Can You Do with a Criminal Psychology Degree?

A degree in criminal psychology offers many career choices. Although associate degrees in criminal psychology programs are rare, there are several colleges that offer associate degrees in forensic psychology and criminal justice. These programs are aimed at individuals who want to obtain entry-level positions in the criminal justice field or those who want to advance their education and earn bachelor’s degrees.

Graduates of an associate’s degree program may find work as forensic science technicians, youth counselors, mental health workers, and criminalists. An individual just starting their criminal psychology or criminal justice career might start off by earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, forensic psychology, or clinical psychology.

Individuals with a bachelor’s degree may pursue careers as probation officers, police officers, crime analysts, social workers, or correction officers. Graduate degrees are typically chosen by candidates interested in working as counselors, forensic psychologists, or administrators. They may also choose careers teaching criminal psychology or performing research.

Depending on the college, there are various types of degrees offered to students interested in criminal psychology or criminal justice. Below are some examples of different criminal psychology or criminal justice degrees one might choose as well as a short description of each.

Associate Degrees

Associate of Arts (AA) programs are generally two-year programs that include prerequisite and general education courses. They are often chosen as a foundation for the bachelor’s degree program. Some graduates choose to join the workforce in entry-level positions in this field immediately after graduation. They may find work as correction officers, evidence technicians, paralegals, insurance fraud investigators, and police officers.

  • Everett Community College has an Associate of Arts in Psychology program that serves two purposes. It satisfies state guidelines regarding requirements for entry into a bachelor’s degree program, and it also prepares students for entry-level jobs in this field of study. This program offers a concentration in criminal justice. Students benefit from small class sizes and professors who are highly qualified in this field. Students complete courses like sociology, criminal law, criminology, criminal justice, and general psychology.
  • Southern New Hampshire University offers an online Associate of Science in Criminal Justice program that can be completed in less than two years. It requires completing 60 credits, 45 of which are transferable. In addition, students can earn up to 12 credits toward law enforcement training if they wish to pursue this path. Graduates are prepared for jobs in corrections, business security, dispute resolution, victim advocacy, and law enforcement.
  • South Texas College offers an Associate of Science in Criminal Justice as well as an Associate of Arts in Psychology. One program focuses more on the law enforcement side of criminal psychology while the other focuses on the psychological side of criminal psychology. Both are two-year programs that prepare students to work in these fields upon graduation. They are also both programs that are foundations for a bachelor’s degree program.

Bachelor’s Degrees in Criminal Psychology

Bachelor’s degree programs generally take four years to complete and are commonly chosen by individuals who aspire to work in the criminal psychology or criminal justice fields. Many of these programs allow students to transfer credits from the undergraduate program into a graduate program. Graduates of bachelor’s degree programs may find jobs as police officers, probation officers, forensic consultants, forensic case managers, and forensic clinicians, among others.

  • The Chicago School of Professional Psychology offers a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology with a concentration in forensic psychology. This multidisciplinary program is available full-time, part-time, and online. Students in this program are not only being prepared to work in criminal psychology and criminal justice careers but also earn credits toward a master’s degree program. Course topics include diversity in criminal justice; research and analytic methods; corrections; law enforcement; administration of justice; and criminology theory.
  • Southern New Hampshire University offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a concentration in forensic psychology. The school offers several start dates so students may study and complete the program at their own pace. Course topics include scientific investigations, forensic psychology, sociology of deviant behavior, and criminal psychology, among others. This school is known for its low tuition rates. Online help is available to students 24/7. This program focuses on helping students develop critical thinking and research skills.
  • Grand Canyon University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a concentration in Forensic Psychology program that can be completed in four years or less. Students are matched with a special counselor who is always available to help students with any questions or issues they may have. Graduates are prepared to work in forensic labs, medical examiners’ offices, hospitals, prisons, education institutes, and law enforcement agencies. Students take courses in criminal law, health psychology, understanding trauma, and forensic psychology.

Master’s Degrees in Criminal or Forensic Psychology

Master’s degree programs in criminal or forensic psychology are typically chosen by students who want high-level careers in the fields of psychology or criminal justice. Applicants to master’s degree programs should have a bachelor’s degree. Ideally, this degree should be in criminal justice, psychology, or a related field. These programs focus on how psychology applies to criminals.

Many students in graduate degree programs work in this field already and pursue their degree online. Candidates with this degree may seek work as psychologists, forensic psychologists, and criminal psychologists, to name just a few.

  • Tiffin University offers a Master of Science in Criminal Justice with a concentration in forensic psychology program that can be earned both online and on campus. This 42-credit program can be completed in 18 months. This program also offers concentrations in criminal behavior, criminal science, and criminal analysis. Graduates of this program can pursue jobs working in state, federal, and local law enforcement agencies, community corrections agencies, victims’ services, and state prison systems. Some choose to advance their education and earn doctoral degrees in forensic psychology or psychology.
  • Arizona State University offers an online Master of Science in Forensic Psychology program that prepares students to work in the fields of both mental health and criminal justice. This 33-credit program consists of 11 classes with each class lasting slightly over seven weeks. Students learn how human behavior and mental health relate to the legal field. This program is aimed at students who want a career as forensic psychologist. In addition to the coursework required, students are also required to complete an internship.
  • Holy Names University has a Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology program that teaches students about the integration of law, psychology, and social justices. This versatile degree program qualifies graduates for a wide range of career opportunities in the psychology and the criminal justice careers. Courses are offered during the day, in the evening, and even in hybrid format. After completing most of the coursework, students are given a field placement where they can obtain real-time training. Although forensic psychologists often have doctoral degrees, this program provides the courses that are all easy entry into a doctoral degree program.

Salary and Job Outlook for Criminal Psychologists

In addition to being a very interesting and rewarding career choice, criminal psychology offers very good job salary and job outlook according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Below are several criminal justice or criminal psychology jobs along with the projected job growth for the 2021 to 2031 decade.

The average annual wage for these professionals is also listed. The wages come from a May 2021 BLS wage report. This is one field where the wages can really increase based on the degree level and years of work experience in this field.

  • Criminal psychologists – Predicted job growth of three percent with average wage of $98,010
  • Psychologists and forensic psychologists– Predicted job growth of six percent with average wage of $81,040
  • Social workers – Predicted job growth of nine percent with average wage of $50,390
  • Police officers – Predicted job growth of three percent with average wage of $66,020
  • Probation officers – Predicted job growth of little to none with average wage of $60,250
  • Criminal justice teachers – Predicted job growth of eight percent with average wage of $81,730