Professionals in the field of forensic psychology work in criminal justice systems to help catch criminals, determine suspects' ability to stand trial, and counsel victims. The job requires expert knowledge of clinical and counseling psychology as well as criminal profiling and legal procedures. People can gain the skills they need to perform the job in forensic psychology programs at colleges and universities. When choosing among forensic psychology programs, an individual should investigate school and teacher credentials, the types of degrees offered, costs, and location. By looking into a number of different programs and carefully considering the likelihood of finding jobs, a student can make an informed decision about where to pursue a detailed education in forensic psychology.
An advanced degree is necessary to obtain most forensic psychology jobs. Very few accredited universities offer bachelor's degree forensic psychology programs, so most students do not specialize until graduate school. Undergraduates can prepare for master's and doctoral programs by taking courses in criminal justice, abnormal psychology, sociology, and statistics. Near the end of a bachelor's program, an individual can investigate forensic psychology programs by speaking with advisers and browsing school websites.
It is important to choose a forensic psychology school that is fully accredited by the appropriate organization and governing board. A prospective student can usually find accreditation information on school websites or in pamphlets from admissions offices. If it is unclear whether or not a university is accredited, a student can speak with admissions counselors. After determining which forensic psychology programs are accredited, a student can then narrow down the list of possible choices by examining the credentials of instructors. Most university websites and pamphlets include biographical information about teachers, listing their educational and professional qualifications and achievements.
A prospective student should also look into the length, nature, and costs of different forensic psychology programs. Most master's degree programs take about two years to complete, while doctoral programs can last four to five years. Some programs allow students to complete some or all degree requirements online, which can be very helpful for working professionals or those who simply prefer the flexibility of an online curriculum. Tuition, fees, book costs, and rates for on- and off-campus housing should also be considered. In many cases, tuition rates are lower for students who already live in the same state or region as the school.
A final point to consider when choosing the best forensic psychology program is the availability of licensing and career placement services. Many forensic psychology schools help their graduates obtain internships and appropriate licensing. Since licenses are usually limited to a specific state or region, an individual can determine where he or she wants to work and choose a school near that location. Choosing the right school can ensure a quality education and fully prepare a person for a rewarding career.