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Criminal Psychology Degree

Criminal Psychology is an amalgamation of the fields of psychology and criminology. It is the study of wills, thoughts, intentions and reactions of criminals and provides an aide in investigative procedures. Determining the mental state of a criminal, using the knowledge of psychology and behavioral sciences, this field, in closely connected with the ideals of criminal anthropology, plays a vital role within the legal system.

  1. What is Criminal Psychology?
  2. Criminal Behavior – A Psychological Approach
  3. Criminal Psychology Programs
  4. How to become a criminal psychologist?
  5. What does a Criminal Psychologist do?
  6. How much do Criminal Psychologists make?
  7. Where do Ciminial Psychologist work?
  8. Criminal Psychologist Job Description

What is Criminal Psychology?

Criminal Psychology is the study of what makes someone commit a crime and their subsequent reactions to the criminal offense. It relates to the mental processes, the motivational patterns and the behavior of criminals.

Criminal Behavior – A Psychological Approach

A vast amount of literature and scholarly research has been carried out on the evident yet perplexing link between criminal behavior and psychology. Various theories have been formulated to explain this phenomenon. Rational Choice Theory is one such example. This theory relates to how criminals are completely rational when they choose to commit a crime. Reasons for such behavior could be personal needs, greed, revenge, vanity or other emotions that serve as driving factors. Other theories include the Trait Theory, which states that criminality is the product of abnormal biological or psychological traits. Social Structure Theory connects the social aspects inherent in the offenders’ immediate society, to criminal behavior.
There are countless such theories in psychology that attempt to explain various sorts of criminal minds. Their basic ideas differ but they all share a common belief: criminal behavior is a problem of the society and it needs to be duly addressed. These theories continue to be researched, developed and tested as the world of criminal justice evolves.

Criminal Psychology Programs

Undergraduate Program 
Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Psychology
Master's Degree in Criminal Psychology
Doctoral Degree in Criminal Psychology

When looking for a criminal psychology degree, first define the level of education you wish to go for. Criminal psychologist education requirements vary according to this consideration. You can go for undergraduate or graduate programs depending on your prior educational qualifications. A bachelor’s degree will be of little value to you in this case since professional state licensure rules usually require students to hold a doctoral degree in criminal/forensic psychology.

How to become a criminal psychologist?

Criminal psychologist education requirements detilas can help you better to see what you need to become one. Here are some avilable degree details you can enroll online.

  1. You would first need to acquire a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
  2. After a bachelor’s degree you can go for a specialized degree in criminal psychology.
  3. You may select a Ph.D. or Psy.D. degree in clinical psychology with concentration in criminal or forensic psychology.
  4. You would need to complete an internship to graduate with a Ph.D. degree.
  5. In order to become a fully licensed psychologist you would need to practice for 3,000 supervised hours.

Ph.D. vs. Psy.D.

In the post graduate option, criminal psychology students can choose between a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. A Ph.D. is based more around research projects whereas a Psy. D. program focuses more on clinical experience and is meant for students who wish to gain employment as practicing criminal psychologists.
Ideally, the degree level for a criminal psychologist should either be a master’s degree, a Ph.D. or a Psy. D. in criminal psychology, forensic psychology or clinical psychology. A state issued license is also mandatory and nearly 1 to 2 years of professional experience is considered sufficient.
Other things you might need to keep in mind when looking for a criminal psychology program are accreditation and internships. To be eligible for state licensure, make sure that your choice of higher education institute is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). And criminal psychology students are also required to complete an internship before they can obtain their license to practice.

What does a Criminal Psychologist do?

The main job of a criminal psychologist revolves around psychological profiling. They determine why people commit crimes and whether they are likely to re-offend in the future on not. Applied criminal psychology assists in understanding and improving the legal process and criminal justice system.  In addition to that, criminal psychologists are also often asked to present expert testimony in court.
These criminal profilers analyze and interpret crime scene evidence in order to provide authorities with descriptions and personality traits of unknown offenders. Drawing on their knowledge of human behavior and the things that affect it, criminal psychologists make educated guesses about the offender’s age, sex, physical appearance, occupation and personal habits. Such psychological profiling helps investigators narrow down their search.

How much do Criminal Psychologists make?

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics does not list a separate category for criminal psychologists. Instead, it has a broad category for psychologists with a job outlook of 12% (as fast as the average) and a median annual salary of $69,280.

criminal psychology salary

Where do Ciminial Psychologist work?

Criminal psychologists are typically employed by the following:

  • Private practice
  • Community Mental Health Centers
  • State Psychiatric Hospitals
  • Academic Centers
  • Forensic Facilities and Hospitals
  • Community Probation Offices
  • Correctional Facilities
  • Police Psychology Department
  • Social Services

Most of their work time is spent interviewing people, conducting assessments and performing case research. The nature of their work exposes them to people from different professional backgrounds including private lawyers, state attorneys, federal agents, police officers and the public defender’s office.

Criminal Psychologist Skills
Criminal psychologists are also required to possess certain skills and qualities to qualify for positions in this field. They must ideally have excellent analytical skills in order to conduct thorough research and patient assessment. Good verbal and communication skills are also necessary when dealing with different kinds of difficult patients.
An important requirement for criminal psychologists is their ability to cope with upsetting situations and gruesome crime scenes. Criminal psychology requires individuals to work closely with people who have committed horrendous crimes and analyze evidence that might be repulsive. For this purpose, these professionals are required to be very emotionally stable to help them maintain a professional objectivity.

Criminal Psychologist Job Description

A criminal psychologist’s work revolves around offenders and therapy in forensic settings. As part of this job, they will be required to perform the following tasks:

  • Carry out assessments to determine the risk of re-offending, suicide, self harm or other high-risk behavior
  • Diagnose, develop, implement and monitor the appropriate treatment for offenders and suggest rehabilitation programs
  • Carry out research projects to evaluate factors affecting different types of offenders, for instance, analyzing the impact of bullying in prisons
  • Undertake statistical analysis for psychological profiling
  • Training staff in areas such as stress management, hostage negotiation etc
  • Providing expert testimony in court

Although criminal psychologists enjoy a certain amount of spotlight in the courtroom, more often than not, their job duties are not as glamorous as portrayed by popular televisions dramas like Law and Order, Bones or Criminal Minds. In reality, a very small percentage of these professionals end up working as psychological profilers for the FBI or other crime investigation agencies. The concept of frequent hunches to solve a case, does not work out as perfectly in the real world settings as it does on television. Criminal psychologists in reality, are dependent on education, training and empirical evidence to draw up conclusions and solve cases.


Frequently Asked Question(s)

Q:What are a few criminal psychology courses?

A:Depending on the level of your degree, you will be exposed to courses involving psychological enquiry, social and developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, physiological psychology, forensic psychology, individual differences, psychology of violent behavior, victimology, juvenile delinquency, profiling offenders, psychology of evidence, applied forensic psychology, method in psychology, memory disorders, and psychology placement and so on.

Q:What can you do with a criminal psychology major?

A:With a degree in criminal psychology, you might work closely with police and federal agents to assist in the crime solving process. You will carry out tasks such as developing profiles of murderers, kidnappers, rapists and other such violent offenders. You could work for local, state or government agencies or you could also work as private consultants. Your work will be directly related to law enforcement and the courts in most circumstances.

Q:Where can I work with a criminal psychologist degree?

A:People who major in criminal psychology cam find employment in police stations, law firms, courthouses, prisons, juvenile centers and jails. In addition to that, self employment is also an option for these majors. This would involve working as a consultant, where they can choose to work on a particular case as a testifying witness.

Q:Can you tell me about criminal psychologist education requirements?

A:If you plan to become a criminal psychologist, you must earn a post-graduate degree in the field. After completing your high school diploma, you will need to complete a four year bachelor degree, a two year masters degree, and a doctoral degree. You can choose to specialize in areas such as forensic psychology. The exact requirements may vary a little from state to state.

Q:What is the coursework like of criminal psychology degree online?

A:An online criminal psychology degree will usually offer the same curriculum on-campus schools offer. You will be required to complete the coursework via tutorials, videos, online lectures, slideshows, classroom conferencing, and presentations. This mode of learning is flexible and convenient. Some schools may follow a hybrid program format, which means students will have to attend a few classes at the campus for hands on experience.

Q:What are the careers in criminal psychology?

A:Forensic psychologists can work in various settings that require the application of psychology in criminal and civil justice fields. These could include academic institutions, prison services, probation services, police services and social services. Your job description, especially in areas such as health and prison services, will include a lot of consultation services. You might be working around offenders, victims, criminal and civil justice staff members.

Q:What is a criminal psychologist?

A:Criminal psychology is the study of wills, thoughts, reactions and intentions of offenders. It determines why and how criminal minds operate and tries to establish strategies to deal with such individuals. A criminal psychologist forms and implements new treatment programs, modifies offender behavior via counseling, reduces stress for staff and prisoners, gives expert advice in court and analyses crime scenes.

Q:What are the careers as a criminal psychologist fbi?

A:There are various directions you could take with a criminal psychology degree, if you wish to join the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). You could become a pretrial investigator; individuals hired by the FBI to perform a set of tasks such as commenting on any signs of deception by criminals during investigative procedures and advising in matters such as jury selection. You could also become a crime scene consultant; individuals hired as a part of the Behavioral Science division of the FBI to gather physical clues from crime scenes and determine personality types of the offenders. Other careers could include researchers and criminal profilers. Researchers are in charge of behind the scenes aspects of the FBI Behavioral Science Unit. And criminal profilers review solved crimes, looking for any potential patterns to construct offender profiles.

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