Forensic psychology represents a highly specialized focus within the greater field of psychology. Forensic psychologists are trained to apply clinically-based psychological concepts and principles in a legal setting. Since the field of forensic psychology is still considered relatively young and growing, there are many exciting avenues for career growth to masters degree graduates.
In this post, learn about five courses every master of forensic psychology should take to give you the broadest possible range of post-graduate career opportunities.
Course 1: Behavioral Criminology.
Within the greater field of forensic psychology, a course in behavioral criminology offers essential skills for understanding how and why individuals behave in criminal ways.
The curriculum typically includes developing skills in crime scene analysis, criminal history-taking, criminal motives, criminal profiling and investigative techniques.
A course in behavioral criminology can prepare you for a career in law enforcement, criminology (profiling and prevention), university research and teaching.
Course 2: Crisis Intervention Skills.
As terrorist activity continues to increase, crisis intervention is no longer an optional skill set for professionals working at any level in the legal/law enforcement system. This course will span the gamut from tactics for intervening in personal crises (domestic violence, trauma, rape, suicidality) to intervention skills on a more public scale (public shootings, mass violence, jail/prison suicide attempts by defendants).
A course in crisis intervention can lead to a career in crisis negotiation, independent consulting and advising, counseling for offenders and/or victims and family members and research into special crisis issues such as violence or terrorism in an educational or workplace setting.
Course 3: Police Psychology.
This fascinating forensic psychology course covers issues specific to individuals who choose a career in law enforcement. Topics covered can include how police candidates are evaluated and selected, what special types of mental issues arise during field service, providing counseling and support as a clinical psychologist working with law enforcement professionals, police procedures and tactics, post-traumatic stress issues and policy duty evaluations.
A policy psychology course can help prepare you for a career working directly with law enforcement professionals in counseling, administration, training, stress management, psychological referral and case management for individual/family services.
Course 4: Psychopathology.
Psychopathology, or the study of how mental health and criminal behaviors interact, is a foundational field of study for aspiring forensic psychologists. In this course, you will learn about various mental disorders, their symptoms and treatments (as outlined in the Diagnostic Standards Manual-5), common mental issues seen in forensic cases (both on the criminal and law enforcement sides) and how such issues can give rise to criminal behavior.
Coursework in forensic psychopathology can pave the way to a career diagnosing (and possibly treating) individuals with mental issues and a history of violence or criminal behaviors and as an expert witness for jury trials.
Course 5: Theories of Criminal Behavior.
Understanding criminal behavior theories helps to define similarities between groups of individuals engaged in different types of criminal behaviors (sexual, violent, substance abuse, et al). This course looks at psychopathology, social, cultural, developmental, genetic and similar factors.
Completing a course in theories of criminal behavior can prepare you for a career in law enforcement profiling and consulting, research and treatment.
Selecting courses and electives in special forensic psychology issues opens up additional professional opportunities. Whether you want to work for yourself as a consultant or clinical forensic psychologist, as part of a team in crisis intervention, as a legal advisor or in many other areas, these courses can give you the right educational foundation to chart your own professional course as a forensic psychologist.