Bachelors degree in criminal psychology

HomePsychologyBachelor’s degree in criminal psychology

What is criminal psychology?

Criminal psychologists work closely with law enforcement in custody cases by suspect profiling, diagnosing suspects on trial, and testifying as expert witnesses in court cases, making it an enriching career, unlike many others.

A bachelor’s degree in criminal psychology is available to anyone with a high school diploma or GED. This study program can lead to a career in psychology – usually within law enforcement or in another agency within the legal system. 

Criminal psychology careers require a master’s degree, and possibly a doctoral degree, depending on the type of roles you are seeking out. However, a bachelor’s degree can get you a job in the field, although not as a psychologist.

There are a number of study options available to someone who wants to pursue a degree in criminal psychology. The 2 most common options are to choose either a bachelor’s degree with concentrations in criminal justice, forensic psychology and criminology, or to pursue a degree in criminal justice. Either option would entail following the undergraduate program with a master’s degree in criminal psychology.

About the degree

If you are interested in pursuing a criminal psychology degree, the first step is to determine which degree and what coursework matches your career goals. A 4-year undergraduate program is a serious commitment. Make sure that the program is what you need, that you are eligible to apply, and that it will fit your schedule. 

puzzle Requirements

The requirements for a bachelor’s in criminal psychology depend on which type of program you choose. These are your options:

  • an undergraduate program in psychology with concentrations in criminal justice, forensic psychology or criminology and majoring in subjects related to criminal justice
  • a bachelor’s degree in criminal psychology 

It is worth noting that in order to obtain employment after graduating, you may be required to complete work experience in the field and obtain a state-issued license.

Standard bachelor’s degree requirements apply: 

  • High school diploma or GED, with academic transcripts
  • SAT or ACT scores

Previously acquired psychology credits or criminal justice credits can often be transferred when joining a new study program.

Degree flexibility

The courses included in a typical criminal psychology degree can be taken on a full-time or part-time basis, and the majority of the courses can be taken online. Asynchronous learning, where the teacher pre-records lessons and uploads study materials to an online platform, may be a possibility but on-location exams and mandatory internships should be expected.

The good thing about a bachelor’s degree in criminal psychology is that it doesn’t limit you in terms of further studies or work opportunities. You can opt for continuing your studies at a higher level in either criminal justice, psychology, education, or almost anything slightly related, as the bachelor’s degree in criminal psychology is a launching pad to future studies. 

A psychology degree, which is essentially a major component of what you’re gaining when pursuing a degree in criminal psychology, is both versatile and desired in the criminal and prosecution industries.

Paying for the degree

The cost of a 4-year bachelor’s degree in 2020 was $10,560 for in-state students, $27,020 for out-of-state students, and $37,650 for students attending private non-profit institutions.

For general information of financial support for students visit the Federal Student Aid website, where you can also complete the FAFSA form, which will assess your eligibility for financial aid.  More information should be available at the financial aid office of your selected school.

Coursework

When you set out to study criminal psychology, you can expect to take standard psychology courses as a part of the degree. A criminal psychology qualification is largely a degree in psychology, with the addition of criminology-related coursework. 

Forensic science

A must-have for future criminal psychologists is forensic science coursework. Here, you can expect to learn different investigative techniques such as report-writing, fingerprinting, appropriate crime scene procedures, and evidence examination routines.

Crime detection

Coursework in crime detection or crime investigation may involve crime scene processing, investigative techniques, techniques needed to conduct a formal investigation, interview techniques for suspects, victims, and witnesses.

Human behavior

In a basic human behavior course, you can learn the psychology behind why humans act the way that they do, and how certain factors —such as how we grow up, how we are treated, and genetic predispositions— can shape a person’s behavior, personality, and actions.

Criminology

Taking a criminology course is essential to understanding legal processes, the role of law enforcement, criminal behaviors and the specific patterns in these behaviors, the criminal justice system, and crime prevention. 

In addition, you can expect to complete an internship in a relevant field. Some degrees will require this of their students and even if your specific institution doesn’t, take the opportunity to gain some real-life work experience before graduating from your program.

Specializations

A specialization is usually not chosen at this stage in your education. Most criminal psychology programs aim to offer a broad base and introduction to the field so that you can look to specialize later while studying a master’s degree or a doctoral degree.

Accreditation

Look for a study program with APA accreditation. The APA Commission on Accreditation is recognized by both the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education, and while not mandatory for a psychology program – this is a good indicator of a quality psychology degree.

Career options

There’s more than one career path to go down in criminal psychology, although most respectable positions do require further studies, such as a relevant master’s degree. This is something worth keeping in mind while you study for your bachelor’s degree. Many criminal psychology students discover their calling while studying for their B.A.

Examples of career paths for someone with a criminal psychology degree —master’s degree or higher tends to be required— include:

A crime analyst works closely with law enforcement to enhance the general understanding of crime in a specific area, situation, or group. This is a research-based career where the crime analyst compares data to aid the police and other law enforcement agencies in their work.

Average salary is $47,201

As a forensic research psychologist, your job is to use research skills to gain a better understanding of a crime scene, a perpetrator, victim, and situation, by carefully analyzing evidence, data, and information.

Average salary is $72,372

In this branch of criminal psychology, you work directly with victims of domestic abuse, neglect, random acts of violence, sexual abuse, and more. The victim advocate works closely with the affected individuals by providing support, survival strategies, and guidance. 

Average hourly pay rate is $16.14

For someone interested in pursuing a career in the courtroom, the role of a jury consultant could be the right career path. A jury consultant is involved in selecting jurors for a specific trial, in taking notes, and making observations during a trial. They may also assist lawyers with witness preparation.

Average salary is $81,928

Assisting those who are released from prison as a probation officer is another career path for criminal psychologists. A bachelor’s degree in criminal psychology is not required to work as a probation officer, but having one opens up the door for advancing within your chosen field and potentially acquiring an influential position within this branch of law enforcement.

Average salary is $44,421

To further demonstrate how versatile this degree is – investigative journalism is another way to make use of your criminal psychology skills. A degree gives you the knowledge and understanding needed to successfully work as an investigative journalist or as a crime reporter.

Average salary is $63,358

Continuing education

For anyone serious about pursuing a career as a criminal psychologist, the next step is a master’s degree in criminal psychology. If you happen to change your mind and decide to study something else, you can apply to any master’s degree related to psychology.

With a degree like this, you’re making sure you have options, especially if you want to pursue something new instead of the career path you’ve originally chosen.

Should I get this degree?

For anyone serious about pursuing a career as a criminal psychologist, the next step is a master’s degree in criminal psychology. If you happen to change your mind and decide to study something else, you can apply to any master’s degree related to psychology.

With a degree like this, you’re making sure you have options, especially if you want to pursue something new instead of the career path you’ve originally chosen.

For further reading, inspiration, and information regarding a career as a criminal psychologist, please explore the links and resources provided below:

The American Board of Forensic Psychology

Curious about Board Certification in Forensic Psychology? General education requirements for a career in criminal psychology and more can be found here. The ABFP is the source to turn to as the board that’s currently responsible for everything related to the field.

Criminal Profiling: The Reality Behind the Myth

This is a 2004 APA-published article that provides the reader with a more accurate perception of a career in criminal profiling, compared to what’s presented in movies, TV shows, and general pop culture.

American Psychological Association (APA) 

APA is the world’s largest psychology association, known for representing psychology students and professional (and actively working) psychologists in the nation.