Criminal Psychology Degree
A criminal psychology degree teaches professionals on how to gain insight into the minds of criminals. Criminal psychologists are also known as forensic psychologists in some regions. They are typically employed as witnesses in court by judges and lawyers to explain psychological arguments or evidence.
A criminal psychologist can specialize in one of three areas:
- Civil court
- Criminal court
- Family court
Civil court criminal psychologists assess mental competency and counsel victims. Criminal court criminal psychologists also assess mental competency. They may work with witnesses who are children. Often they provide evaluations of offenders as a part of their duties. Family court criminal psychologists evaluate child custody situations and provide their opinion. They may investigate claims of child abuse or domestic abuse. All specializations of criminal psychologists may be called to testify as second opinions to rebut or support other witnesses.
A criminal psychology degree typically must be a master’s level or doctorate for most court positions and to testify as independent consultants. For criminal psychologists looking to work independently as consultants, a doctorate and work experience will be needed, especially for high-profile cases.
Prospective students should look for programs which have accreditation from the American Psychological Association (APA). APA accreditation covers programs which have doctoral programs and those which offer doctoral level internships.
Coursework can vary among programs, but common subjects include:
- Abnormal psychology
- Counseling psychology
- Criminal psychology
After graduation, a criminal psychologist must apply for a license in order to practice. Although a criminal psychologist may not perform duties related to the license as often as a clinical or counseling psychologist, it’s important to be able to do so. Also criminal psychologists who intend to testify in court need to have high educational and professional standards to maintain their credibility. State licensing requirements vary but typically consist of an examination and experience. Continuing education was required for license renewal.
As of May 2008, the average salary for psychologists was $64,140. Because of the considerable variation in criminal psychology jobs, annual salaries had a wide range. Upper tier consultants typically had the highest salaries as expert witnesses and could have annual salaries ranging from $100,000 to as much as $250,000. However, these consultants typically worked only a few handful of cases.
For government criminal psychologists, the annual salaries averaged roughly $63,710.
Criminal psychologists typically enjoyed average benefit packages with standard benefits such as days off, health insurance, and vacation pay. Government criminal psychologists had retirement benefits. For self-employed criminal psychologists, their benefits packages typically revolved around the success of their practice.