The most basic distinction to make about your forensic psychology degree is what degree level you are ready to pursue. There are three general degree options to pursue: bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral level, depending upon your current educational level and your career goals. In this article we will look at the differences between the three degree levels and what they could mean for your forensic psychology career.
Differences in Forensic Psychology Training Programs
Each of the levels of forensic psychology degree programs are different on a number of measures. The first is in how the training programs are designed. If you are looking to earn a Forensic Psychology Bachelor’s you will complete all of the required coursework for the college or university in areas such as math, social sciences, history, science and literature. In addition, you will take specialized coursework in psychology and forensic psychology. These programs take an average of 4-6 years to complete, depending upon whether you attend full or part time.
For those people who are seeking a Forensic Psychology Master’s Degree, the average length of time to earn this degree is 2 years full time and 2-5 years part time. Unlike a bachelor’s forensic psychology program, this kind of program will have focused coursework that includes various topics in both general psychology and forensic psychology. Most schools require that students complete a culmination project such as a master’s thesis or literature review.
Earning a Forensic Psychology Doctoral degree takes a little longer, on average seven years. These rigorous programs include a range of coursework on psychological, research, clinical and forensics topics. In addition, doctoral candidates must conduct research, complete a doctoral dissertation, engage in internships and some will work clinically as part of their program requirements.
Differences in Forensic Psychology Degree Goals
When looking at the career goals that align with each of the degree levels, we immediately see that forensic psychology degree programs are carefully designed with specific goals in mind. Most forensic psychology bachelor’s programs are designed to provide the fundaments of the field of psychology, with some focus on forensics. Most people pursue this degree with the intention of moving on to graduate training in this area upon graduation. Therefore, most bachelor’s level programs are designed to offer students the basics of the field.
Contrastingly, most master’s degree programs are designed with the career in mind. Some who earn a master’s in forensic psychology will pursue a doctoral degree, however most will start their careers immediately upon graduation. So, most master’s level programs are created to offer students the specific skillset they will need to begin a career in forensic psychology.
Doctoral programs in forensic psychology are the most robust, training doctoral candidates to fill the highest-level positions in the field. Doctoral programs are designed to train researchers, scholars, academics and forensic psychology professionals.
Differences in Forensic Psychology Careers
Another notable difference in the three degree levels is what kind of forensic psychology career you can pursue when you complete your training. A forensic psychology bachelor’s degree offers graduates the opportunity to work in supportive roles, such as a court liaison or victim advocate. A forensic psychology master’s degree offers up more opportunities at a higher level, preparing graduates for careers such as inmate counselor, trial consultant or victim counselor. Those who earn the top-level degree of a doctoral degree in forensic psychology often fill roles as forensic psychologists or expert witnesses for the court system.
While the fundamentals of forensic psychology degree programs are similar, the specifics of earning each degree is quite different. With different goals and career paths, each is designed to cater to the needs of the student. Whether you are considering entering one of these degree paths or you are already on your way, it is valuable to understand the goals of each program.