What are the Different Types of Forensic Psychology Courses?

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  • Written By: Margo Upson
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 21 July 2019
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Forensic psychology is an exciting field combining psychological study with the criminal justice system. While studying to become forensic psychologists, students will be exposed to a wide array of classes. Different forensic psychology programs focus on different areas, such as law or treatment, but many of the classes are the same for almost all of them.

The first area of forensic psychology courses is psychology-based. These courses include abnormal behavior, developmental psychology, and social psychology. Victimology, or the study of the characteristics and behaviors of victims, is also studied. Human sexuality and personality are usually offered through most programs. Courses about drug use and treatment, counseling, and therapy techniques for working with criminals are also common.

The second type of forensic psychology courses are in criminal justice. These courses include law, crime scene investigation, and law enforcement techniques. A juvenile delinquency course is required for most programs. Students can expect to learn about probation and parole, the judicial process, and other subjects that will provide a legal groundwork for their work in the criminal justice field.

There are other forensic psychology courses common to most programs. These courses include psychology and law, law and ethics, and cultural studies. Various sociological courses, including drugs and society, are often required. Courses on research methods and statistics as applied to forensic psychology, or just psychology in general, are also generally required.


In addition to traditional lecture and lab courses, students will take at least one course that requires them to get some experience in forensic psychology. Field work courses are usually during the last few semesters of a student's degree program, and may require anywhere from 15 to 100 or more hours spent in the field. Students may spend the time in prisons, juvenile detention centers, community outreach programs, mental health centers, and, in some cases, working with area law enforcement agencies.

Forensic psychology courses cover many different topics. Students need to be prepared for a lot of different scenarios after they have received their degrees. There are hundreds of courses offered at hundreds of universities; students interested in forensic psychology should have very little trouble finding a program that fits their goals. For those who are not yet sure of which area of the field they wish to work in, forensic psychology courses can help students narrow down their career focus, and get ready for life after college, in an exciting and usually rewarding field.



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Post 3

@redstaR - Good questions. For those who don’t know, psychiatrists go to medical school for four years and receive all the standard physical medicine training required for any MD degree followed by residency in psychiatry. Clinical psychologists receive a Ph.D and focus exclusively on psychopathology, psychometric assessment and personality/emotional functioning, etc. Because it’s a Ph.D you’re going to be dealing with a lot of statistics and research work. In either case, if you’re set on dealing exclusively in forensics then you’ll probably undergo additional training such as a post doctorate. Most doctoral graduates undergo a post doc in something nowadays.

In regard to the difference between the jobs, it’s quite substantial. However, a psychiatrist is always going to the the

one focusing on anything medically related that may be affecting the patient’s mental state and will therefore be dealing with medications as well.

On the other hand, psychologists deal in the assessment of psychiatric illness using clinical interviews and standardized test to try to gauge a patients cognitive and emotional status. In the case of a crime, psychologists are often called to the stand to give their opinion on whether someone is exaggerating or faking psychiatric illness in order to get a lesser penalty. Psychiatrists on the other hand are not trained in this kind of assessment, so they don’t have as much authority in such a matter.

It’s complicated and there’s a lot of crossover but that's the best I can try to explain it. If you have any other questions let me know.

Post 2

This sounds like an interesting career and I’m interested to hear more about it. I like learning about the legal system as well as psychology so I’m kind of interested in seeing what options I have when it comes to pursuing this as a career. I have a few basic questions though that hopefully someone can help me out with.

1) What is the difference between forensic psychology and forensic psychiatry? I’m pretty sure I understand the difference between psychology and psychiatry but I’m not sure how much they differ in a more specialized field such as forensics.

2) If they are radically different, which is the best route to take? I know it depends on what I’m interested in mostly but I’m also concerned with having a good job outlook and salary and not being stuck doing something I don’t like.


Post 1

Although I was not attending college for a forensic psychology degree, I took two elective courses on this subject, both of which proved to be extremely interesting and rewarding in my understanding of day-to-day life.

I know it's cliche, but I found myself analyzing my roommates, my classmates, people on the bus...I even determined that my friend's boyfriend was showing kleptomaniac behaviors! (Whether I was actually right I'll never know, but I was convinced at the time...)

The two courses were "Social Psychology" and "Abnormal Behavior." Both of these courses offered unique, in-depth learning experiences that discussed the aspects of the psychology of personal interaction.

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