How to Become a Criminal Psychologist

Graduates of an accredited psychology degree program can become criminal psychologists. Criminal psychologists study the behaviors of criminals. This field is related to forensic psychology in many ways, and in some cases the two terms are used interchangeably. A primary part of a criminal psychologist’s job is to study why people commit crimes. They will also oftentimes help law enforcement in solving crimes and may even provide expert testimony in court.

What degree is required to become a criminal psychologist?

Many who are pursuing a career in criminal psychology will initially earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Once they have fulfilled these degree requirements, many will then go on to complete their master’s degree in psychology. Some criminal psychologist jobs are open to those who have fulfilled these degree requirements. However, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook criminal psychologist job openings are more plentiful for those who have earned a doctorate degree in psychology. The Ph.D., or Doctor of Philosophy degree, is generally more focused on theory and research, while the Psy.D., or Doctor of Psychology, tends to be more practice-oriented.

As there is no specific criminal psychology degree, those who are pursuing this career field should consider doing post-doctoral fellowship training in criminal or forensic psychology. Earning a certification in this type of psychology can mean the obtaining of a certificate in criminal psychology or earning a post-doctoral certification from the American Board of Professional Psychology.

How long does it take to become a criminal psychologist?

Completing a doctoral degree in psychology can typically take, on average, between four and seven years. There could also be a time factor involved if the student is required to complete a dissertation. In addition, a period of time that must be spent fulfilling clinical and/or internship requirements is also highly likely. One of the biggest factors in how long one’s psychology degree takes to complete has to do with whether the individual fulfills their course work on a part-time or a full-time basis. In addition to on-campus learning, there are many online psychology programs that can help in fulfilling a student’s degree requirements. These programs could help an individual to obtain their degree in psychology faster, as the time allotted for course work and study may be more flexible. The time that it takes to become a criminal psychologist may also depend upon the individual’s licensing requirements.

What is a criminal psychologist’s salary?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for psychologists overall as of May 2010 was $68,000. The typical salaries for criminal psychologists can vary and is dependent upon where they work as well as the amount of experience that they have. Therefore, the average salary for criminal psychologists can range from a low of $33,900 to a high of more than $100,000 per year.