The Oxford dictionary defines the word ‘forensic’ as “Relating to or denoting the application of scientific methods and techniques to the investigation of crime.” As the name suggests, Forensic Psychology is a marriage of psychology with criminology or vice versa, and sometimes comes under the heading of Criminal Psychology. It is also linked with criminal justice and at times, with the rehabilitation of criminals. “A master’s degree in forensic psychology can open the door to a variety of professional opportunities that apply the art and science of psychology to the understanding and functioning of legal and related fields, including such areas as evaluating criminal minds and detecting criminal actions.” (www.thechicagoschool.edu).
Understanding the workings of the human mind helps not only in profiling criminals for police investigations, but also in evaluating mental fitness. Working with the police, a forensic psychologist may be required at a crime scene to use his/her understanding of deviant behaviour to help track a criminal. Any available knowledge of the criminal’s past enables the psychologist to work out future behaviour as well. Forensic psychologists can help the courts in child custody cases by determining whether a person is a risk to themselves or to others, or they can work as family counselors or as consultants.
A background in either criminal justice, forensics, criminology, or psychology with a focus on deviance, would be an added advantage to those wishing to pursue an M.A. or an MSc. in this field. The following information is merely an outline of what is on offer. There are many more courses of this type so further research is a must.
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology offers an M.A. in Forensic Psychology. “Students learn from experienced faculty through a practitioner-focused curriculum and obtain the skills needed to effectively use psychology in legal and public policy arenas in an ethical, academically informed, and research-based manner.” (www.thechicagoschool.edu).
An M.A. in Forensic Psychology is also offered by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Students have the option of following the regular route for earning this degree, or they may complete it via the Externship Track or through the Externship/Thesis Combination. It is advisable that you study the 3 options carefully before applying. The overall focus of this program is to provide students “with an advanced understanding of psychological development and psychopathology, personality assessment, psychotherapeutic techniques and research methods.” (www.jjay.cuny.edu).
The School of Psychology, University of Kent (U.K.) conducts an MSc. in Forensic Psychology which enables students to qualify as Chartered Forensic Psychologists, and has been certified as meeting the criteria for preparation for doing PhD research. (www.kent.ac.uk)
Middlesex University also offers an MSc. in Forensic Psychology, accredited by the British Psychological Society, using interactive methods as a means of instruction, with a strong focus on research. “With a strong grounding in ethics, human rights, professional practice and research, our training will aid subsequent professional practice.” (www.mdx.ac.uk)