Reasons to earn your forensic psychology degree in Wisconsin
Forensic psychology is a fascinating career path for individuals with a strong work ethic, curious mind, and resilient nature. It involves working with an underserved section of the population, with the potential to play an active role in bringing about positive change in Wisconsin and the wider population. It’s a demanding role that requires extensive studies to get to the top of the career ladder.
Working as a forensic psychologist, you use your analytical and human behavior expertise to assist the criminal justice system. You’ll conduct assessments and create criminal profiles of people who are accused of crimes, to see if they’re eligible to stand trial and determine their level of culpability.
Forensic psychologists in Wisconsin don’t just work directly within the legal system; they also conduct research, go into teaching, work with victim’s families or junior offenders, act as an independent specialist or set up a private detective agency, among other career paths. Read on to find out how to get into forensic psychology in Wisconsin and learn more about what’s involved in the process of obtaining the qualification.
Why study and work in Wisconsin as a forensic psychologist?
Wisconsin isn’t necessarily the most lucrative area in the U.S. to work as a forensic psychologist because it has a small population and relatively low crime rate, but you can start your journey towards getting qualified there. That said, if you decide to specialize in an area that’s in high demand in the local area, you can make a good salary with healthy long-term career and salary prospects.
For example, high profile criminal cases such as that of serial killer Jeffery Dahmer and the Slender Man murders. Forensic psychologists played a key role in these criminal investigations, and helped to analyze the mental health issues that were at play with the defendants.
Recent downsizing of state psychiatric hospitals has led to an uptick in the number of inmates in local prisons who are mentally ill. An advanced forensic science degree would qualify you to work closely with these individuals, helping to assess and rehabilitate them. Individuals who pursue a career that leads them to provide forensic evaluations under the Sexually Violent Person Commitments law have the highest earning potential for forensic psychologists in Wisconsin.
What’s more, the median salary for a forensic psychologist is $59,150 per year, which is well above the national and state average. Even at entry level, you can earn $41,300, going up to $87,990 once you’re experienced. Metropolitan areas such as Milwaukee, Waukesha, Madison and West Allis are the best cities in Wisconsin to work in for this job.
The job outlook for graduates in Wisconsin
While it’s possible to develop a career in forensics in Wisconsin, your job might grow faster if you seek employment opportunities in areas with larger, denser populations and higher crime rates, particularly where violent sexual crimes are involved. That said, the Bureau for Labor Statistics projects that the role is set to grow by 14% between 2019 and 2019, which is significantly faster than the average rate of growth, at 4%.
Although the salary for forensics professionals in Wisconsin is higher than the generic average U.S. wage, it’s lower than the median salary for psychologists across the nation. Still, it could be argued that this is balanced out by the low cost of living in Wisconsin.
Career paths for forensic psychology graduates
To get to the highest positions within the field of forensics, you’ll need to earn a bachelor’s and graduate degree, with most clinical settings requiring doctoral level. Still, even with a B.A. in forensic psychology, you can get into a career with an above average salary, job security and plenty of opportunities for career growth.
Most of all, a career in this industry is endlessly rewarding for resilient, accomplished individuals. There are three main sectors you’ll work in once you obtain your forensics qualification; law enforcement, teaching, and research and work within a clinical setting.
One of the most rewarding and exciting job opportunities for forensic psychologists is law enforcement. Federal law enforcement agencies, state police departments, and county offices require individuals who are qualified in these fields. You’ll use your understanding of the human psyche to narrow down suspect pools and profile criminals.
Teaching and research
By teaching the trends of crime, we learn more about the patens backgrounds of people who commit crimes, which helps to make society a safer place. Teachers of this subject require a doctorate level education, with the option to work in schools or set up seminars and workshops to coach law enforcement agents.
Forensic social work
Forensic social workers are highly specialized professionals who have an in–depth understanding of the criminal justice system and the human psyche. They usually work directly with correctional facilities, forensic mental health hospitals, victim assistance programs, and the juvenile justice system.
When you work in a clinical setting, instead of helping law enforcement track down criminals — you provide support and guidance to criminals with mental health problems. For this role, you’ll need at least a master’s degree, but a doctoral is often preferred.
Careers for forensic psychology degree holders
Some of the most popular jobs forensic psychology graduates can get into include:
- Criminal psychology: Criminal psychologists use their extensive knowledge of the human mind and criminal justice system to aid the investigative process. The majority of their focus is to understand why offenders offend and researching stressors, motivators, and relationships that surround criminal behavior. For instance, a criminal psychologist might try to determine how a murderer’s childhood and social environment contributed to the decisions they make as an adult. Clinical criminal psychologists are often asked to interview suspects and give their expert analysis in view of solving a crime. Experimental criminal psychologists conduct essential research to aid criminal investigations and demonstrate points, such as eyewitness credibility and false memory. Actuarial criminal psychologists use an in-depth knowledge of statistics to inform criminal investigations, and advisory criminal psychologists advise law enforcement agents, helping them move forward with complex investigations.
- Corrections: Psychologists in correction work closely with prison inmates to ensure they don’t commit suicide or display self-harming behavior. They can also provide counseling to ex-offenders to help them move forward with their lives and ensure they have the necessary coping mechanisms and support to prevent them from going back into jail. Working in the prison system is a high-pressure job, but it can be incredibly rewarding and is indispensable for society to function and move forward.
- Civil law: While a forensic psychology degree is most closely related to the criminal justice system, you can also use it to work in the civil court system. In this field, you’ll conduct assessments on plaintiffs who are seeking damages for emotional distress or mental health issues.
- Expert witness: There are several fields of work that might lead a forensic psychologist to become an expert witness, including social work and criminal psychology. They might take on the role of a witness or be summoned by the courts to do so, and their work is essential to many criminal investigations. In some cases, they act as witnesses — otherwise they can be appointed by the court, the defense or the prosecution to sort through conflicting claims or offer a supporting opinion.
- Family law: In some cases, forensic psychologists help resolve issues such as visitation and custody in family disputes.
- Juvenile justice: Many of the children who find themselves caught up in the criminal justice system also have a diagnosable psychiatric condition. Forensic psychologists work with young offenders to determine the level of risk they are the community and provide rehabilitation. They also organize interventions to reduce the risk of youth offenders entering the criminal justice system again.
- Military PTSD assessment: An alarmingly large number of veterans and active service personnel struggle with mental health problems as a result of the atrocities and violence they’re exposed to on a regular basis. In this role, a forensic psychologist assesses individuals who are suspected of suffering from PTSD to determine criminal responsibility or competency for trial.
- Criminology: A criminologist studies crime as a social perspective, and aims to delve into the causes of criminal behavior in view of making society a safer place. Deviance and crime are often studied within the context of a wide range of other social issues. Poverty, gender, racism and education all play a role in crime, and in this job, you conduct research and theorize about society’s role in criminal behavior and how to prevent it.
What to expect during a forensic psychology program in a Wisconsin school
There are several routes you can take to become a forensic psychologist. At bachelor’s degree level, you can study forensic psychology, psychology with an emphasis on forensics, applied psychology with an emphasis on forensics, or criminology with an emphasis on forensics.
Once you’ve achieved this type of qualification, you can move into a master’s or doctorate degree, with more specialized courses within the forensic psychology umbrella. After achieving a graduate degree, you must complete 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience, pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology, submit your application to Wisconsin’s License to Practice Psychology boards and pass the Wisconsin ethics exam and oral interview.
What does a forensic psychology degree course look like?
Choosing the type of qualification you’re going to earn is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in your life. Most people in the best careers in forensic psychology are educated to at least master’s level, with many having a doctorate.
Even if you’re currently researching a bachelor’s level education, it can be incredibly helpful to have a vision of what you’re going to do after so you can choose the best subjects and courses to reach the career of your dreams.
The majority of forensic psychology degree programs are broken down into eight semesters, with the first four providing mainly prerequisite courses to ensure you have the basic skills necessary to progress. In the final four terms, you’ll focus on your specializations and get stuck into your major. Some of the subjects you might study at this stage include, abnormal psychology, neuroscience, criminal law, and psychology and law.
Getting a master’s degree in forensic psychology or a related field is the best way to boost your job prospects and earning potential within your chosen field. While it’s possible to get into the job market with a B.A. alone, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to find work a fully-fledged forensic psychologist.
Master’s degrees usually include between 30 and 60 credit hours, including a mixture of coursework, empirical thesis, and supervised research or internships. At this level, some of the specializations you’re likely to study include:
- Mental health law
- Research methods
- Cognitive psychology
- Substance abuse
- Psychological assessment
- Abnormal behavior
- Criminal behavior
The most highly-regarded qualification you can get in forensic psychology in Wisconsin is a doctorate or Ph.D., which is essential if you want to earn the highest possible salary within the field. These programs teach you how to apply the analytical techniques you’ve learned in criminal trials and investigations. A Ph.D. makes you incredibly employable in the field of forensics, even in a high-competition area such as Wisconsin.
You’ll learn how to help criminal investigations at every level, from identifying suspects to the outcome of the trial. For instance, the justice system often requires forensics specialists to go to court and take the stand as an expert witness. A doctorate gives you all of the training and information necessary to be confident under the pressure of a criminal court case.
How long does it take to get qualified?
In general, a bachelor’s degree takes around four years to complete, and a graduate degree takes between one and two years. However, if you opt to study online, you have more flexibility when it comes to completing your degree around your existing responsibilities.
Online forensic psychology programs available in Wisconsin
In recent years, online degrees have continued to grow in popularity as the public realizes that gaining a qualification isn’t just something they can do as young adults. The workforce is changing and growing faster than ever, and online degrees help people to get closer to their dream careers while still holding down a job and commitments at home.
It’s possible to earn a degree in forensic psychology remotely, and the majority of local colleges deliver courses online and in-person. If you’re ready to start working towards a job supporting the criminal justice system, you don’t have to give up your job to physically go back to school. Instead, you can pursue an education in your own time and learn while you earn.
Online psychology degree courses
In Wisconsin, there are more opportunities to study online at graduate level than bachelor’s for budding forensic psychologists. This is because it’s more common for people to study a more generalized course in psychology at B.A. level and then specialize once they get to master’s or doctorate level.
Online bachelor’s degree courses
Introduction to psychology
In this foundational course, you’ll learn the basics of human behavior and mental processes. Before getting into more advanced fields of study and analysis, you’ll need to learn the basics covered in this course and learn how to read and evaluate research.
If you don’t manage to find a college that offers forensic psychology as a B.A. in its own right, there’s a strong chance you’ll be able to study it as a module of your psychology bachelor’s.
You’ll learn how to view crime from the perspective of a psychologist and gain an understanding of how someone’s environment can affect criminal behavior. Additionally, you’ll gain insight into how a person’s mental health and history can lead to antisocial behavior.
Social psychology teaches learners about how society and social pressure can influence people’s actions, feelings and thoughts. You’ll study topics such as, violence, interpersonal attraction, prejudice, and conformity.
The American legal tradition
Forensics professionals often work directly with the criminal justice system, and having an in-depth knowledge of how it works is a major advantage. You’ll gain insight into how courts operate and gain knowledge in legal writing and analysis, legal education, the politics of judicial selection, and the legal profession in general.
Sociology of deviant behavior
Understanding deviant behavior, which is abnormal but not criminal, helps to provide students with a well-rounded understanding of human behavior. By studying sexual deviance, substance abuse, mental illness, and suicidality, you’ll be better able to identify characteristics that could influence criminal behavior or affect the families of criminals.
Online master’s forensic psychology degree courses
When you study at master’s degree level, you can expect to hone into forensic science in detail. It can be a stepping stone along your journey to a doctoral degree or a route straight into the field of forensics. You won’t be able to get a license with a master’s, but you can gain credits for a doctorate along the way.
The topics you study at this level are highly specialized, and you tend to have more choice when it comes to which modules you study. Course build upon the knowledge you’ve previously gained and help you learn how to apply the principles to the criminal justice system.
Intersection of crime, psychology and law
This module helps learners tie together the intricate fields of law, crime and psychology so they have deeper understanding of how they apply in a practical setting. Some of the topics you’ll explore on this type of course are: psychology in criminal court systems, correctional psychology, police psychology, and criminal profiling.
Criminal investigative analysis and profiling
Criminal behavior analysis and profiling are essential skills for many forensic psychologists, and this course will help you apply the theory you’ve learned by taking on the role of a profiler or criminal analyst. Learners gain an understanding of how to organize case files and evidence, how best to convey conclusions in written reports, and the logic and reasoning used in criminal reports.
Victimology is partially about a victim in relation to an offender, and partially about how criminal institutions perceive victims based on gender, race, class and sexual orientation. In the past, prejudice could taint the outcome of criminal investigations, so it’s essential that anyone working within the criminal and legal system learns how important impartiality and unconscious bias are.
Understanding forensic psychology research
Interpreting research is an essential component of a forensic scientist’s job, and this module teaches you everything you need to know about statistics, including best practices for reviewing research findings and ensuring validity and reliability.
Psychological aspects of violent crime
When it comes to violent crime, offenders usually display behavior during early life and adolescence that could signal criminal intent later in life. There are a complex mixture of factors that contribute to seriously antisocial behavior, and this module gives you the knowledge necessary to understand what drives criminal outcomes like domestic homicide, school shootings, mass killing, and serial killing.
By learning how to psychologically profile criminals, you’re prepared to work with law enforcement and youth services, where you’ll need the skills to detect warning signs and subtle hints of abnormal psychology.
Which Wisconsin schools offer online psychology degrees?
In the last decade, educational institutions have flocked to include online degrees as part of their syllabus and ensure their distance learning courses meet the same high standards as online courses. Most colleges in Wisconsin that offer in-person courses in forensic psychology and related fields also offer online degrees.
What’s the difference between an online and offline forensic psychology degree?
The main difference between online and offline degrees is the commitment to spending a full week attending lectures. You have the freedom to study in your own time, which means you can work whilst you learn. It’s not just individuals who don’t have time for class though; some people simply prefer a more independent style of learning. What’s more, you can save money on transport and food by staying home to attend school.
Top forensics programs in Wisconsin
Choosing a forensic psychology program in Wisconsin isn’t too challenging, as there are only four schools that offer this type of course.
However, there are plenty of online universities that offer forensic psychology degrees nearby and across the nation. You usually pay a little less to study in-state, but you’ve got a broad range of opportunities if you want to stay in Wisconsin but get a degree from a different state.
The best colleges in Wisconsin for forensics studies
Studying forensic science in Wisconsin is possible, but there aren’t many schools that offer it as a specific course. Some people might prefer to focus on psychology as a broad topic at undergraduate level and move into their chosen specialization at graduate level. The following four schools offer qualifications in forensic psychology:
Located in Milwaukee, Marquette University is a Catholic college that delivers the widest range of subjects within the field of psychology in Wisconsin, including criminology. It’s one of the most expensive universities in the local area, but it has decent overall ratings and graduation rates. You can apply to start a course online.
University of Wisconsin Stout
The University of Wisconsin Stout is a public college with a small, close-knit community of students and teachers. It’s one of the most affordable schools in Wisconsin and it offers nine psychology programs at bachelor’s and degree level. Bachelor’s courses include criminology and vocational rehabilitation counseling. Find out how to apply online.
Lakeland College is a small, mid-priced college in Plymouth that offers five degree programs in psychology. At B.A. level, you can choose criminology as a minor or minor, while at master’s level, you can choose from counselor education and guidance services, college student counseling and personnel services, and mental health counseling. Apply online here.
University of Wisconsin Whitewater
While the University of Wisconsin is one of the cheapest options for studying psychology in the state, it only has four degree programs in the field. Bachelor’s degrees in criminology and general psychology are available, and you can find out how to apply here.
Walden State University
Walden State University is a large, private school that’s located nearby to Wisconsin in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It’s the most affordable university on our list and it offers nine psychology degrees at bachelor’s and master’s level. It’s also the only school that provides undergraduates with the opportunity to study a course that’s mainly focused on forensic psychology. You can apply to study at this college online.
No matter which university you choose, or whether you decide to stay in Wisconsin or attend an out-of-state school, a forensic psychology degree can set you up for a meaningful, rewarding career in the heart of the justice system. You can opt for a bachelor’s degree in psychology and specialize in forensics at graduate level, which is easier in-person in Wisconsin, or attend a university further away that offers a specialization in forensic psychology at undergraduate level.