How to become a forensic psychologist

What is forensic psychology?

Forensic psychology is the application of the science and profession of psychology to questions and issues relating to law and the legal system. The word “forensic” comes from the Latin word 'forensis,' meaning 'of the forum,' where the law courts of ancient Rome were held. Today, forensic refers to the application of scientific principles and practices to the adversary process where especially knowledgeable scientists play a role (see American Board of Forensic Psychology: www.abfp.com).

The practice of forensic psychology includes, but is not limited to:

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Certification as a forensic psychologist

There is no specific international standard for certification as a forensic psychologist. However, a number of Anglo-Saxon countries have board certification for forensic psychologists. The British Psychological Society (BPS) offers the Diploma in Forensic Psychology (Chartered Forensic Psychologist) which consists of two stages (see: www.bps.org.uk):

In the USA and Canada, the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) provides certification as a Diplomate in Forensic Psychology. For this certification students must meet the following criteria (see: www.abp.org):

To our knowledge, there are at present no accredited academic programs in Forensic Psychology in Continental Europe. In The Netherlands, Maastricht University offers a 2-yr Master program in Forensic Psychology since September 2010. This new Master strives towards the integration of clinical and research skills throughout the program. During the first year, theoretical courses and practical skills trainings are offered in parallel. During the second year, both a clinical and a research internship prepare students for a career as a scientist-practitioner in the forensic field. The following aims are set for this 2-year Master program:

  1. To become a scientist-practitioner who is able to integrate scientific knowledge, skills and attitudes to conduct evidence-based practice in forensic assessment and forensic therapy.
  2. To establish a thorough academic understanding of the literature in the field of forensic psychology.
  3. To integrate knowledge from different fields of forensic psychology and other disciplines, such as law and ethics, to develop awareness and knowledge of multidisciplinarity in forensic work.
  4. To acquire the requisite knowledge and skills necessary for conducting independent academic research in forensic psychology.

In addition, Maastricht University has set the following objectives for her educational programs:

  1. To establish both an international curriculum and an international learning environment.
  2. To establish a close match with the labor market in forensic mental health services.

From the criteria used by the BPS and the ABPP it is clear that a combination of academic education and clinical training is needed to be able to work as a certified forensic psychologist. Taking this combination as a starting point, the master program in Forensic Psychology at Maastricht University cannot have a study load under 120 ECTS. With a study load of 120 ECTS, the program also meets the qualifications for the European Diploma in Psychology, which requires the successful completion of a nationally accredited academic curriculum in psychology, which has a duration equivalent to at least five years of full-time study. More information on this 2-yr Forensic Psychology Master program is available on the website: http://www.maastrichtuniversity.nl/fpn/masterforensicpsychology. This Master program is officially accredited by the Netherlands Flemish Accreditation Organization (NVAO).

Visit the Maastricht Univerity website and watch the video if you want to learn more about this internationally oriented Forensic Psychology Master's program: http://www.maastrichtuniversity.nl/web/Faculties/.../ForensicPsychology.htm