Criminal psychology, as well as forensic sciences, has taken a significant rise in recent years . This is why academic demand has also been increasing, especially in countries such as Spain, Mexico and Argentina. This is a sub-discipline that over time has provided us with very valuable information about the psychological motives that lead a person to commit an illicit act.

Perhaps the simple idea of studying Criminal Psychology is very attractive and makes many people decide to specialize. However, it is always useful to arrive at this type of training program knowing something about this branch of psychology .

Factors to take into account before studying Criminal Psychology

Whether you want to study for a master’s degree, a speciality or a diploma, here are five factors you should consider before starting your course.

1. Criminal Psychology or Forensic Psychology? The differences

The first thing to clear your mind before going on that course is the following: Do you want to study Criminal Psychology or Forensic Psychology? Contrary to what an immense majority thinks, both branches are not the same, although they have some similarity between them.

While Criminal Psychology is in charge of trying to understand the criminal, to unravel what psychological causes motivate him to perpetrate his acts, to carry out criminological profiles and to estimate how it is possible to intervene so that he does not return to crime; Forensic Psychology has as its main tasks to collect, analyze and present evidence of a psychological nature for the clarification of some judicial process; that is, psychological expertise.

If you are interested in learning more about the differences between Criminal Psychology and Forensic Psychology, you may find it helpful to review this article.

2. Why do I want to study this sub-discipline?

As with the preparation of a research paper, we must delimit the subject. It is essential to be completely clear about what you want to study in this branch of psychology , so that you can get the most out of the course and always be motivated to work.

Are you interested in taking part in the study of the phenomenon of criminality and its causes, or does it really call on you to clarify whether or not a person can be found guilty of a crime because they suffer from a mental disorder? If you answered “yes” to the second question, most likely you are into Forensic Psychology.

Of course, the above is only a vague example of the extensive work of both. But it is worth clarifying from the beginning what work you would like to do so that you know that what you are about to study will help you achieve it.

3. What requirements must I meet?

If up to this point you are more sure that Criminal Psychology is your thing, you may now be wondering what the requirements are that different universities ask for in order to study your master’s degree , speciality or diploma. It goes without saying that each university applies for different subjects and requirements, but unless you decide to do the bachelor’s degree with the full specialty (i.e., the bachelor’s degree in criminal psychology), generally universities only require that you have a previous bachelor’s degree in psychology (and if it’s clinical, better) in the case of masters and specialties.

In the case of graduates, in many cases they only ask that you carry out your work in a similar way; in this way, lawyers, penologists and criminologists can also study it.

3. What will be my competencies at the end of the course?

Some of the tasks you will be able to perform after specializing in Criminal Psychology are the following: to carry out opinions in criminal psychology, to work as a prison psychologist to help the social rehabilitation of offenders , to provide care and help prevent violence (for example in the community, school or work area), to intervene in psychological emergency situations and provide first aid to offenders and antisocial subjects in risk situations, to carry out criminological profiles in criminal investigation agencies, to assess violence and quantify it, and to develop psychological prevention methods, among others.

4. Is it like a TV series?

The most immediate answer to that question is a resounding NO . The series has not only been in charge of spreading a huge and false fantastic halo around criminal psychologists, who are seen as fortune-tellers who are perfectly capable of understanding everything a criminal thinks and will do just by seeing his “modus operandi”, but also has stigmatized the prison population in general by promoting the use of stereotypes in some types of criminals, making each offender look like a brutal and sadistic bloodthirsty being, when reality is very far from these concepts.

5. Is this course really for me?

Finally, this is the most important question of all: is this specialty/master/course really for you? Being a psychologist is a hard job and a very big responsibility, but it is even more so when it comes to getting inside the minds of criminals. To close this last point and also as a reflection, perhaps these questions will help you reaffirm if Criminal Psychology is your thing:

  • Are you willing to delve into the deepest recesses of the human mind to unravel why a subject one day decides to commit a crime?
  • Would you like to make a judgment in Criminal Psychology to determine what were the psychological factors that led to “X” being subject to committing a crime?
  • Do you see yourself living alongside different types of criminals during the workday and letting go of prejudices?
  • Will you study this career, not because of the morbidity of studying the anti-socials, but to help society and especially the criminals who want to be reintegrated into society?