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Clinical Psychology Degrees vs. Forensic Psychology Degrees

March 8, 2022

The field of forensic psychology is fascinating and rewarding as a career field as well as a field of study. Unfortunately, this field can pose some confusion, particularly where it intersects with clinical psychology.

Today, the Division of Behavioral Health and Social Sciences at Oklahoma Baptist University is taking a deeper look at these fields and what’s involved in getting both types of degrees. We will explore the forensic psychology specialization and look further into what it takes to get a forensic psychology degree in Oklahoma. We will also explore potential career options in the field and what the future might hold for graduates.

What Is Forensic Psychology?

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), this field is a specialization of clinical psychology that is “characterized by activities primarily intended to provide professional psychological expertise within the judicial and legal systems.”

Although that might be the technical definition of the field, the reality is much deeper and more nuanced.

Considering the many ways that psychology can interact with the criminal justice system, individuals engaged in this field of practice could choose to work as victim advocates, researchers, probation or parole officers, or profilers. Working with legal entities, forensic psychologists might evaluate potential jurors or perform evaluations to help in the development of criminal defense strategies.

In private practice, forensic psychologists might serve in a consultative capacity for law enforcement agencies, law firms or individuals.

Are Clinical Psychology & Forensic Psychology Degree the Same?

In essence, forensic psychology is considered a specialization of clinical psychology.

If you pursue a degree in general clinical psychology, you won’t be exposed to any significant elements of forensic specialization, other than a basic overview of the field. However, if you pursue an education in forensic psychology, you will get a solid background in clinical psychology and you will also delve more deeply into the forensic aspects of practice.

Benefits of Clinical Psychology vs. Forensic Psychology Degrees 

Both types of degree programs have myriad benefits. Which one has the most benefit for you will depend on what you plan to do with your degree.

If you want to go into the forensic aspects of the psychological field, you’ll need to pursue a degree in that area of study. If you aren’t certain which aspect of the field you would like to specialize in, you can start with a more general course of study and then choose an area of specialization at a later date.

What Do You Study in a Forensic Psychology Degree Program?

The basis of learning this field of practice begins with mastering the theories, concepts, ethics and practices of clinical psychology. To that body of knowledge, students must add an in-depth knowledge of legal theory and procedure.

In essence, forensic psychology students take a deep dive into the intersection of law and psychology.

Just as is the case with the psych field, the legal field is extremely deep and complex. For example, students may eventually need to choose whether they prefer to specialize in forensic psychology from a criminal or civil perspective.

At OBU, students getting a Bachelor of Arts in forensic psychology degree will study criminal justice, victimology, psychological testing and abnormal psychology – in addition to other subjects – as a part of their core curriculum. They must also select three courses from the following list.

Bear in mind that you will also have a variety of general education requirements as well as requirements for more general courses in behavioral and social sciences. Every college, university and educational institution has its own set of requirements, so be sure to thoroughly explore each one you consider. This will allow you to compare your options and make the best choice for you.

Getting a Psychology Degree at Oklahoma Baptist University

OBU offers several Oklahoma psychology degree programs, including a Bachelor of Arts in General Psychology, a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology Pre-Counseling, and the aforementioned forensic psychologist program. You also have options for psychology minors, either in general psychology or in advocacy.

We have an established history of excellence in the OBU psychology degree program, with many of our students achieving excellence in standardized testing as compared to other U.S. students. Our Behavioral and Social Sciences faculty are among the most well-respected in the industry. Our programs emphasize spiritual development and integration, allowing students to study in their field of choice through a Christian lens.

If you would like to learn more about getting a forensic psychology degree at Oklahoma Baptist University, or if you would like to schedule a visit to the OBU campus, contact us today.