Forensic Psychology is the practice and application of psychological research relevant to crime, policing, the courts, the criminal and civil justice system, offenders, prison, secure settings, offender management, health and academic settings as well as private practice.
It looks at the role of environmental, psychosocial, and socio-cultural factors that may contribute to crime or its prevention. The primary aim of Forensic Psychology as an academic discipline is to develop understanding of the processes underlying criminal behaviour and for this improved understanding to impact on the effective management and rehabilitation of different groups of offenders in all settings within the criminal justice system.
The first aim of the programme is to provide students with a thorough and critical academic grounding in the evidence relating to environmental, cultural, cognitive and biological factors that may contribute to a wide variety of forms of offending. The programme will encourage students to consider the role and limitations of causal explanations for offending in the development of offender treatments, services and policy.
The second aim of the programme is to introduce students to the basic professional competencies for working in the many settings where forensic psychology is practiced, including skills related to inter-disciplinary working, risk assessment, ethics, continuing professional development, report writing and differences in practice when working with offenders, victims, the courts and the police.
The programme aims to produce Masters degree graduates with the ability to understand the limitations of the conceptual underpinnings of interventions and assessments used in forensic psychology and who are able therefore to engage in critical evaluation of the evidence base upon which their own practice will eventually be based. The programme will specifically avoid providing any formal supervised practice. Its aim is to produce reflective scientist-practitioners who will be ready to engage with the next stage of training (i.e. BPS Stage 2 or HCPC route) towards registration as a Forensic Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council.
Students will complete the following taught modules and will also be required to conduct an empirical supervised research dissertation with participants, preferably drawn from a forensic setting:
Research Methods and Design (30 credits)
The aim of this module is to extend student knowledge and experience of quantitative and qualitative research methods. Topics covered include: randomised control trials, ANOVA, ANCOVA, MANOVA, Power analysis, Regression, Non parametric methods, interviews, discourse analysis, grounded theory, reflective analysis and psychometric evaluation.
Forensic Mental Health (20 credits)
This module aims to provide students with a critical examination of the relationship between mental illness, personality disorder, learning disability and criminal behaviour. The module will encourage students to view the mental health needs of offenders in the broadest possible context and to appreciate the inter-disciplinary nature of services available to mentally disordered offenders, difficulties in accessing those services and problems for custodial adjustment presented by specific psychiatric diagnoses
Professional Practice and Offender Management (20 credits)
The focus of this module is the professional practice of forensic psychology. The module builds on the groundwork laid by earlier modules and covers professional skills and the types of interventions that a practicing forensic psychologist may engage in. The topics covered by this module include ethics, report writing, working with other agencies, and working with offenders and victims.
Psychological Assessments and Interventions (20 credits)
This module covers psychology as it may be applied to the reduction of re-offending by convicted criminals. The central focus of the module is the application of models of offender rehabilitation to inform current assessment and interventions practice. A range of topics will be covered demonstrating the broad application of psychology to offender rehabilitation in the Criminal Justice System. These topics include: (1) Offender assessment: risk, need and protective factors (2) interventions for a range of offending behaviours 3) factors affecting response to interventions.
Theories of Criminal Behaviour (10 credits)
The module aims to examine the contribution made by biological, psychodynamic, evolutionary, cognitive and socio-cultural perspectives to our understanding of the aetiology of criminal behaviour. It will explore psychological theories of a variety of offending behaviours such as: violence, aggression, domestic abuse, sex offending, vehicle crime, fire setting as well as gangs and gangs membership.
Legal Psychology (10 credits)
This module covers psychology as it may be applied to the law, and the central focus of the module is evidence. A range of topics will be covered, demonstrating the broad application of psychology within the legal system. These topics include the prison parole and hospital discharge processes, interviewing of suspects and witnesses, vulnerable victims (including human trafficking), offender profiling and the changing face of crime associated with the digital age.
Addiction and Psychological Vulnerabilities (10 credits)
This module informs students about different factors that may contribute to psychological vulnerability in offenders and victims. A variety of topics will be covered, including issues around the concept of addictive behaviours, vulnerability and the protection of vulnerable adults, including factors which may increase vulnerability to offending and victimisation.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does the MSc cost and is there any financial support?
Up to date fees and information regarding bursaries and loans is available on our Fees & Finance webpage.
When does the programme start and finish?
The MSc starts in September each year and runs for 12 months for full time students and 24 months for part time students.
How many days will I be on campus?
Full time students will be on campus two days per week and part time students will be on campus one day per week throughout term time and also for some additional workshops (outside of term time) which students are notified about during the Induction Week.
What counts as relevant experience in an applied forensic setting?
Relevant experience can range from paid or voluntary work with Youth Offending teams, or Victim Support, to charity work supporting offenders, through to people who are working as Assistant Psychologists within secure settings, or working with Prison/Probation services. You may gain experience in settings that are not directly supporting a forensic population, for example volunteering in a homeless charity organisation. In such cases your personal statement should reflect your understanding of the shared vulnerability factors and co-occuring behaviours between homelessness and offending.
Whilst no minimum time period is specified, it is important that the applicant is able to reflect on their experience and be able to write a strong personal statement in their application. This should include what contact the applicant has had with clients, what their role was in the organisation, how it might be useful in their studies and how it has helped them develop knowledge and skills in the area of Forensic Psychology.
I obtained a 2:2 in my undergraduate degree. Can I still apply for the MSc Forensic Psychology?
The minimum entry criteria to apply for the MSc is a 2:1 BSc degree (accredited by the British Psychological Society) and relevant forensic experience (see above). In exceptional circumstances, we will consider applicants with a 2:2 BPS undergraduate degree where there is evidence of extensive applied experience in a forensic setting and where the applicant can demonstrate that they can meet the academic demands of the programme.
My undergraduate degree is not accredited by the British Psychological Society. Would you still consider an application?
As the MSc is accredited by the British Psychological Society and represents Stage 1 of the training to becoming eligible for applying for registration as a Practitioner Psychologist (Forensic) with the Health and Care Profession, we require all applicants to have a BPS accredited undergraduate degree.
To be considered, the applicant must have completed a conversion qualification prior to application. Full details of available conversion courses can be found on the British Psychological Society's website.
What should be included in my personal statement?
When completing your personal statement, be mindful that what you submit is intended to enhance your application. If constructed poorly it may have a negative impact on your application as a whole. This is your opportunity to expand on qualifications and experience listed in your application form, as well as detailing why you would like to undertake a certain programme.
Information you may wish include
- Why you would like to undertake the programme
- Elements of the programme you are keen to study
- Academic achievements
- Extra-curricular achievements
- Relevant work / volunteer experience
- Relevant skills
- Future plans if your application is successful
There is no specific word limit however, as a guide, approximately 500 words should suffice.
Some programmes require a CV alongside a personal statement and this will be highlighted in the Supporting Documents upload section of the online application, for example, all postgraduate sport courses.
Even if not a requirement, a CV or other information can be uploaded to enhance an application, for example, to provide further information on employment history.
Learning & Teaching
Teaching on the MSc Forensic Psychology Programme is predominantly conducted in small groups and adopts an interactive approach. The Research Methods and Design module and the Dissertation workshops are the only part of the programme which is taught in a larger group of around 40 to 50 students as opposed to between 10 and 20 students on the core modules. As a result teaching involves a range of discussions, activities, evaluations of papers, case studies and role play exercises. The focus within the programme is on both content and key skills to develop specialists in the field of forensic psychology with flexible generic skills. These experiences also help to foster student development and confidence as independent life-long learners.
Student learning is promoted through a variety of learning and teaching methods. These include: lectures, workshops, online learning through the virtual learning environment, Moodle, as well as self directed learning. Each student will have an allocated personal tutor to support them through their period of study.
The University requires students to attend at least 80% of the taught sessions for the programme. From September 2019, all students will need to achieve a minimum of a 50% pass mark for each module.
The MSc is assessed by a range of different coursework assignments – e.g. presentations, reports, essays, reflective reports, academic posters, research proposal. There are no examinations.
Employability & Careers
A British Psychological Society (BPS) accredited MSc in Forensic Psychology is the first step (stage one) in gaining Chartered Psychologist status with the BPS and Registered Practitioner status with the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC). The MSc in Forensic Psychology will provide the knowledge base and applied research skills that will provide the foundation for engagement with the next stage of training (i.e. BPS Stage 2 or HCPC route) towards registration as a Forensic Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council. From September 2018, students who do not achieve a pass mark of at least 50% in each module will not be awarded an accredited degree but an alternative award.
Entry Requirements & How to Apply
A good honours degree (normally 2.1 or above) in Psychology, from a BPS (British Psychological Society) accredited undergraduate course.
In addition, applicants will be expected to demonstrate experience in a relevant area, for example, experience with victims, offenders or service providers in a forensic domain. Roles and responsibilities will need to be evidenced within the application, as well as detailing duration and hours per week undertaken.
In exceptional cases, applicants who have achieved a lower second class award in an accredited Psychology undergraduate degree but have extensive relevant work experience may be considered for admission to the Programme.
Students whose first language is not English will need to provide evidence of fluency to at least an IELTS 7.0 standard or equivalent. For full details about how to apply and English Language qualifications please visit the
International pages on the website.
Selection is normally based on a completed application form and interview.
Further information on the DBS check requirements for this programme can be found at
How to Apply:
Applications for this course should be made direct to the university via our self-service facility. For further information please visit our How to Apply pages at www.cardiffmet.ac.uk/howtoapply.
British Psychological Society
Place of Study:
Cardiff School of Health Sciences
One year full-time or two years part-time.
25% Alumni Discount:
The Cardiff Metropolitan University Alumni Discount is a
25 per cent reduction in tuition fees for Cardiff Met Alumni enrolling on taught postgraduate courses starting from September 2018.
See if you are eligible.
The university also offers a postgraduate scholarship scheme to help students whilst at university.
See if you are eligible.
Tuition Fees and Financial Support:
For up to date information on tuition fees and the financial support that may be available. Please refer to www.cardiffmet.ac.uk/fees.
Please see fee table for exact costings for this programme on a part time basis. For information on modules to be studied part time please contact the programme leader.
The university also offers a postgraduate scholarship scheme to help students whilst at university. To see if you are eligible, visit www.cardiffmet.ac.uk/scholarships.