Cardiff School of Sport and Health Sciences>Courses>Forensic Psychology Masters - MSc

Forensic Psychology Masters - MSc

​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.

Working collaboratively with His Majesty's Prison and Probation Services (HMMPS) and secure forensic mental health facility providers in Wales helps keep the programme up to date with strategy development and policy decisions. Regular contributions from Practitioner Forensic Psychologists working in Wales enables students to understand more about regional services and their impact on society locally. In addition, the programme benefits from the input of several national and international contributors who share their extensive specialist knowledge and experience within the field of Forensic Psychology.

Course Content

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 master's 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
    This module aims to consolidate undergraduate research abilities and equip students with the skills necessary to undertake master's level research; in doing so students will be equipped with the skills to critically review and evaluate a range of research methodologies including both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. (Conducting research & implementing methodologies will be done in the Dissertation module.)
  • Applied Psychology Practice
    This module aims to introduce and develop skills that are relevant to Psychology in practice. Develop an understanding of the principles and approaches to effective communication. Develop an understanding of interprofessional working and ethical practice. Apply evidence-based knowledge to discipline specific areas of practice.
  • Foundation in Forensic Psychology
    The module aims to develop students' independent critical skills in relation to the selection, evaluation and communication of research findings and theory in Forensic Psychology and Criminology. The module aims are congruent with the BPS's scientist/practitioner model of professional Forensic Psychology practice.​
  • Psychological Assessment and Interventions
    This module aims to provide an understanding of how theory and research in psychology may be applied to assessments and interventions undertaken with people with offending histories as part of their rehabilitation pathways.
  • Legal Psychology
    This module aims to provide students with knowledge of the legal system in Wales and England and its interactions with forensic psychology. It aims to provide students with an understanding of how theory and research in psychology may be applied to legal issues and for students to critically assess the contribution and effectiveness psychology has made in the legal system.
  • Forensic Psychology and Professional Practice
    This module aims to provide students with general transferable skills (in e.g. report writing and ethical decision-making). To provide students with transferable skills that relate directly to the practice of forensic psychology, whilst also equipping students with the knowledge and understanding of how forensic psychologists work, both as individuals and within systems.
  • Project and Career Planning
    The aim of this module is to enable students to design and develop an advanced specialist project in their discipline to enhance their own and/or others' learning, work, or practice. Students will also evaluate their own knowledge, skills, and experiences as researchers and how this informs their developing professional identity as they move towards becoming a trainee forensic psychologist. They will use this reflective activity to evaluate their current strengths and prioritise areas for improvement relevant to their own career goals and ambitions.
  • Project
    The aim of this module is to enable students to work independently to investigate an area in their discipline relevant to their own learning, work, or practice, and to present and discuss their findings, demonstrating a systematic understanding and critical awareness of their discipline and area of professional practice.

Learning & Teaching

A well-balanced mix of theory and practice is delivered via a range of teaching methods across the programme, including:

  • Live learning activities on-campus – e.g., lectures, seminars, workshops/practical sessions, facilitated group work, etc.
  • Academic support activities – e.g., academic skills sessions, subject-based tutorials, assessment workshops, research supervision. These may be delivered on-campus or online depending on the requirements of the module and programme.
  • Asynchronous learning activities that students complete in their own time – e.g., pre-recorded video mini-lectures, flipped learning activities, preparation tasks for seminars, etc.

A typical 20-credit taught module will have approximately 40-45 hours of associated scheduled teaching activities, using a combination of the above approaches. Most of these scheduled learning activities will take place on-campus. Alongside these scheduled activities, you'll undertake your own independent learning – such as reading and research to prepare for seminars or assessments, unsupervised group work with fellow students, engaging with academic skills support, data collection for individual projects, etc.

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 Project workshops are the only part of the programme which is taught in a larger group (shared with MSc Health Psychology); all other modules are taught solely to MSc Forensic Psychology students​. 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.

We encourage you to meet with academic staff regularly throughout the programme to discuss feedback on assignments and the development of academic skills. You'll be allocated a Personal Tutor at the beginning of the programme, who you can work with to develop your academic skills and consider how you can integrate your learning experiences with your own professional development needs and aspirations.

The University requires students to attend at least 80% of the taught sessions for the programme.

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.


Our programme and modules are designed to offer opportunities for formative tasks and feedback to help build confidence and develop your ability to evaluate your own progress. We use authentic assessment tasks which enable you to apply your knowledge and skills to scenarios, activities and settings commonly encountered in professional practice.

The programme includes a range of assessment methods, including:

  • Presentations
  • Reports
  • Essays
  • Reflective reports
  • Academic posters
  • Research proposal and research paper

To reflect the applied nature of your studies, the programme contains no unseen written examinations.

We carefully plan our assessment schedule to avoid excessive bunching of similar types of assessment, and realistic deadlines. Every assessment includes a detailed briefing and clearly defined marking criteria, which have been developed and tested in partnership with students.

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.

Our module assessments directly relate to future employment or work-related tasks, or more generally to the advancement of the subject and profession, and your own aspirations. This will enable you to develop and demonstrate the application of your knowledge and skills to real-world professional situations.

Throughout the programme, you will engage in reflective self-evaluation of your knowledge, skills, and experiences, benchmarking these against relevant disciplinary standards/competency frameworks. We'll support you to evaluate your current strengths and prioritise areas for improvement relevant to your own career goals and ambitions.​

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.

​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-occurring 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.

English Language requirement
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 Procedure:
Selection is normally based on a completed application form and interview.

How to Apply:
Applications for this course should be made direct to the University via our self-service facility.

As part of your online application you will need to upload:

  • 1 x full Academic Reference (or professional if not applicable);
  • Your Final Degree Certificate, if you have already obtained it;
  • Confirmation of your graduate chartership with the British Psychological Society.

If an offer is made, applicant will need to undertake an enhanced DBS check as a part of the offer conditions. Further information on the DBS check requirements for this programme can be found at

For further information please visit our How to Apply pages at

Fees Information

Tuition Fees and Financial Support:
For up-to-date information on tuition fees and the financial support that may be available. Please refer to

Part-time fees:
Please see fee table on above link 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.

Contact Us

For general enquiries please contact the Admissions Team on 029 2041 6044 or email

For course specific enquiries, please email the Programme Director, Dr Leanne Watson:

We endeavour to deliver courses as described and will not normally make changes to courses, such as course title, content, delivery, and teaching provision. However, it may be necessary for the university to make changes in the course provision before or after enrolment. It reserves the right to make variations to content or delivery methods, including discontinuation or merging courses if such action is considered necessary. Please read our Terms and Conditions for the full information.

Key Course Information

Place of ​Study:
Llandaff Campus

Cardiff School of Sport & Health Sciences

Course Length:
Full-time: 12 months, with option to complete in 15 months.
Part-time: 2 years, with option to complete in 3 years.​

Teaching Days:
Thursdays and Fridays

Course Disclaimer
We endeavour to deliver courses as described and will not normally make changes to courses, such as course title, content, delivery, and teaching provision. However, it may be necessary for the university to make changes in the course provision before or after enrolment. It reserves the right to make variations to content or delivery methods, including discontinuation or merging courses if such action is considered necessary.

Please read our Terms and Conditions for the full information.