Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada
Forensic Psychology

Applied Forensic Psychology


As a student of Applied Forensic Psychology, you will learn about psychological concepts, methods, and practice skills and their application within the legal system. Eyewitness testimony, jury selection, deception detection, criminal law, police stress, forensic risk assessment, criminal behaviour, types of offenders (e.g. sexual offenders, psychopaths, murderers) are all topics that Forensic Psychology sheds light on.

To cement your understanding of the academic material from the classroom, you will receive hands-on experience by participating in practicum placements in forensic settings (prisons, courts, addiction services, forensic hospitals, etc.). Placements vary in length and take place in different settings so that you’ll graduate having experienced working in a variety of settings where careers in Forensic Psychology are applicable. As a student in the program, you’ll need to complete practicum placements in years 2, 3, and 4 of study. Placements can be arranged in your home community, near Antigonish, or elsewhere. In addition your practicum placements, many of your Forensic Psychology courses will include field trips to relevant locations for practice including correctional centres and court rooms.

The program is ideal for students with an interest in careers in social, correctional, and legal fields. The following is an unexhaustive list of potential career paths for graduates in Forensic Psychology:

  • Crime Analyst
  • Social Worker
  • Law Enforcement Officer
  • Correctional Officer
  • Lawyer
  • Journalist
  • Interventionist
  • Victim Advocate
  • Psychologist
  • Counselor

There are many more options available to graduates of Applied Forensic Psychology. Some of the above careers will require additional education beyond a Bachelor’s degree.


Why take a degree in Applied Forensic Psychology?

As a student in the Applied Forensic Psychology program, you will join the active and vibrant Department of Psychology at StFX and during your time in the Psychology department, you’ll take a wide variety of Psychology courses that will survey all the major subfields of Psychology. The program requirements are designed to develop the analytical, writing, and research skills that will prepare you to analyze and tackle issues at the intersection of psychology and law. You’ll start by learning about  major concepts, theoretical perspectives, historical trends, and empirical findings in Psychology so as to be able to discuss how psychological principles and methods apply to behavioral problems. You will explore the interactions of the various forces (social, biological, cultural, and environmental) that contribute to psychopathology. That’ll be considered in no small manner alongside the systemic socio-legal context in which we all exist and navigate as well as how it affects vulnerable populations differently.

The program will also lead you through the development of practical skills in the field. You’ll learn about effective interventions and professional skills and development. You’ll have the opportunity to observe practitioners in Applied Forensic Psychology or related fields (e.g., social work) in their required practicum placement wherein you’ll see in practice how the underpinnings of effective intervention apply in clinical forensic contexts.

Once you graduate from the Applied Psychology program, you’ll have a lot of options. Graduates of the special concentration (this program’s predecessor), have gone on to graduate programs in Clinical, Counselling, Forensic and other areas of experimental Psychology or professional programs in Law or Social Work. Other graduates have found rewarding careers in Policing (RCMP, Border Services, crime analysts) and Corrections as well as a wide range of community-based organizations such as Children’s Aid, Victim Services, and the Canadian Mental Health Association.


Program Options

The Applied Forensic Psychology program can be completed as part of a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts degree. Students completing either degree will be subject to the same program requirements, but the degree requirements differ. In other words, your Applied Forensic Psychology requirements will not change, so whether you complete a B.A. or B.Sc. will depend on whether you prefer your other courses to be predominantly from the Faculty of Arts or the Faculty of Science. You will apply to the university directly to the B.Sc. or the B.A. in Applied Forensic Psychology. Their admissions requirement are different, so make sure to consult the academic calendar for more details.

Within the Applied Forensic Psychology program, you’ll also have the option of completing a Major or an Honours degree. Honours require students to meet a minimum average and will need to complete more courses as well as write an Honours thesis to meet all the program requirements. As a student, you do not need to decide whether you’ll pursue a Major or an Honours degree until your second year.


Sample Courses

As part of the Applied Forensic Psychology program, students will complete courses in Forensic Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Clinical Psychology, as well as electives from among a suite of courses in gender and sexuality, brain and behaviour, social psychology, psychopharmacology, and others. Here are some courses you might take (some are mandatory whereas others are not):

PSYC 110: Forensic Psychology

Forensic Psychology refers broadly to all matters at the interface of psychology and law. This

includes the production and application of psychological science and knowledge to legal issues.

Forensic Psychology includes both (A) the research endeavour that examines aspects of human

behaviour directly related to the legal process (e.g., eyewitness memory and testimony, jury

decision making) and (B) the professional practice of psychology within or in consultation with the legal system (e.g., correctional psychologists, forensic risk assessors, expert witnesses). In addition to exploring the history of Forensic Psychology and theories of crime, this course will examine key aspects of the five subspecialties of forensic psychology: Police Psychology (officer testing and selection, exposure to stress and trauma, use of force); Investigative Psychology (offender and geographic profiling, polygraph, interrogation techniques); Criminal Psychology (theories of crime, offender types, sex/gender/cultural issues with particular attention to the overrepresentation of Indigenous people and people of colour in the criminal and correctional justice systems); Correctional Psychology (history of prisons, sentencing principles, rehabilitation); and Legal Psychology (assessments of fitness and criminal responsibility, forensic risk evaluations, trial consultation).

PSYC 257: Professional Skills and Training practicum

This course will introduce Applied Forensic Psychology students to the professional

skills that are essential for success in practicum placements, work settings; undergraduate, graduate and professional studies. These skills include: effective communication (oral, written, listening); critical, analytical, and creative thinking; intercultural competency; inclusivity and diversity; problem solving and conflict resolution; leadership and teamwork; professional ethics and integrity; personal wellness; and career development. These skills are requisite for success in any field and should enhance a student’s success with their undergraduate studies, their candidacy for employment and training post-graduation, as well as their overall psychological health and wellbeing. Students will have the opportunity to practice these skills in a 20-hour practicum placement.

PSYC 368: Pharmacology of Drugs of Abuse

This course is an introduction to basic concepts of how drugs of abuse affect the brain and behaviour. We will cover various topics in the study of drug addiction, including pharmacological and pathophysiological effects of recreational drug use, mechanisms of action, tolerance, long-term effects, side effects, toxicity, and animal models of human drug addiction. The primary emphasis is on biological aspects of addiction, with only minor attention given to social aspects. The pharmacological properties of both legal and illegal addictive drugs (e.g., alcohol, psychostimulants, nicotine, opiates, marijuana) will be examined.

PSYC 378: Human Sexuality

This course provides a broad introduction to research and theory in human sexuality. It includes examination of fundamental topics such as the nature of human sexuality and contemporary issues. Specific topics include historical perspective, theories of sexuality, sex research, sexual anatomy, sexual variation, sexual response, gender, sexual dysfunction and sex therapy.

PSYC 381: Correctional Psychology

This 3-credit course covers the history and mandate of corrections; nature of offending behaviour; assessment, treatment, and rehabilitation of different types of offenders (youth, women, sexual, homicidal). Field trips to prisons and other correctional facilities are a required component of this course and involve a significant commitment of time beyond scheduled class time.



COORDINATOR: Margo C. Watt, PhD, R. Psych.

Dr. Watt is a Clinical Forensic Psychologist. She has conducted forensic risk assessments, comprehensive mental health assessments, and provided clinical direction for the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) for the past 20 years. Dr. Watt is a member of the IWK Youth Forensic Services research team. In her role as a Professor of Psychology at StFX, she teaches Abnormal, Clinical, and Forensic Psychology, conducts research, and supervises students. In her role as an Adjunct Professor at Dalhousie and Acadia Universities, she supervises graduate students. Her newest book entitled: Explorations in Forensic Psychology: Cases in Criminal and Abnormal Behaviour, was published by Nelson Education in February 2014.

OTHER CORE FACULTY: Kim MacLean, PhD, R. Psych., & Angela Weaver, PhD, R. Psych.


Annex 103

Telephone: 902-867-3926

Mailing Address

St. Francis Xavier University

P.O. Box 5000

Antigonish, NS

B2G 2W5

Courier Address

2323 Notre Dame Ave.

Antigonish, NS

B2G 2W5

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