Studying Forensic Psychology in Germany

Before you read the article below, we recommend you take a look at our post "Looking for a graduate program in forensic psychology?".

If you are interested in studying forensic psychology in Germany, either as a graduate or post-graduate student, this resource will be perfect for you! This article was written by Berenike Waubert de Puiseau. Berenike is a member of the Max Plank Institute for Research on Collective Goods and PhD student at the University of Düsseldorf (Germany). This article was last updated in February 2014.

Psychology and Law in Germany

Regarding inhabitants, Germany is the largest country in the European Union with a population of about 80.000.000. It not only is known for bratwurst, beer, and Castle Neuschwanstein, but also for its educational system and the large number of universities across the entire country. Germany’s oldest university is the Ruprecht-Karls-University in Heidelberg, which was founded as early as 1386. Today, many universities (or at least parts of them) reside in the old castles, including the universities of Bonn, Münster, and Mannheim.

Most of these universities are public and there are no study fees fpr the regular study programs. In some of the 16 states, however, students pay a fix amount of money per semester (usually 500€). In addition to research at universities, there are numerous research institutes including those organized in the renowned Max Planck and Helmholtz Societies.

Many universities offer classes in English and most Germans understand and even speak at least some English. In other words, knowledge of the German language is not essential for studying abroad in Germany. However, interested students should first check whether classes of interest are in fact offered in English.  

Generally, empirical research in the area is mostly located in psychological – as opposed to law – departments, of course, there are some exceptions. Unfortunately, study programs of Psychology and Law or Forensic Psychology are hard to find in Germany and there are only few universities with psychologists interested in Psychology and Law. However, if you know where to look, you can find a number of excellent researchers who conduct research on psychology and law at their university. Oftentimes, they also offer classes on Forensic/Legal Psychological topics in the course of the Bachelor or Master degrees in Psychology.

In the following, the researchers and universities are listed. Note that the described research foci are by no means comprehensive – they serve to give you an idea of the research conducted in these labs. For more detailed information, you should visit the department websites.

Professors / Universities

Prof. Dr. Rainer Banse (University of Bonn). Social and Legal Psychology
. Research focus: (Implicit) Sexual attitudes, pedophilia, social groups, emotion processing, satisfaction in marriages 
http://www.philfak.uni-bonn.de/institute/institut-fuer-psychologie/institut/sozial-und-rechtspsychologie (German only)

Prof. Dr. Thomas Bliesener (University of Kiel)
. Developmental Psychology, Educational Psychology, and Forensic Psychology
. Research focus: Delinquency of adolescents, aggression and violence among children and adolescents, hooligans, evaluation of treatment programs for criminals
 http://entwpaed.psychologie.uni-kiel.de/index.php/prof-thomas-bliesener.html (German only)

Prof. Dr. Klaus-Peter Dahle and Prof. Dr. Renate Volbert (Free University of Berlin). 
Institute for Forensic Psychiatry
. Research focus: Witness testimony, the effect of psychological disorders on witness statements, predicting recidivism, risk prognosis 
http://www.forensik-berlin.de/home.php?c=home (German only)

Prof. Dr. Jérôme Endrass (University of Konstanz). 
Research Group Forensic Psychology
. Research focus: Risk assessment instruments, predicting recidivism, sexual offending, correctional services, forensic psychiatry 
http://www.psychologie.uni-konstanz.de/arbeitsgruppe-forensische-psychologie/  (German only)

Prof. Dr. Niels Habemann (University of Applied Sciences of Heidelberg)
. Research focus: Criminal career paths and their prevention, developmental and behavioral disorders in children, juvenile criminals, sex offenders, deviant sexual preferences, psychopathy 
http://www.fh-heidelberg.de/de/unsere-hochschule/hochschulteam/professoren/detailansicht/team/niels-habermann/ (German only)

Prof. Dr. Daniela Hosser (Technical University of Braunschweig)
. Developmental, Personality and Forensic Psychology
. Research focus: Delinquency, prevention of violence, prison evaluations, treatment of criminals, victimology, traumatology, empathy and emotion regulation, developmental disorders 
https://www.tu-braunschweig.de/psychologie/abt/epf/index.html

Prof. Dr. Denis Köhler (University of Applied Sciences of Düsseldorf)
. Research focus: Psychopathy, Personality, Personality Disorders, Risk Assessment, youth delinquency, offender behavior, offender treatment and recidivism
Website: http://soz-kult.fh-duesseldorf.de/koehler (German only)

Prof. Dr. Günter Köhnken (University of Kiel). 
Forensic Psychology, Psychological Diagnostics and Individual Differences
. Research focus: (Eye)Witness testimony, Detection deception 
www.koehnken.psychologie.uni-kiel.de/index.php/index.html (German only)

Prof. Dr. Friedrich Lösel (University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and University of Cambridge, UK) 
Psychology 
Research focus: Development of criminality, conflict solution among adolescents, hooligans, effect of incarceration on (juvenile) delinquents 
http://www.psych1.phil.uni-erlangen.de/ (German only)
http://www.crim.cam.ac.uk/  

Prof. Dr. Sigfried L. Sporer (University of Gießen). 
Social and Legal Psychology. 
Research focus: (Eye)Witness testimony, deception detection 
http://www.uni-giessen.de/cms/fbz/fb06/psychologie/abt/sozrecht (German only)

Institutes

In addition to research at universities, there are some research institutes that investigate forensic psychological topics.

Kriminologische Zentralstelle e.V. (KrimZ) in Wiesbaden. Its main task is the documentation of research on and development in the criminal justice system. Its head is Prof. Dr. Rudolf Egg, a trained psychologist. (German only)

Kriminologisches Forschungsinstitut Niedersachsen (KFN) in Hannover. The KFN is an interdisciplinary research institute focusing on applied criminological research. Ist director is Prof. Dr. Christian Pfeiffer, a lawyer and criminologist. (partly in English)

Max Plack Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law (MPICC) in Freiburg. The institute has two departments, one for criminology, headed by Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Jörg Albrecht, and the other for criminal law, headed by Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Ulrich Sieber. Researchers in the criminological department investigate prevalence and perceptions of crime, treatments of criminals, instances of the criminal legal system, and many other criminological topics. (in English)

Master programs in Psychology and Law

In Germany, there are only very few programs that directly focus on forensic or legal psychology. All programs are in German (as are the websites), making knowledge of the German language necessary. To date, there are three Master programs exclusively focusing on Psychology and Law.

Master of Forensic Psychology, Psychologische Hochschule Berlin (Berlin School of Psychology)

This 2-year Master program (part-time) is designed for psychologists who have already completed their Masters degree. It prepares for a position as a scientist-practioner in the field of Psychology and Law (e.g. credibility assessment, risk assessment, child custody evaluations) Study fees apply. The first cohort of the program started in spring 2015. http://www.psychologische-hochschule.de/rechtspsychologie.html (German only)

Master of Forensic Psychology, University of Bonn


This 2- or 3-year Master program is designed for students who have already acquired job experience. The Master is designed to be completed part-time. It is hosted by the psychology department. You either need a Bachelor’s or a Masters degree in psychology and no less than one year of practical experience to be eligible for acceptance into the program. Study fees apply. The first cohort of the program started in fall 2013. 
http://www.master-rechtspsychologie.de/?sprache=de&seite=start

Master of Psychology and Law, University of Applied Sciences of Heidelberg


This 2-year Master program aims to train students for both research and leadership positions in the field of psychology and law. To be eligible for admission, you need to hold a Bachelor’s degree in psychology. Study fees apply. The first cohort of the program started in fall 2013.
 http://www.fh-heidelberg.de/de/studium/masterstudium/rechtspsychologie/

Master of Psychology and Law, Psychological University Berlin


This one-year Master program is designed for psychologists who have already completed their Masters degree. It focuses on diagnostics and can be completed part-time. Study fees apply. The program is aimed to start in fall 2014. 
http://www.psychologische-hochschule.de/rechtspsychologie.html (German only)

Master programs in Criminology

While the Psychology and Law programs are fairly new, the University of Hamburg and the University of Bochum have offered programs in Criminology for a long time. In contrast to the three Master programs on Psychology and Law, the Criminology programs are more interdisciplinary, i.e., students with various study backgrounds are eligible for admission.

Master of Criminology and Master of International Criminology, University of Hamburg


The consecutive Master of Criminology (2 years part-time) aims to train people for leading position that deal with delinquents. The Master of International Criminology is a consecutive program (2 years full-time) that focuses on topics relating to policing, international criminal and security policing, sentencing, and visual criminology. Both programs are hosted by the social sciences department. 
http://www.wiso.uni-hamburg.de/professuren/kriminologie/startseite/

Master of Criminology and Police Sciences, University of Bochum


The 2 year Master program consists of both distance and presence learning phases (“blended-learning“) with most classes being taught online. Eligible are people who already hold a university degree in a related field and who have at least one year of job experience. 
http://www.makrim.de/

Fore more information about studying in Germany visit     http://www.studying-in-germany.org/

Final Words

Psychology and law may not be as strong as in other countries, but the field id growing. Research conducted in the field in Germany is of high quality and published in international journals. Furthermore, there are research collaborations with universities all over the world. In many universities, students have the opportunity to conduct research internships. Often, knowledge of the German language is not required to conduct a research internship at a German university.

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Below you will find links to the other articles from our studying abroad series: