Forensic Psychologist: Education Requirements and Career Information
Education Requirements for Forensic Psychologists
While a forensic psychologist may find work with only a Master’s degree, a Ph.D. in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree is recommended. Licensing is essential for all practicing psychologists and can be obtained by taking examinations through the state psychologist licensing board. The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) classifies forensic psychology as a recognized specialty and offers certification examinations.
To become a forensic psychologist, it is beneficial to have a minor in law. Some forensic psychologists have doctorates in both psychology and law. Because the application of forensic psychology deals specifically with how psychology works with the law, most jobs require varying levels of legal studies. This is a relatively new facet of psychology and forensic psychologists are encouraged to participate in continuing education programs throughout their careers.
Find schools that offer these popular programs
- Behavioral Sciences, General
- Clinical Psychology, General
- Cognitive Psychology and Psycholinguistics
- Cognitive Science
- Community Psychology
- Comparitive Psychology
- Counseling Psychology, General
- Environmental Psychology
- Experimental Psychology
- Family Psychology
- Forensic Psychology, General
- Industrial and Organizational Psychology
- Medical Psychology
- Personality Psychology
- Physiological Psychology
- Psychology, General
- Psychometrics and Quantitative Psychology
- Social Psychology
Career Information for Forensic Psychologists
There are a variety of paths a forensic psychologist may take. Some work specifically with crime victims. A forensic psychologist counsels rape and abuse victims of all ages before, during and after court trials. They also assist victims in dealing with the stress of reliving the crime when the victims appear on the witness stand. On occasion, the forensic psychologist will testify as an expert witness to explain to a judge and jury the effects of the crime on the victim.
Other forensic psychologists work with the accused. These psychologists consult with persons being charged with crimes and assess the competency levels of the accused. The forensic psychologist often determines whether or not the accused has a clear enough understanding of right and wrong to stand trial. They may make a recommendation to a judge that the accused be sent to an institution for therapy prior to or in lieu of a court trial. These psychologists also work with those who have been convicted of crimes if part of the sentence includes rehabilitative therapy.
Some forensic psychologists go into private practice and work as consultants, but this is rare. Others have opportunities in research facilities. Primarily, forensic psychologists work in correctional facilities, law enforcement agencies and mental health institutions. They may also be members of law and psychology departments in an academic setting. Or, community health organizations and probation departments may employ forensic psychologists.
According to PayScale.com. as of January 2016, the median annual salary for forensic psychologists was $61,489. This is significantly lower than the median reported in May 2015 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (the BLS) for all types of psychologists at $94,590. According to the BLS, job growth for all types of psychologists, a group which includes forensic psychologists, was expected to increase by 19% between 2014 and 2024. Since most jobs available to forensic scientists are government and law enforcement related, salaries are often determined by federal, state and local budgetary concerns. Florida and California are the favored employers geographically.
A forensic psychologist can work within a few industries, such as law or healthcare, where they are commonly responsible for assessing an accused criminal’s psychological state and determining whether the accused is fit to stand trial. Alternatively, many forensic psychologists work with victims of a crime such as rape or abuse. A forensic psychologist often provides counseling services for victims and accused criminals, depending on their specialty.
Next: View Schools