How To Become A Forensic Psychologist (2024)

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It may sound exciting to spend your days diving deep into the minds of criminals, but there’s more to a day in the life of a forensic psychologist. In this article, we’ll take a look at this field as a whole; we’ll examine how quickly it’s growing, what sort of salary you can expect and what type of education requirements you’ll need to meet.

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Forensic Psychologist Job Outlook

What Is a Forensic Psychologist?

Forensic psychology typically includes any tasks related to psychology within the scope of the justice system. Below is a list of just some of the common job duties a forensic psychologist may perform.

Forensic psychologists may:

  • Work in the prison system providing therapy and assessment for inmates.
  • Provide evidence and expert testimony for the court system.
  • Assess the psychological state of individuals facing criminal charges.
  • Assess psychological damages suffered by individuals involved in a lawsuit.
  • Conduct research to advance the knowledge and application of psychological principles in the justice system.

Forensic Psychologist Salary

Forensic psychology is a growing field, with no signs of slowing down. According to PayScale, the average annual salary for a forensic psychologist is around $77,000.

Steps to Becoming a Forensic Psychologist

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

While some colleges and universities offer bachelor’s degrees in forensic psychology, students can pursue other majors at this level, such as general psychology. It’s important to keep in mind that students may have an advantage when applying to a master’s program in forensic psychology if they hold a bachelor’s degree in the same field. Typical courses in a forensic psychology bachelor’s program include general psychology, law and introduction to criminology.

Graduate from a Doctorate Program

Once you’ve completed a master’s degree, you’ll need to obtain a doctorate in psychology in order to practice as a forensic psychologist. A doctorate could be either a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. program, both of which typically take between five to seven years to complete.

Complete Qualified Specialized Training

Forensic psychologists receive specialized training in the field. Many early-career psychologists get hands-on education from internships and post-doctoral training programs. They can also pursue certifications or enroll in courses to learn more about forensics.

Obtain Licensure

To practice as a forensic psychologist, you’ll need a state-issued license. To earn licensure, you must complete a certain number of hours of clinical experience under a licensed psychologist; the amount varies by state. Applicants must then pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology exam.

Pass the Certification Exam

The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) is the certifying organization for forensic psychologists. The ABPP awards the Specialty Board Certification in Forensic Psychology (SBCFP) to applicants who hold a license, pass an oral and written exam and complete training and work experience hours.

Forensic Psychologist Certification

The optional board certification in forensic psychology shows your dedication to becoming a professional in the field. The ABPP charges $125 to apply, reduced to $65 for early-career psychologists. The written exam costs $300, and the oral exam for forensic psychology is $550.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many years does it take to become a forensic psychologist?

It can take 10 to 15 years to become a forensic psychologist. You will need to earn a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and a doctorate. After graduation, individuals need to apply for licensure and board certification.

What does a forensic psychologist do in a day?

The day-to-day duties of a forensic psychologist can vary according to specialty. Some forensic psychologists spend their days conducting research. Other forensic psychologists work directly for the court system, doing assessments, conducting interviews and reviewing evidence.

What are the highest-paying jobs in forensic psychology?

The highest-paying jobs for forensic psychologists are those that involve consultation and expert testimony for the court system.

How To Become A Forensic Psychologist (2024)


How To Become A Forensic Psychologist? ›

It can take 10 to 15 years to become a forensic psychologist. You will need to earn a bachelor's degree, a master's degree and a doctorate. After graduation, individuals need to apply for licensure and board certification.

How many years does it take to become a forensic psychologist? ›

It takes 10-15 years of education and training to become a forensic psychologist. You must earn a bachelor's degree, then a master's degree, followed by a doctorate.

How do I start studying forensic psychology? ›

Some requirements vary by state.
  1. Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree. A bachelor's degree in psychology, forensics, or a similar topic qualifies you to apply to graduate school. ...
  2. Step 2: Complete Your Doctoral Degree. ...
  3. Step 3: Gain Field Experience and Complete Exams. ...
  4. Step 4: Become Licensed or Certified by Your State Board.

Is becoming a forensic psychologist hard? ›

A career as a forensic psychologist is a challenging one, but it offers many intrinsic benefits. In this profession, individuals exercise compassion toward all parties while remaining objective. Achieving this balance can be difficult and requires extensive training, but the outcome is rewarding.

Is a bachelor's in forensic psychology worth it? ›

A bachelor's degree in forensic psychology can prepare you for entry-level law enforcement careers, such as a police officer or crime analyst. These professionals must understand why people commit crimes. A liberal arts education helps you develop transferable skills relevant to many career paths.

Can you be a forensic psychologist without a doctorate? ›

In order to work as a licensed forensic psychologist in California, you must earn a qualifying doctorate degree.

Is forensic psychology a rare major? ›

Master's degrees in forensic psychology are rare. It's more likely that you will earn your master's in clinical psychology, with a title that reflects the subfield of psychology in which you've chosen to specialize, such as “clinical forensic psychology.”

Can a forensic psychologist work for the FBI? ›

Individuals with a Master's Degree in Forensic Psychology can be well-equipped and attractive candidates for jobs with the federal government. This can include working at the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the CIA, Veteran Affairs hospitals, or other state and local government agencies.

Do forensic psychologists go to medical school? ›

Remember that forensic psychologists with doctoral-level (such as PhD, PsyD, or EdD) degrees aren't required to go to medical school, but may have particular expertise in such issues as psychological testing.

How to become a criminal profiler without being a cop? ›

A wide range of programs can qualify a person to become a criminal profiler. Students are urged to concentrate their coursework and training in law, criminal justice, crime scene analysis, forensics, psychology, sociology, and philosophy.

What are the negatives of forensic psychology? ›

Cons of a Career in Forensic Psychology
  • High emotional toll from dealing with distressing cases and criminal offenders.
  • Intense work environments (courtrooms, police stations, etc.)
  • Legal system constraints that may limit the ability to help individuals.
Sep 19, 2023

What is the best degree for a forensic psychologist? ›

Pursue a Master's Degree

A master's degree in forensic psychology is considered the standard minimum for getting into the field in a research or consultancy role, while clinical work that involves working directly with patients will require a Ph. D. or PsyD, as is the case with all clinical psychologists.

Do forensic psychologists go to crime scenes? ›

Contrary to the common misconception, forensic psychologists don't always work at the crime scene to catch criminals. They usually focus on studying criminal behavior to help law enforcement officials understand the offender's mind.

What is the highest paying forensic psychology? ›

Which states have the highest forensic psychologist salaries?
  • California – $120,010.
  • Oregon – $117,180.
  • Rhode Island – $116,810.
  • Hawaii – $115,220.
  • New York – $113,940.
Jan 30, 2024

How do I know if forensic psychology is right for me? ›

Forensic psychologists need to be experts in both psychology and the legal system. They use their knowledge to try to understand the reasons behind criminal behavior, how people who have broken the law can be reformed, and what can be done to prevent future crimes.

What master's degree should I get for forensic psychology? ›

A Master of Arts (MA) and a Master of Science (MS) in Forensic Psychology will each provide a slightly different focus. While both can prepare you to work within the field, the degree you choose should depend on the exact career path you want to pursue.

How long is a PhD in forensic psychology? ›

How Long Does It Take to Earn a PhD in Forensic Psychology? Earning a PhD in Forensic Psychology typically takes between 4 to 8 years, depending on factors such as program type (part-time or full-time), program structure, prior education, and the chosen dissertation subject.

How many years does it take to become a forensic psychiatrist? ›

Becoming a forensic psychiatrist requires the completion of both an undergraduate program and a four-year Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree program. During the M.D. program, you have the opportunity to take electives or choose a major in psychiatry in addition to completing the required medical education coursework.

How many years of school does it take to be a forensic pathologist? ›

The entire period of education and training for a Forensic Pathologist following high school is currently a minimum of 13 years (4-year college degree, 4-year medical school degree, 4-year residency, 1-year fellowship).

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