What Can I Do With A Forensic Psychology Degree ?

Just like other careers in criminology, a forensic psychology degree can open the door to a wide variety of opportunities. Are you interested in pursuing a career in forensic psychology? Then, learn more about what can I do with a forensic psychology degree, requirements, education pathway, and steps to becoming a forensic psychologist.

As an intersection between psychology and the justice system, Forensic psychology often plays a significant role in studying behaviors, punishing and preventing crimes. 

Basically, their understanding and explanation of certain aspects of psychological health can help advance legal cases, inform juries, and also, determine the reasons behind crimes being committed.

This article will give you more insight into Forensic Psychology, how to become, forensic psychologist major and careers.

Table of contents

What Is Forensic Psychology?

Forensic Psychology is simply an interaction or combination of the practice and study of psychology and the legal system.

The American Board of Forensic Psychology defines Forensic psychology as the application of the science and profession of psychology to questions and issues relating to law and the legal system.

Generally, it involves applying psychological principles to the field of criminal investigation and the law. 

What Is A Forensic Psychology Degree?

Forensic psychology is a discipline within applied psychology that uses the principles of psychology to assist with criminal proceedings.

A degree in forensic psychology is mostly an advanced degree (either a master’s or doctorate) that can include specialties in sub-disciplines including sex offenses, crime prevention, victim support, correctional psychology, and children’s psychology.  Advanced Courses cover the following:

  • Cognition and Perception
  • Forensic Psychology
  • Criminal Psychology
  • Sociology of Crime and Deviant Behavior
  • Human Growth and Development
  • Social Statistics
  • Theories of Personality
  • Psychology of Criminal Behavior
  • Correctional Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Psychology and the Law
  • Key Concepts of Psychotherapy
  • Psychopathology
  • Criminal Psychological Assessment

Forensic Psychology Degree Programs

A bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology comprises of legal and psychology concepts that serve as a foundation for graduate studies.

Courses in a Bachelor in Forensic Degree Programs include: 

  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Forensic Psychology
  • Psychology of Criminals
  • Deviant Behaviour

Typically, an undergraduate degree in this program is rare so most students opt for a degree in psychology with a focus on forensic psychology.

However, a bachelor’s degree program in this program is made of up 120-130 credits and takes four years to complete this program

A master’s degree in forensic psychology program covers basic forensic psychology topics and also, provides specialized forensic psychology knowledge and instruction. Courses covered include:

  • Domestic Violence
  • Criminal Assessment
  • Mental Health Policy
  • Psychological treatment of Adult Offenders

Typically, the program consists of 35 to 40 credits and takes about 2 years to complete.

A doctoral program is one of the requisites for becoming a licensed forensic psychologist. It helps candidates to maximize their professional potential.

Basically there are two sets of doctoral degrees in forensic psychology programs; doctor of psychology (PsyD) or doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in forensic psychology degree.

However, while psychologists with PsyD programs focus more on clinical treatment, a Ph.D. in forensic psychology program focuses more on research and teaching.

Notwithstanding, courses in a doctoral degree in forensic psychology program will cover the following:

  • Clinical Research Methods
  • Physiology of Behaviors
  • Personality Analysis
  • Sex Offender Assessment and Treatment

Typically, a doctorate forensic psychology program has two to three years of courses, a comprehensive examination (or two), research requirements, practicum/internship requirements, and a dissertation. It also takes 4 to 5 years to complete a doctoral degree program in forensic psychology.

How Many Years of College to be a Forensic Psychologist?

Schooling for forensic psychology takes a total of 10-11 years to become a professional and licensed forensic psychologist. That is 4 years for the undergraduate program, 2 years for the master’s program and 4 to 5 years for the doctoral program.

Know More About Forensics; See the 15 Best Forensic Science Colleges & Programs

Who Is A Forensic Psychologist?

In simple terms, we can say that Forensic Psychologists are professionals who practice psychology within the criminal justice system and civil courts.

They focus on understanding the reason behind certain behaviors and also help in reducing and also preventing the occurrence of such behaviors.

Forensic psychologists are often involved in both criminal and civil cases such as civil lawsuits, custody disputes, and insurance claims.

In recent times, Forensic Psychologists are seen working with those who are demonstrating extreme emotional states. Therefore, the job of forensic psychologists can sometimes prove to be both physically and mentally demanding.

What Are The Qualities Of Forensic Psychologists?

In order to carry out your duties and perform your job successfully as a forensic psychologist, you must possess the following:

  • Communication Skills
  • Compassion
  • Objectivity
  • Critical thinking and Analytical Skills
  • Attention to detail

Generally, psychologists must have strong communication skills because they spend much of their time listening to and speaking with patients or describing their research.

Forensic Psychologists must adjust their communication style depending on the situation. Also the need strong speaking and listening ability as they communicate regularly with judges, inmates, crime victims, and attorneys. 

Compassion helps Forensic Psychologists to bring a human element to a government system as they relate parties while maintaining objectivity.

Forensic psychologists must avoid getting emotionally attached to any of the parties they interact with. They must maintain objectivity irrespective of who they work with, whether a criminal, an attorney, victim or other parties

Forensic psychologists must be able to observe and critically analyze various parties, interpret research data, and make timely, informed and logical decisions.

The job of a forensic psychologist relies on psychological principles such as perceptive observation and analysis of factors such as body language. Therefore, the professional here has to pay attention to all this in order to make a report.

See these 15 Affordable Online School Psychology Programs

What Does A Forensic Psychologist Do?

Basically, forensic psychologists apply their knowledge of psychological principles in criminal justice and the legal system.

Forensic psychologists use the principles of psychology such as the study of the mind, perception, to work with attorneys, judges, and other legal specialists in order to analyze and understand the psychological details of various cases. 

Usually, they use their knowledge to provide a motive for a crime or narrow down a suspect list. Meanwhile, in some cases, the testimony of a forensic psychologist can be the last piece of the puzzle when trying to convict a criminal.

However, the duties and roles of forensic psychologist include but not limited to the following:

  • Criminal profiling services.
  • Child custody evaluations.
  • Investigate reports of child abuse.
  • Evaluating suspected criminals for mental competency and their ability to stand trial.
  • Evaluating convicted criminals to assist in the creation of rehabilitation plans.
  • Expert witness/​courtroom testimony regarding psychological questions before the court
  • Evaluating potential jurors and consulting with prosecuting defence, and plaintiff’s lawyers regarding the selection of juries
  • Evaluating witnesses, such as children, to verify the truthfulness and/or ability to remember key facts and circumstances
  • Consulting with, and providing training and curriculum development for law enforcement and corrections agencies
  • Teaching undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as at law schools for Juris doctorate candidates
  • Evaluating potential police officers for employment through psychological screenings

Also see What Does A Forensic Computer Analyst Do? Career Information, Salaries, Skillset

How Can I Become A Forensic Psychologist? | Forensic Psychologist Education

Typically to become a forensic psychologist, one needs advanced degrees in forensic psychology major such a master’s or doctoral degree in forensic psychology. Also, having a minor in law will be beneficial. Currently, some forensic psychologists have doctorates in both psychology and law

However, just as every journey begins with one step, becoming a forensic psychologist is a gradual process that needs your intentionality.

Below is the educational path or steps to becoming a forensic psychologist:

  • Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
  • Obtain a Master’s Degree In Psychology
  • Pursue a Law Degree
  • Earn a Doctorate Psychology Degree or Ph.D. in Forensic Psychology
  • Obtain State Licensure
  • Become Board Certified

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

To become a forensic psychologist, the starting point is usually earning a bachelor’s degree from a fully accredited college or university.

Typically, students at the undergraduate level major in psychology with a minor in criminal justice, criminology or pre-law. On the other hand, you can also major in a law subject and minor in psychology.

Although, most graduate schools accept students with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Currently, very few colleges and universities undergraduate programs in psychology that focuses on forensic psychology, with studies in the legal aspects of the field.

However, a bachelor’s degree does not guarantee acceptance into a graduate program. Prospective forensic psychologists are therefore encouraged to strive for the highest GPA possible while also preparing for any graduate school prerequisites and admissions requirements.

Psychology students are also to conduct extensive research to determine their career goals and the best academic path to achieve them.

Do not let insufficient funds to limit you. See these Top 13 Forensic Science Scholarships

Obtain a Master’s Degree In Psychology

As stated earlier, most doctoral degree programs in psychology do have a specific forensic psychology program. Therefore, to add to their specialized knowledge, most students go for a master’s degree in forensic psychology.

After this, the students now go further to earn a Ph.D. or PsyD in psychology with a concentration in forensic psychology. However, earning a master’s degree in forensic psychology is optional.

Pursue a Law Degree

Earning a law degree is not compulsory. However, a Juris Doctor can provide legal instruction on court procedures and concepts and also, qualifies an individual to sit for the bar and become an attorney. Currently, some schools offer joint degrees, that is, combining a JD degree with a master’s or doctorate degree.

Earn a Doctorate Psychology Degree or Ph.D. in Forensic Psychology

There are basically two majors here; Ph.D. in psychology and a PsyD. Typically, applicants who are research-oriented go for a Ph.D. in psychology. On the other hand, students who want to focus on the treatment of patients go for Psy.D.

Notwithstanding, depending on the school, the curriculum for the two degrees may not be that far apart. However, if you have a specific professional goal, such as evaluating criminal defendants or conducting research, then, you can choose one degree over the other.

You may also like to read more on 15 Most Affordable Online PsyD Programs

Obtain State Licensure

To assess individuals on behalf of the court or to serve as an expert witness to assess competency, a forensic psychologist is expected to have a state license. Also, each state administers its own licensing requirements and procedures.

However, most states require candidates to possess a doctorate degree, pass the Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology, and have a certain amount of relevant experience.

Become Board Certified

Getting certified by the official body is not a compulsory requirement for practice. However, it is important to improve marketability, prove experience and boost credibility in the courtroom.

As a forensic psychologist who wishes to get certified, you can apply for professional certification with the American Board of Forensic Psychology (ABFP).

Also, the Diploma in Forensic Psychology from the ABFP is the only postdoctoral certification for forensic psychologists that is recognized by the American Psychological Association.

To apply for the ABFP certification, interested candidates must have the following requirements:

  • Hold a doctoral degree from a professional psychology program.
  • Be licensed in their jurisdiction of practice
  • Complete a minimum of 100 hours of formal board education
  • Also, complete at least 1000 hours of practical experience in the field.

What Can I Do With A Forensic Psychology Degree? | Forensic Psychology Career

Most students who graduate from a forensic psychology degree program have a career as a forensic psychologist in view.

However, there are several job options or careers you can pursue with a degree in the forensic psychology major. They include the following:

  • Victim Advocate
  • Correctional Counselor
  • Jury Consultant
  • Jail Supervisor
  • Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor
  • Juvenile Offenders Counselor
  • Probation Officer
  • Expert Witness
  • Psychology Professor 
  • Psychology Researcher

Victim Advocate

Victim advocate works directly with crime victims and survivors of traumatic events like sexual assault or domestic violence.

They help the victim understand his or her case and legal rights, provide support through the legal process, and also, attend hearings with the victim.

As an advocate, you only provide information, resources, and support to victims but do not tell them what to do.

Victim advocates usually work for government organizations such as courts or police stations and for private organizations like nonprofits or crisis centers.

With a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology, you can apply to become a victim advocate.

Correctional Counselor

Forensic psychologists can leverage their understanding of crime, punishment, and the legal and psychological ramifications of both to perform various important roles in the correctional system.

Typically, correctional counselors provide mental health counseling and support to prison inmates and also hold both individual and group sessions with inmates. They provide deeper insights into the state and well-being of inmates and give recommendations into parole hearings.

The roles of forensic psychologists here can include offering treatment and counseling for inmates and ex-convicts. Also, they can assist in developing programs that help reduce recidivism rates.

Notwithstanding, the work of forensic psychologists in correction centers cuts across the following:

  • Counselling sessions
  • Conducting psychological evaluations
  • Collaborating with caseworkers, lawyers, and other staff at the correctional facility

With a master’s degree in forensic psychology, one can look for a job in a correctional facility.

Jury Consultant

Forensic psychologists are important in a variety of applications in court systems, such as evaluating witness testimony, selecting juries, providing consultations, and a lot more.

Typically, jury consultants would work with lawyers to provide insights on which jurors to select for cases. As consultants, they do a lot of research into potential jurors and also participate actively in the voir dire process. Voir dire is when potential jurors are questioned by both the prosecuting and defense attorneys.

In addition, during this process, jury consultants take notes of the juror’s body language and behavior. This information helps lawyers prepare their strategies and also, coach witnesses.

A master’s degree in forensic psychology is a stepping stone toward this career path as most Forensic psychology courses include information on jury selection and courtroom dynamics.

 Jail Supervisor

Also known as corrections supervisors, jail supervisors work in correctional facilities like juvenile jails, state penitentiaries, and detention centers. Their work centers around keeping inmates and staff members safe.

Other responsibilities may include supervision of daily activities, alleviating conflict, and ensuring the prison is clear of contraband.

To be successful as a jail supervisor, you need to have strong communication and conflict resolution skills. A forensic psychology background can be so beneficial to understand each situation and deal with it patiently.

Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor

Although a master’s degree does not qualify graduates to become a licensed psychologist, most states, however, have a counseling license program for which they are eligible.

Students who graduate from here often work as counselors in a wide variety of industries. From addiction treatment facilities to domestic violence shelters to private practices, a degree is a stepping stone to various counseling careers.

Generally, Licensed counselors provide counseling in a variety of environments, including group homes, substance abuse treatment centers, and jails.

Notwithstanding, becoming a counselor does not require licensure. However, if you want to become a licensed professional clinical counselor, enroll for forensic psychology programs with a licensure track. 

Juvenile Offenders Counselor

Children who enter the criminal justice system are at extremely high risk for recidivism and have often been the victims of crimes such as negligence, physical and sexual abuse. Therefore, counseling from a licensed counselor is ideal for them.

With a master’s degree in forensic psychology, you can become a juvenile offender counselor.

Probation Officer

Probation officers assist in supervising offenders who have recently been released from jail to ensure that they are adequately employed and housed so that they do not re-offend.

The knowledge of both criminal justice and psychology can be extremely helpful in dealing with these potentially volatile situations.

With a master’s degree in forensic psychology, one can pursue a career to become a probation officer.

Expert Witness

Forensic psychologists are often called to testify in criminal trials and oftentimes, some make this process an entire career.

Here, an expert witness answers speculative questions about the accused’s state of mind, refers to professional psychological literature and studies, and also, gives the jury a better picture of how psychology plays a role in a particular crime.

With a doctoral degree in this course, one can become an expert witness.

Psychology Professor

With a P.h.D in this course, one can pursue a career to become a psychology professor.

Professors teach undergraduate or graduate-level courses while also maintaining a research practice, depending on the university. Here, psychology professors can help students to develop a passion for forensic psychology and also, influence the next generation of practitioners.

Psychology Researcher

Forensic degree graduates who wish to broaden the world’s understanding of criminal minds may choose to focus their careers on research, conducting clinical studies and writing materials for publication.

Although similar to the teaching career, you will need a Ph.D. in forensic psychology to pursue this.

What Is The Job Outlook For Forensic Psychologists?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of psychologists is expected to increase by 14 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations.

As a prospective forensic psychologist, the job prospects here are best for those who have a doctoral degree in an applied specialty.

Know More; S PSYCHOLOGY B.A. or B.S.?

How Much Does A Forensic Psychologist Earn?

According to the US BLS, the median annual wage for psychologists as of 2018 is $79,010.

From payscale’s report, Forensic Psychologists earn an average salary of $67,390.

Meanwhile, according to Glassdoor, the national average salary for a Trainee Forensic Psychologist is $70,090 in the United States.

Important Bodies and Resources For Forensic Psychologists

Here are some forensic psychologists associations and bodies you can look up to for important information, licensing and certification:

Frequently Asked Questions On What Can I Do With A Forensic Psychology Degree

What do forensic psychologists do?

Basically, forensic psychologists apply psychology to the criminal justice system. They do this by playing the following roles:

1. Assess offenders’ state of mind at time of offense.
2. Assess competency of individuals to stand trial.
3. Evaluate the risk of re-offending.
4. Assess witness credibility.
5. Evaluate child custody in divorce.
6. Prepare for and provide testimony in court.

Are forensic psychologists in demand?

Yes, there is a high demand for forensic psychologists.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of psychologists is expected to increase by 14 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations.

How long does it take to become a forensic psychology?

Schooling for forensic psychology takes a total of 10-11 years to become a professional and licensed forensic psychologist.

4 years for the undergraduate study
2 years for the masters program
4 to 5 years for the doctoral program.

How much does a forensic psychologist earn?

According to the US BLS, the median annual wage for psychologists as of 2018 is $79,010.

From payscale’s report, Forensic Psychologists earn an average salary of $67,390.

Meanwhile, according to Glassdoor, the national average salary for a Trainee Forensic Psychologist is $70,090 in the United States.

How can I become a forensic psychologist?

To become a forensic psychologists, one has go through the following steps:

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
Obtain a Master’s Degree In Psychology
Pursue a Law Degree
Earn a Doctorate Psychology Degree or Ph.D. in Forensic Psychology
Obtain State Licensure
Become Board Certified
Typically to become a forensic psychologist, one needs advanced degrees in forensic psychology major such a master’s or doctoral degree in forensic psychology.


Forensic Psychology is an intersection between psychology and the justice system and a degree in this field is a gateway to a variety of career opportunities.

I hope the steps and information provided above helps you in making your decisions as you pursue a career as a forensic psychologist.



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