Forensic Psychologist Career, Salary and Training Info

As a forensic psychologist, you may work in the court system as a jury consultant or as an expert witness testifying on the mental state of a defendant when a crime was committed. You may provide evidence regarding the competence of a person to stand trial.

As a forensic psychologist, you are combining psychology with law and may work with correctional facilities, psychiatric hospitals, or community agencies in performing risk assessment of future behavior of an individual. You may also provide psychotherapy or agency referrals to alleviate psychiatric symptoms that led to criminal behavior.

Forensic Psychologist Requirements

In addition to an undergraduate degree in psychology, you will need a Master’s Degree to qualify for a career position in forensic psychology. A Master’s in forensic psychology is becoming more available through colleges and universities nationwide. There are also satellite and online schools offering an M.A. in forensic psychology that allow flexible schedules that can fit well as you are obtaining work experience in psychology or psychotherapy while you pursue the forensic qualification level.

Your goal is an education that trains you as a psychologist first and merges that with knowledge of the criminal justice system, an understanding of the impact on victims and an understanding of the mental processes of the criminal mind.

At the forensic level, additional training is needed in such areas as evidence-based intervention, advocacy, and related general areas. Further education and experience may be required for more specialized careers such as that of a hostage negotiator or the study of de-escalation psychological techniques.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects career employment in this field to grow 15% through 2016. A PhD is not required to begin your forensics psychology career but will lead to higher income. Also the competition for available jobs is much lower for those with post-graduate degrees, like a PhD.

Forensic Psychologist Education and Training

If you have a Bachelor of Science degree you might choose to obtain graduate training at one of the schools dedicated to the practice of forensic psychology. These colleges and universities grant a degree in forensic psychology in about 2 to 4 years. You will receive not only classroom instruction but hands-on training will commence by working in prisons, clinical treatment facilities, and law enforcement.

The Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology opens the door to working in more advanced roles within law enforcement, courts, prisons and probation, as well as in academic pursuits.

Forensic Psychology – Salary

The median salary of a Forensic Psychologist listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is $59,440, with the highest paid forensic psychologists earning more than $103,000. Salary is commensurate with experience, as well as education, and may be supplemented by consulting work and court testimony.

The median salary range is approximately $45,000 at the lower end of the education and experience spectrum to as high as $77,000. Salaries vary widely depending on the type of workplace; with non-profit organizations paying the lower salaries and with state and local governments paying the highest annual amounts.

The same position in the non-profit area may pay as much as $15,000 less in salary than the same position offered by a law firm or state governments.

Forensic Psychologist Career Opportunities

Careers in forensic psychology are experiencing rapid growth in an expanding number of settings. Jobs are available with child welfare agencies, state forensic units, mental health facilities, and community mental health agencies. There is also the possibility of operating as a private practice – providing psychotherapy – or as a consultant.

Government agencies offer career opportunities as do jails, prisons, and even some family courts. The list of opportunities is broad and rapidly expanding and the areas of specialty are amazingly varied.

Take a look at other great Criminal Justice Careers.

Article written by Radek Gadek

Radek holds a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Boston University. He is currently doing consulting work and runs this blog to provide relevant information on criminal justice degrees, colleges and related careers.

27 comments… add one
  • keyericka smith

    I am a Junior at iroquois high school and i have been looking for information on how i can start my college career with psychology and i have finally found it thank you so much and i hope to receive great opportunity in becoming a forensic psychologist

  • April

    I know forensic typically indicates a field of science, but I was wondering if becoming a forensic psychologist will require science courses in college and in the career? And how is it used?

    • Empress

      Forensic involves just as much science as any other major. The majority of your classes will be in psychology such as ethical issues, psych and the legal system, maladaptive behavior, treatment, testimony and consultation. Some universities offer a minor to include mental health and clinical.

      • Marissa

        I am a psychology major with a hope of going to grad school for forensic psychology. It really depends on your college’s requirements. At the college I attend you need 3 sciences in 1 specific area.

        • Kira

          Which college do you go to? I am looking for a good college to go to for criminal psychology.

  • Bromleigh

    i will be a junior in high school this year & i have been thinking hard about which career i might like to pursue, & every one i could think of didn’t satisfy my interests. i think i have finally found what i would like to do for a living & i am very pleased. thank you for sharing this. :)

  • Zilmarya

    I have a Bachelor in Criminal Justice – Forensic Science and I want to do the Master but in a specific area…can I do it in Forensic Psychology???

    • Andrew Rucker

      Yes , of course it can go either way , you could either start off with a degree in psychology as listed above or start off with a degree in criminal justice. either way you can go about achieving your next goal by obtaining a masters in Forensic Psychology, you can even get away with Clinical Psychology in terms of psychotherapists . Then to further your education once more, you can pursue a Ph.D in Psychology/ Forensic Psychology . Then you will be able to get into any private practice, prison, child welfare, as you please because your level of education. God Bless

    • Empress

      Just be sure to talk with the dean or enrollment advisor. To confirm your career options. Psychology is offered in many aspects of life. You do not want to choose something you are not sure of or not interested. Forensic Psychology involves psychology in the legal system. Depending on the school, the master’s program is similar to a graduate degree in Criminal Justice. You can also minor in behavioral analysis or terrorism.
      Good Luck!!!

  • Brittney

    I am currently a Junior getting my bachelors degree in Criminal justice and a minor in psychology. What other education would I need to become forensic psychologist?

  • Penelope

    This is what I want to be! :)

  • Danny

    I’m pretty sure that this is what I’d like to do with my life. Should my major be criminal justice and my minor be psychology? Or vice versa?

    • Radek M. Gadek

      I think Psychology should be the center. Also consider direct — and properly accredited — Forensic Psychology programs.

  • Alaina

    Although just an inexperienced high school freshman, I’ve been interested in the idea of forensic psychology for quite some time. I’m not seduced by the glamor that television and movies add to the field, because I’m very much aware that it isn’t as sparkly as it’s made out to be. I’m also not tempted by the idea of a $103,000 annual salary, I’m just interested in the field. However, I’m inquiring about the amount of schooling after high school graduation it takes to become a forensic psychologist, both with and without a PhD. If anyone can let me know, that would be spectacular!

    • Elayne

      Hey, I just graduated high school and I’m about to start taking classes for me AS in Criminal Justice. At the school I’m attending, some of these classes go toward my BS. As I understand it takes (with dual enrollment classes) about 6 years to get to Masters status. Which is where I’m at.. With PhD, I’m sure it’d take about 10. What I would suggest (which is what I’m doing), is to go ahead towards your Masters and find a job. Then, If you’d like, continue for your PhD. But I’d start working as soon as possible for the experience. It’ll definitely take some time, but you can try to get as many classes done as quickly as you can. Also, I’m quite confused about this.. But I believe you level up your Psychology degree and Criminal Justice degree (gaming term, lol) and then merge it into Forensic Psychology (or Criminal Psychology as I like to call it) in your Masters.

  • Lisa

    Would you happen to know if those looking to hire forensic psychologists have an age limit in mind? I don’t see anything listed here. I am currently a 43 yr old single mom and junior majoring in criminal justice and criminology. I’m still looking at career options, there’s so much available, however I just realized my age could be an issue. I love psychology though and wonder if this could still be an option if I continue with school and work towards a masters degree in forensic psychology. Any advice is greatly appreciated!

  • parisa

    I’m thinking about going to school for a criminal justice degree and working as a forensics psychologist. I heard it is an extremely risky job, like how risky? I am very interested in psychology, i have a fascination for the brain and behavior we exhibit our personalities and background from. I’m also very interested in criminal justice and figuring out cases, and working in labs and such. Im just wondering what career is exactly right for me because im pretty sure i want to major in criminal justice, however i don’t exactly know what career in that field yet im sort of stuck on that part. A crime scene investigator sounds really neat too! im still debating though..

  • Steph

    Is it too late for me to study this as my career if I messed up on my first half of high school?

    • Radek Gadek

      Nope. College is where it counts for this career track. I recommend you get your grades up right now and try to get into a good college or university that offers Forensic Psychology or related disciplines.

  • Leah

    The school I am going to now currently offers a Masters and PhD (they are blended so they roll right into another and you don’t have to apply individually for both. You get your Masters while working toward your PhD, which is different from many other schools.. in a GREAT way) but it is in Behavior Analysis. Am I actually better of getting the more broad Behavior Analysis degree or should I really stick to a Forensic/Criminal Psychology graduate program? What would be better? Or would it be pretty much the same?

  • Alyssa

    Hi!! This website was very helpful, I just started college with the goal of becoming a forensic psychologist, but right now my degree i’m working on is an assoc. of applied science in criminal justice, is that bad, if so what should i be doing?

    • Radek Gadek

      You probably want to go the [forensic] psychology route here. Nevertheless, you might be able to get your AAS in CJ and apply for a Bachelor’s in Forensic Psychology. Many schools will allow that, but may require prerequisite courses to be completed towards your Bachelor’s.

  • Jazelle

    I’m currently a high school senior applying for concurrent classes at a community college to get a head start. The college I mainly want to attend, UC Irvine, doesn’t have Forensic Psychology as a course but has Criminology, Law, and Society as a whole course in Social Ecology. Will that be a good enough start to become a Forensic Psychologist? One of the classes I’m thinking about taking in the community college is Paralegal Studies. Would that class benefit me in any way?

  • Hall

    I still have four years until graduating but i love psychology and i’d love to be a forensic psychologist but the problem is, is that there aren’t many jobs in B.C. for it, and i was wondering if anyone new a place hopefully in B.C, Canada is fine, that i could get a high pay good job in being a forensic psychologist. I would also like to know how long you go to school to become one, and what courses i need to take… Thanks i hope someone will reply…..

  • cathy

    I have an undergraduate degree in Journalism and will be majoring in Forensic Psychology. How will not having a undergraduate degree in psychology or criminal justice affect employers decision to hire me as a forensic psychologist?

  • Christy Barton

    I’m looking into getting a career with forensic psychology but there is only 1 school in my state that offers a bachelors degree. Do I have any options as far as classes to take without moving or is moving my only choice?

  • cherri

    I am about to receive my Bachelors degree with a major in Paralegal and a minor in business, and psychology. I would like to go for my Masters degree in Psychology. I want to work with lawyers to help pick out jurors and/or become an expert witness. Would this degree get me this type of job? If not what classes should I be taking?

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