Forensic psychology programs are growing. We’re talking about forensic psychology graduate programs; forensic psychology Ph.D.programs; and Ph.D. in forensic psychology training institutes. Forensic psychology schools is of interest to most of our visitors; so we created a page focused on this topic.
Forensic psychology degree programs for grads and undergrads are limited in number. They are competitive. Keep in mind, forensic psychology is a sub-specialty of a sub-specialty. Therefore, despite its popularity, it’s pretty niche. However, these forensic psychology degree programs for aspiring forensic psychology majors like you might be of interest.
Forensic psychology colleges are non-existent. We are unaware of any college that only has one degree program. However, there are schools with forensic psychology degree programs. For the supposed best colleges for forensic psychology; colleges for forensic psychology students etc., we have compiled some information for you.
If you want to become a forensic psychologist, it is intuitive to conduct a search for the best forensic psychology schools. However, according to the guidance we have received from our mentors in the field, you will be making a big mistake. If you are searching out for the best forensic psychology schools with the goal of being the best forensic psychologist, we do not think you will find what you are looking for. Consider the following.
Forensic psychologists are actually just licensed psychologists who are applying the principles and methods of psychology to address legal questions, such as whether or not someone understood the wrongfulness of their actions during the commission of a crime. Therefore, if your goal is to be recognized as one of the most rigorously trained forensic psychologists, then you should seek to become and gain admission into one of the most highly selective doctoral programs in psychology. Not forensic psychology, but psychology.
Subsequently, by way of using your training in forensic psychology to address legal issues, you will become a de facto forensic psychologist. Attending a so-called “forensic psychology school” with a lax admission standard is unlikely to benefit you as much as let us say earning a doctorate in clinical psychology from one of the Ivys and then spending your career using that degree to assist the court.
From what we understand, the exception to the above might be limited to graduate students who do not wish to pursue education beyond the master’s level. If that is the case, a graduate program with a forensic psychology major could make sense, but if let us say Harvard, Cornell, or Stanford are options, then would it not make sense to pursue degrees in psychology from those programs even if they do not have a forensic psychology specialty program?
A career in forensic psychology is established by way of postdoctoral education; meaning, what you do after you have already earned your doctorate. It is not established by your doctoral training. Therefore, the best schools in forensic psychology from what we understand are actually the best schools in psychology, period. If you are looking for the best schools in forensic psychology, then we regrettably do not have a specific list of recommendations for you because we believe such a pursuit is misguided and in the worst case may land you with a master’s or a doctoral degree that has not provided you with the educational and training experiences you need to actually qualify for an APA accredited internship or licensure after you complete your degree.
Our advice is this: Search out for the best schools in psychology that have renowned faculty conducting research in the area of forensic psychology. Pursue and select schools based on the forensic psychology talent represented in the graduate psychology department. These professors are the individuals with deep connections and experience to position you to become a renowned forensic psychologist one day. It would not be the school or the list of schools with forensic psychology programs that are not rigorous, reputable, selective or populated with renowned forensic psychologists on staff.
Highest paid psychologists and famous forensic psychologists aren’t one in the same. Fame in forensic psychology comes by way of research, presentations and teaching as well as the occasional high-profile case. However, to be the highest paid psychologist, your days won’t be spent doing research or testifying, which zaps away a day of revenue-generating interviewing. Instead, to be the highest paid forensic psychologist, your days will be spent evaluating a ton of people and writing so many reports that your head will spin.
How much do criminal psychologists make is a simple questions with a simple answer: Not Enough. These psychologists are also known as correctional psychologists. They work in prisons and other locked down settings. Therefore, in a sense, they’re doing time just like inmates. Criminal psychologists make around $70,000 to $85,000 per year to start. They’re capping out at just over $100,000.
Okay, let us get down to the nitty-gritty. How much can I make as a forensic psychologist? What’s the 2016 Forensic Psychology Salary? Well, like most professions, the more specialized you become, the more competition you eliminate in pursuit of a customer. Forensic psychologists and neuropsychologists are specializations that are only earned after having already completed a doctoral program in psychology. Many are worn-out after completing a master’s degree, let alone a doctoral degree. Few are prepared to jump through even more hoops of board certification and other qualifications to become a forensic psychologist. Therefore, the salary for forensic psychologists tends to be higher than salaries for therapists with doctoral degrees who are competing for the same business that social workers with two-year master’s degrees are trying to get.
If a psychologist goes out and joins an insurance panel such as Aetna, Cigna, or Blue Cross and Blue Shield, it is not uncommon for them to be able to bill a maximum of $65 to $95 for a 45-minute therapy session with the client. The other 15 minutes is expected to be spent writing chart notes. There is also overhead for therapy space to pay at $25 per hour if just renting therapy office space by the hour or by the day. Yes, so as a therapist with a doctoral degree, you may only be able to clear a $40 profit per hour. Ouch!!!
However, insurance companies do not cover forensic psychology services requested by the court. Reimbursement for forensic psychology services is provided by attorneys who typically get this money from their clients. These money may also be provided by the state if you have a state contract with a public defender’s office or some other state agency requiring forensic mental health assessments such as the Social Security Disability Determinations Office in your state. From what we gathered from our mentors, these state agencies are known to pay a little bit over $100 per hour with caps on the number of hours you can bill for a particular service/evaluation.
For forensic psychologists retained directly by an attorney for a particular case, some of our mentors have billed over $400 per hour while others have billed an average of $200 per hour. If testimony is required, our mentors’ bill either by the day or half day, meaning if they testified for an hour, they are billing for four hours. If they testified for 4 hours and 15 minutes, they are billing for eight hours. That is a potential of $3200 for a day at court.
If you consider that you may only clear $40 per hour for every therapy patient you are seeing, it would take you 80 hours of therapy or two weeks of full time therapy work to earn what a forensic psychologist could earn during one long grueling hard day in a court house. Also our mentors’ bill for their travel time, hotel expenses and preparation time for these long hard days, which amounts to several, several more billable hours.
Therefore, in private practice forensic psychologists can easily clear a $150,000 to 250,000 annual salary if they are working full time and can find enough referrals to keep them busy for 40+ hours a week. This will probably involve an assortment of work coming directly from attorneys along with various consulting contracts that forensic psychologist will have with the state to gain them a salary in forensic psychology at this level.
Forensic psychologists directly employed by hospitals with forensic psychiatric units will make far less, but still reliably more than their colleagues in these settings who are solely providing clinical services. The salaries for these forensic psychologists just out of their pre-doctoral internships may start at $85,000 per year at the high end with their clinical counterparts starting at $65,000 per year at the high end.
As undergraduate students, we are still thinking in terms of hourly jobs and this whole thousand dollar per year thing is hard to understand. However, our mentors have provided us with the following calculation to breakdown that annual salary down in a way that helps us grasp what that means in terms of our lifestyle.
A workweek is typically 40 hours. There are 52 weeks in a year. Between the sick days, holidays and your days to catch up on work, our mentors recommend taking that 40 hours per week and multiplying it by 48 weeks. In other words, we should assume you would be working approximately 1,920 hours per week. If you are clearing $250,000 per year, or if that is your goal, you divide $250,000 by 1,920 hours. In this example, by using these assumptions, you should anticipate making approximately $130 an hour to earn $250,000 per year. Given work study programs pay $20 an hour, it is clear to me exactly what $250,000 per year would mean. It would essentially mean six times more than what you are making now. A $120,000 per year would be $65 per hour and $60,000 per year would essentially mean half of that.
Salaries in forensic psychology have remained consistent and relatively higher than other areas of psychological practice. It is nice to have mentors who are willing to open up about these numbers given the amount of student loans we will have to pay back if we pursue all of these years of education. Professionals never want to come off as being crass by getting into these numbers, so we hope this salary information and breakdown will spare you the awkwardness of asking your professor for this information.
You might also consider joining us and having access to our network of mentors that are more than willing to be candid about this information and to assist us in our goals to become a forensic psychologist one day. They will encourage you to join our efforts in producing information for this website by interviewing them and writing articles, which will only be helpful to us (the writers and the consumers of this information) in the long run. Consider joining us today.
The path to become a forensic psychologist is varied; meaning, it is not the same for everyone. If you are an undergraduate student, then you will likely find benefit in this article. If you are a psychologist looking to re-specialize in the area of forensic psychology, then we would recommend checking out Eric Mart’s book How to Become a Forensic Psychologist. This blog is produced by undergraduate students aspiring to be forensic psychologists with the assistance of forensic psychologists providing them with mentorship. We have gathered the following information for other undergraduate students as we support each other in hopes of becoming forensic psychologists in the future. Here is what we found.
The first step to becoming a forensic psychologist is to become a psychologist. The path to becoming a psychologist is pretty straightforward. The first step in the path is to gain entry into a graduate program. Some undergraduate students pursue a master’s degree before going on to a doctoral program in psychology. Other students gain entry into a doctoral program in psychology right out of their undergraduate institution.
For students who feel unprepared for a doctoral program and the five- to six-year commitment it requires, then they may want to pursue a master’s degree before applying to doctoral programs in psychology. This path is also recommended for those students who completed their undergraduate studies with grade point averages that did not leave them in a competitive place to gain access directly into a doctoral program after their last year of college. Also, for those students who had competitive GPAs, but for one reason or the other were unsuccessful in applying to a doctoral program, then a master’s degree after undergrad would make sense. As implied by the above, there is no reason why students who believe they will be on the fence for doctoral admission should not simultaneously apply to master’s programs and doctoral programs. An important note here, school isn’t free so getting a Master’s and a doctoral degree will cost more.
You may be wondering what type of master’s degree you should pursue to keep you on the path to becoming a forensic psychologist. The best answer to this question is to search out doctoral programs in psychology and to make your way over to their admission’s requirements page on their websites. There you will find what their expectations are from you in order to get in. We have found that the same advice is also beneficial for undergraduate students who will be competitive for gaining access to doctoral programs right after their last year of college. In order for undergraduates to best position themselves to gain access to a doctoral program, then by their second year in their undergraduate studies, our mentors in forensic psychology suggest familiarizing ourselves with the application materials for doctoral psychology programs.
The requirements spell out what the GPA expectations are, the number of letters of recommendation required, the ranges of GRE scores that are competitive and other things that these programs are looking for such as research experience, volunteer experiences, writing experience etc. Hint–hint, by joining our team, we will provide you with some of these experiences to better position yourself for acceptance into a master’s or doctoral program directly out of undergrad. That’s why we created and participate in this blog.
Is it possible to study Spanish literature in your master’s degree program and then to gain entry into a doctoral program in psychology? The answer is yes. At the same time, would you be as competitive as someone who studied quantitative psychology in a two-year master’s program? The answer is unclear and depends on where you are applying to school, the competitiveness of the institution, sizes of the classes and the unique attributes of the applicant pool. However, logic would suggest for you to go with the quantitative psychology master’s degree or another psychology-related master’s degree.
From what we gathered, a forensic psychology master’s degree will not position yourself any better than another psychology related master’s degree. The reason why is because your specialization in forensic psychology would not be established during the next step after your master’s degree. In other words, when you are pursuing a doctoral degree, and after you have completed your doctoral degree, you still will not be a forensic psychologist. Therefore, having a forensic related degree before your doctoral program will not give you an edge in becoming a forensic psychologist. Rather, the experiences after you have completed your doctoral program and while you are completing your doctoral program will account for much more.
The exception to this general principle will be if you plan to seek a career in academia after earning your doctorate, but there is disagreement about whether psychologists engaged in teaching and research in forensic psychology as opposed to evaluation and testimony are actually forensic psychologists.
From what we have gathered, there is some benefit to applying to programs in forensic psychology at the doctoral level. There are not many; so, competition will be stiff. We suggest for you to review the requirements for licensure in professional psychology in your State as well as what the APA accredited predoctoral internship programs are requiring from you with respect to your doctoral studies. Once you familiarize yourself with these requirements, be sure that the doctoral program in forensic psychology you are applying to will actually provide you with the clinical and academic experiences you will need to become a full-fledged practicing licensed psychologist in your state that has completed an APA accredited internship. Some of these programs might prepare you to be a heck of a researcher in this area, but not to get license, hang out your shingle, and engage in the practice of forensic psychology.
Regardless of whether you began a doctoral program in forensic psychology, school psychology, clinical psychology or anything else, you can gain the necessary experiences to start developing a curriculum vitae (aka resume) that will establish your specialization in forensic psychology and your recognition amongst your peers as a forensic psychologist. Some of these experiences might be conducting clinical work in a correctional or prison setting, administering testing for a local forensic psychologist in private practice in your town (if permitted by the regulations in that state), and/or conducting research in forensic psychology; perhaps, for your dissertation. Also, your State Psychological Association and certainly the American Psychological Association will have opportunities for professional service as a student in their respective divisions of forensic psychology.
However, the most critical step short of board certification to qualify yourself as a forensic psychologist out of graduate school is gaining acceptance into an APA accredited pre-doctoral internship or postgraduate program with a specialized forensic track. Naturally, before you get to this milestone, you will have to do everything that is required to successfully complete a doctorate degree in psychology, which again is a five-year endeavor, even if you stopped along the way to complete a two years master’s degree before doing so.
As indicated earlier, the single best thing you can do to qualify as a forensic psychologist would be to seek and accomplish board certification through the American Board of Professional Psychology in this area. The ABPP now offers a path to get a head start on board certification depending on the forensic opportunities available at a postdoctoral program that you are attending.
Board certification involves providing the ABPP with your credentials, which must include a certain amount of hours in the field of forensic psychology. Once you have passed this step, you have a year to study, complete and pass a written examination in the area of forensic psychology. After that, you must submit two work samples, which must be passed according to the reviews of an independent board of forensic psychologists. After that, you must pass an oral examination based on the content of those work samples. Listen, if you complete all of that you are a forensic psychologist. However, it is important to note that most forensic psychologists do not have the ABPP in forensic psychology from what we have been told.
Forensic psychologists qualify themselves as such given the day-to-day activities they are doing at work and whether or not they have been qualified in a court of law to provide expert testimony as a psychologist on occasion. If you are primarily spending your workday as a psychologist conducting evaluations in order to assist the court in the judicial process and you are perhaps providing testimony as to your report findings, then it is acceptable to refer to yourself as a forensic psychologist from what we understand.
However, there is a debate about the above given that only a limited number of states offer a licensure status with a protected name representing your qualification as a forensic psychologist of any sort. If there is no licensure status in your state that protects the scope of practice associated with the title “forensic psychologist” then there is a legitimate argument to be made that it would be improper to refer to yourself as a forensic psychologist short of you earning board certification through the ABPP.
It is certainly a long road to becoming a forensic psychologist. Many undergraduate students do not fully understand how many years it takes to become a forensic psychologist and that you may actually take less time to become a primary care physician and certainly less time to become a lawyer. There are no master’s level psychologists as indicated above as a doctorate is required to be a psychologist. Likewise, there are no pre-licensure doctoral level forensic psychologists, as you must first be a psychologist that has earned postdoctoral experiences to justify in any legitimate way why it would not be improper to refer to yourself as a forensic psychologist if challenged.
However, the longest journey starts with a single step. A useful step for you to take is to get some support, or to connect with a mentor in the field of forensic psychology who can provide you with experiences and knowledge to give you an edge. We would be happy to help with that. Consider reaching out to us today.