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Forensic Psychology Career, Job, Degrees and Training Information

Forensic psychologists apply principles of psychology to criminal justice. Forensic psychology is similar to forensic science, but forensic psychologists apply psychology to issues relating to criminal behavior. For example, they evaluate suspected criminals and determine whether or not they are insane. Forensic psychologists combine legal issues with psychology. They also treat mentally ill criminals, consult attorneys, and analyze the minds of criminals to determine possible explanations for their criminal behavior.

Forensic Psychology Career Options

Forensic Psychology is a branch of psychology, specific to forensic science, as it applies to issues and questions related to law, criminal justice, and the legal system. The following job descriptions illustrate that there are a large variety of forensic psychology career opportunities for those with the disposition and aptitude to enter this field.

Forensic Psychology Education

Individuals interested in pursuing a career in forensic psychology should take a course load focused on criminal justice and psychology topics since few colleges and universities offer forensic science degrees. Classes that could prepare students are clinical, cognitive, criminal investigative, developmental, and social psychology.

Certain forensic psychologists exclusively focus on research. For example, their research could lead to the improvement of interrogation methods, or forensic psychologists focus their efforts on public policy, for example, designing new correctional facilities or prisons. Most forensic psychologists spend their careers in law enforcement, corrections, or teaching.

Forensic psychologists must earn a doctorate degree before becoming licensed. Students interested in forensic psychology should take classes in criminology, abnormal psychology, statistics, social psychology, criminal law, and since motivation is an area of expertise for forensic psychologists, motivational psychology is a very important class. Potential forensic psychologists should earn a bachelor's of science degree rather than a bachelor's of arts degree.

Those with M.A. degrees in clinical psychology usually work under the supervision of a person holding a Ph.D. Since forensic psychologists with master's degrees usually earn less than those with doctorate degrees, many work at correctional facilities. Graduates with master's degrees from institutions specializing in cognitive, social, and developmental psychology, usually enjoy more opportunities than graduates with a clinical degree since they can evaluate patients.

It is anticipated that over the next 10 years the demand for research work, consultation, and clinical practice in forensic psychology will increase. Specifically, jobs working with attorneys, courts, and legislators and teaching and research positions working with juveniles will see an increase. Forensic psychologists with doctorate degrees will have more opportunities while those with bachelor’s degrees will find it nearly impossible to specialize.

Forensic Psychology Salary, Earnings and Wage Information

While conducting this research, we discovered forensic psychologists usually earn about $53,000 annually while forensic psychologists with 20 plus years of experience usually earn $77,000 annually. Those running their own businesses or providing expert testimony usually make more money every year. Forensic psychologists who have worked fewer than 20 years earn salaries affected by whether they work for the public or private sector, and whether they have the time or ability to provide expert testimony to supplement their annual income.

Source: US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics,,