Is becoming a forensic psychologist right for me?
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How to become a Forensic Psychologist
Becoming a forensic psychologist takes many years of study and hundreds of hours of experience. The typical education track is as follows:
Earn a bachelor’s degree from a fully accredited university
At the undergraduate level, most aspiring forensic psychologists complete a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice, Criminology, or Pre-Law. It is important to note that a bachelor’s degree does not guarantee acceptance into a graduate program. Attaining a high GPA while also preparing for graduate school prerequisites and admission requirements are essential.
Earn a Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology (if necessary)
Most psychology doctoral programs do not have a dedicated forensic psychology option. Therefore, students generally earn a Ph.D. or Psy.D. in Psychology with a concentration in forensic psychology. To augment their specialty knowledge, some pursue a Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology.
Pursue a law degree (optional)
A Juris Doctor can provide legal instruction on court procedures and qualifies an individual to sit for the bar and become an attorney. A law degree is not a mandatory degree in the field; though, some schools offer a joint JD/master’s or doctoral degree.
Earn a Doctorate in Psychology
For candidates who are research-oriented, the Ph.D. in Psychology is recommended. The Psy.D. is generally pursued by those with a focus on treatment of patients. However, depending on the school, curricula for the two degrees may not be that far apart. If you have a specific professional goal, such as evaluating criminal defendants or conducting research, there may be reason to choose one degree over the other.
Obtain a Licensure
To evaluate individuals on behalf of the court or to serve as an expert witness to assess competency, a forensic psychologist will very likely need to have a state license. Each state administers its own licensing requirements and procedures, but most require candidates to possess a doctoral degree, pass the Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology, and have a certain amount of relevant experience.
Become Board Certified
Although not a requirement for practice, forensic psychologists may apply for professional certification with the American Board of Forensic Psychology (ABFP). Overseen by the American Board of Professional Psychology, the ABFP Forensic Psychology Diploma is the only postdoctoral certification in the field that is recognized by the American Psychological Association.
Candidates for ABFP certification must hold a doctoral degree from a professional psychology program, be licensed in their jurisdiction of practice, and complete a minimum of a hundred hours of formal board education and a thousand hours of practical experience in the field.