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How to Become a Forensic Psychologist: Career & Salary Information

When you think of a psychologist, you probably have a stereotypical image of a man sitting on a chair and asking you, "How do you feel about that?" And while this is an idea that has been portrayed by television, it is not always accurate.

Within the criminal justice system, many elements work together interwoven and intertwined to meet the best end of justice. One of these elements is the field of forensic psychologists. Forensic psychology is the field that pertains specifically to law enforcement and is used in the criminal justice system to identify criminals.

To become a forensic psychologist, you would need to complete several stringent requirements, including obtaining the relevant qualification, which may also include getting a higher degree, passing the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology, and gaining experience.

Pursuing a career as a forensic psychologist takes a lot of hard work. Let us delve into this career prospect.

What Is A Forensic Psychologist?

With psychology gaining significant traction in modern times, it plays a prominent role in multiple facets of society. One such aspect is that of criminal justice.

Forensic psychology is where the law and the mind meet. Forensic psychologists, therefore, use their skills and expertise to gain insights into various legal matters.

Forensic psychologists aim to enhance the criminal justice system and legal proceedings through psychology.

Some crimes are so heinous that many people are left wondering how any human being of sound mind and capabilities could do such a thing. In an attempt to evade any repercussions, criminals often plead insanity in the hopes of not facing trial and sentencing.

However, forensic psychologists swoop in to prove that while it does take an extremely disturbed mind to commit vile manners of crime, the criminal may not necessarily be insane. And if they are fully aware of their actions when committing the crime, then they are entirely able to stand trial.

What Does A Forensic Psychologist Do?

In their most basic role, forensic psychologists seek to assess and study the behavior and brain activity of those involved in a criminal case.

Forensic psychologists play a fundamental role in effectively punishing and preventing criminal acts.

While there are psychologists within the criminal justice field that work with law enforcement ensuring that they get any help they need after witnessing heinous crimes, as well as doing background assessments and psychological assessments on potential candidates. Forensic psychologists focus solely on criminal analysis.

In solving a criminal case, a forensic psychologist plays a pivotal role. They can narrow down suspect lists by delving deep into research and formulating criminal profiles. They can delve deep into the mind of a criminal without even meeting the criminal.

But once they have narrowed down the criminal profile well enough, they can assess the lists of suspects and even assist in determining who committed the crime.

While they may not be able to pinpoint every mental and emotional aspect of a possible suspect, they can derive possible motives for committing a crime. Sometimes, that is all that is needed to help solve a case.

For crime prevention, when criminals are being released from prison, they may need to be monitored by a forensic psychologist during their rehabilitation process to ensure that they don't pose a danger to society.

Forensic psychologists perform a wide array of duties in various environments. From working in offices and prisons to assess prisoners and criminals to evaluating crime scenes and testifying in court, forensic psychologists must adapt to each environment while still conducting accurate analyses.

Additionally, their duties involve conducting research, selecting jurors in cases ensuring that they are in no way biased towards a case, performing witness investigations, and consulting law enforcement on certain cases.

They also perform threat assessments and child custody evaluations and present all findings and psychological evidence in court.

Steps To Become A Forensic Psychologist

In many cases, obtaining a bachelor's degree is not sufficient to practice as a forensic psychologist, and a higher degree may be required. This may vary from state to state, and according to the role level you are hoping to fulfill.

Let us take a look at the steps you would need to take to pursue a role as a forensic psychologist.

Step One: Gain Academic Qualifications

After you complete your high school career, you would then need to move on to complete a bachelor's degree in psychology. The extensive coursework will require you to complete modules that include criminal psychology, statistics, abnormal psychology, and studies on deviant behavior.

Step Two: Further Your Studies

In many instances, individuals may choose to pursue a higher degree to practice as a psychologist successfully. This higher degree can be in the form of a master's degree or a Ph.D. in psychology.

Step Three: Become Licensed

Once you have your academic qualifications, you must obtain your license to practice as a psychologist actively. An examination known as the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), which is offered by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB), needs to be completed successfully before pursuing a role as a forensic psychologist.

Step Four: Complete Supervised Hours

While the first few steps in becoming a forensic psychologist involve many theories, you will need to move on to practical steps whereby you apply the theoretical skills to real-life practices. Here, you can pick up skills you wouldn't ordinarily learn from a textbook.

Step Five: Become Professionally Licensed And Obtain Employment

Once you have all the makings of a forensic psychologist, you will need to become a licensed practitioner, and you can then begin applying for employment in the state where you are hoping to work.

You will need to obtain your professional licenses, specific to the state where you are hoping to work.

Step Six: Get Board Certified

Gaining certification from the American Board of Forensic Psychology is a great way to ensure you experience exponential growth in your career.

What Degree Do You Need To Be A Forensic Psychologist?

At the very least, you would need to complete a bachelor's degree in psychology focusing on criminal justice and related coursework. However, to practice as a forensic psychologist, you may need to pursue a higher degree in the form of a master's degree in psychology.

What Is The Average Salary For A Forensic Psychologist?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for psychologists is $81,040 based of May 2021.

According to the BLS, it is further stated that the highest expected annual salary for a psychologist in May 2021 is $133,890, and the lowest is $47,850.

What are the highest paying jobs in forensic psychology?

In forensic psychology, the greatest demand is seen within the federal government, which provides highly competitive compensation for those in the field.

What Makes A Good Forensic Psychologist?

Above all else, any psychologist's role, including a forensic psychologist, is to have compassion and objectivity when working with and analyzing subjects. Despite the nature of the person they are working with, they need to look at all aspects of the case objectively to provide the fairest end of justice for society and for the accused individual.

Additionally, they would need outstanding communication skills and the ability to think critically and outside the box and pay extensive attention to detail.

They will need to have the ability to get into the mind of a criminal without compromising their mental health.


How many years does it take to become a forensic psychologist?

From getting a degree, obtaining a higher degree in the form of a master's degree, gaining certification, and gaining practical experience, it can take anywhere between eight to 10 years to become a forensic psychologist.

What Education Is Needed to Be A forensic Psychologist?

While many opt to obtain a bachelor's degree in psychology, in many states and industries, the minimum requirement for a psychologist to practice psychology would be to either have a master's degree in psychology or a Ph.D. in psychology.

Is Forensic Psychology hard to get into?

It is an adage that nothing worth having is easy to come by. That said, if pursuing a career in forensic psychology is your dream career, you will need to be willing to put in the hard work required to succeed in such a role. It is therefore not complicated but requires hard work and dedication to become a forensic psychologist.

What's The Difference Between A Forensic And A Criminal Psychologist?

The significant difference between the two is the viewpoint and the psychologist's stance. For example, a forensic psychologist works from the perspective of law enforcement to assess the possible motives. If someone may have committed a crime or not, They also evaluate if they are deemed mentally insane or not to stand for the trial.

A criminal psychologist works from the viewpoint of the criminal, and they aim to assess what their motives would have been and why they may have done what they did. Based on the outcomes, it will also provide the criminal psychologist with reasons to believe if the criminal or suspect is likely to commit the same or similar crime again, depending on the motives behind the first crime.


If you are fascinated not just by those in this career but with the mind of the criminally insane, and if you are willing to invest in yourself and develop the spectacular skills associated with being a forensic psychologist, then this may be the best career path to follow.

You can quickly and effortlessly become the best in the business with hard work and dedication.

find criminal justice degrees near you

find criminal justice degrees near you