Doctorate Programs in Forensic Psychology

Learn about doctorate programs in forensic psychology, including required courses and online degree options. Find out about the job duties of forensic psychologists, and discover their role in the legal and criminal justice system. Schools offering Forensic Psychology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

How do Forensic Psychology Doctorate Programs Work?

Prior to enrolling in a doctoral program in forensic psychology, you must have a bachelor's degree, or, in some cases, a master's degree. Some programs require a background in behavioral sciences or criminal justice, while others do not have a specific educational background requirement. There are very few online doctoral programs in forensic psychology. However, some flexible program formats are available, with one school allowing you to visit campus in the evenings, once per week or every other week.

Depending on the school you attend, you can earn either a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) in Forensic Psychology. One school offers clinical forensic psychology or experimental forensic psychology tracks. One school offering doctoral training in this field offers this education through a separate certificate program in forensic psychology that can be taken along with a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.

The Ph.D. and Psy.D. programs cover similar subject areas, like criminal behavior. However, according to the Monitor on Psychology, a journal of the American Psychological Association, Ph.D. programs are typically more research-focused, while Psy.D. programs are intended to train practitioners by providing a more practical education ( If you want to enter a research or teaching career, you may want to look into Ph.D. programs instead of Psy.D. programs.

Degree Types Ph.D. (research-focused), Psy.D. (more practically-focused)
Common Courses Psychometrics, criminology, research design and methods, clinical experience, statistics
Certification & Licensure Can seek certification through the American Board of Professional Psychology after completing 100 hours of education and passing the exam
Job Outlook (2016-2026)14% growth (for psychologists)*
Median Salary (2018)$79,010 (for psychologists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Courses Will I Take?

Through doctoral programs in forensic psychology, you will take courses that include research, professional ethics and behavioral methods. Curricular focus on research will likely depend on whether you are attending a Ph.D. or Psy.D. program. Courses will train you to interact with clients, including witnesses to a crime or accused criminals. You will learn to conduct interviews and assess people's responses. You might study personality disorders, like psychopathology, to learn how individuals with these disorders react, interact, behave and adjust. Courses might cover the following areas:

  • Psychometrics
  • Treating psychological disorders
  • Criminology
  • Ethical and legal practices
  • Research design and methods
  • Clinical experience
  • Statistics

What Additional Training Will I Need?

Internships are usually a degree requirement in this field. This could involve clinical training at a psychiatric hospital, jail or prison, or working with individuals on release programs. As an intern, you will work with licensed and established professionals to provide therapy, conduct interviews and provide psychological assessments.

Additionally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that you will need to become licensed in order to practice as a psychologist ( The American Board of Professional Psychology offers a certification for forensic psychologists. Requirements for this certification include a minimum of 100 hours of forensic psychology education and passing an exam (

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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