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What Degree Is Needed to Become a Forensic Psychologist?

A forensic psychology degree program can train you in conflict management and treatment procedures. Continue reading to find out what education level is needed to professionally determine psychological intent.

Education Options

Although having a doctoral-level education improves your job prospects and earning potential, holding a master's degree may be enough to find a position in this field. With a Ph.D., you can serve court systems to provide professional evaluations. Master's degree program graduates can provide assistance with such evaluations, work on research teams, or provide community therapy. If you provide any sort of patient care, you must meet the licensure and/or certification requirements of your state.

Important Facts About Forensic Psychology

Degree Levels Master's or Ph.D.
Certification Board certification from the American Board of Forensic Psychologists is voluntary but may be required by some employers
Concentrations Counseling or civil, criminal, or family court
Common Courses Psychopathology, psychodiagnosis, ethics in clnical psychology
Median Salary (2018) $100,770 (Psychologists, Other)*
Job Outlook (2016 - 2026) 11% (Psychologists, Other)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Master's Degree

A bachelor's degree is required to enter the program; some prior training in psychology may be requested. Concentration options, such as sex offenders and child services, may be offered. Throughout the program, you learn concepts relating law to psychology; the study of counseling is also commonly incorporated. Your courses can cover topics in consultation, adult and child psychology, working with diverse cultures, assisting in jury decisions, conflict management, and patient interview tactics. These programs can also feature courses in patient risk assessment, psychology ethics, intervention techniques, judging criminal responsibility, statistics, and patient diversity.

Although you may be able to find programs offered online, there are at least some campus-based components, due to internship or clinical requirements. Programs may qualify you to become licensed upon graduation.

Doctoral Degree

Previous clinical work and completion of a master's program may be necessary before you begin a Ph.D. or Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology) program. Education at this level consists of courses and experiential learning leading to a career as a professional authority. Your program may take about five years to complete. Coursework, practicums, internships, and/or externships are part of the curriculum. You may choose a focus area, including working with children or adults. Content covered at this level includes research methodologies, data analysis, discerning various types of personalities, treatment procedures, criminal and civil law, personality testing, and psychopathology.

A graduation requirement is to write and argue a doctoral dissertation. Since there is a focus on hands-on training, you won't be able to complete your education online. With a doctoral degree, licensure status, proof of 1,000 hours of work experience, and successful passage of a written and oral exam, you can become a certified forensic psychologist through the American Board of Forensic Psychologists.

Career Defined

The main function of the forensic psychologist is to work in the court systems determining criminal psychological intent and motivation; psychologists do so in order to help legal professionals make decisions about the cases they take or are assigned. There are three areas of focus you may be prepared for, including civil, criminal, and family court. You may also be able to provide therapy in various types of forensic environments.

Careers can be found with child advocacy centers, treatment facilities, court clinics, forensic units, correctional facilities, and general counseling centers. Depending on where you intend on working, job opportunities may require you to assess criminal mental capabilities, compare mental evaluations to law, evaluate situations of possible abuse, and provide psychotherapy services.