How Do You Become a Forensic Psychologist?

Forensic PsyschologyIf you would like to work in the fields of both law and psychology, you should consider mapping out the path you need to travel down to become a forensic psychologist. Psychology is an expansive field that focuses on the human mind and how it functions. When you combine forensics with psychology, which is the method of investigating crime, you get a field where professionals study the human mind and criminal behavior to prevent crimes or to help with sentencing when a defendant is convicted. Since the this profession is an interaction between two different fields, you may be limited in the degree programs that you can take to get qualified, according to Psychology Today. Here is the step-by-step process you can take to enter the field.

Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree

After you complete your high school education you will be eligible to work on your bachelor’s degree. Earning your bachelor’s degree is the first step you must take to becoming a forensic psychologist. This is one of the more difficult paths to navigate through because there is more than one type of degree that you can select. Many undergraduate students will study for their degree in psychology with an minor in criminal justice. You can also minor in criminology, forensics, or pre-law. If you decide that you would rather major in criminal justice, you will need to minor in psychology. Just be sure that the school that you attend is accredited so that your credits will be accepted by graduate schools.

Choose the Path to Your Doctorate in Psychology

Earning your Doctorate in Psychology may be one or two steps depending upon the program that you enroll in. While a majority of doctoral programs do require that you possess a master’s degree, there are programs that accept students with just a bachelor’s and a strong academic history. You should explore your options while you are in a bachelor’s program before automatically enrolling in a master’s program. If you do take a master’s degree program, you will study forensic psychology, methods of application, program planning, and the legal system.

Choose a Doctoral Program

The subject content is extremely complex when you are studying for a doctorate degree, but choosing the right program can be complex as well. As a psychologist, you must decide if you want to earn your Ph.D in Psychology or your Psy.D. A Psy.D is for practicing psychologists who will be in a clinical setting. The Ph.D caters to professional who plan on working in more of a research setting but do not plan on practicing. There are not many options specifically in forensic psychology, so you will choose a major in psychology first and then complete your specialization.

Related Resource: Criminal Profiler

After you earn your doctorate degree, you will need to pursue your license in the state where you plan to practice. You should check with your state to find the general licensing requirements so that you enroll in the right program, according to the American Psychological Association. After you pass licensing exams and you get board certified, you can begin to search for openings with corrections centers, courts, jails and other institutions who have a need for forensic psychologists. If you are committed to the field, it can take anywhere from eight to 10 years to become a forensic psychologist.