Can a Forensic Psychologist Teach at the College Level?

forensic psychologist teach college

Graduate students choosing to become a forensic psychologist often picture working for the FBI like the characters on Criminal Minds. Of course, forensic psychologists do apply their human behavior expertise to profile violent offenders and pursue justice. However, forensic psychology usually involves much more than digging through the psyche of serial killers. The U.S. News & World Report‘s 17th best STEM job has a greater impact on the legal system. Forensic psychologists determine trial competency, assess re-offense risks, give courtroom testimony, advise on sentencing guidelines, and even design better jail rehabilitation programs. Further, some forensic psychologists transition from in-field practice to the classroom. A forensic psychologist can teach at the college level to train the occupation’s future brain sleuths. This article details what forensic psychologists can expect working in academia.

What Forensic Psychology Professors Do

Forensic psychology faculty are responsible for conducting for-credit college courses in this specialized major. Full-time professors generally teach four to six course sections each term. Before class time, professors must create hour-long lesson plans that meet departmental standards. Whether at the bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral level, each forensic psychology course must have a syllabus outlining the assignment schedule. During the lecture, faculty will stimulate active discussions, review textbook readings, and share their field experiences. Professors may advise on their students’ forensic psychology lab projects. Most arrange open office hours to lend career advice and answer any content questions. Outside the lecture hall, faculty also assess tests and papers to assign a final grade of A-F.

Benefits of Teaching Forensic Psychology

Teaching at the college level allows forensic psychologists to inspire young adults considering this gratifying legal profession. Unlike many careers, college professors have great job security thanks to tenure. Tenured faculty receive long-term contracts to reduce the fear of being laid off or replaced. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts strong job growth of 15 percent for college professors. It’s expected there will be 197,800 new teaching positions, including 7,100 in psychology, nationwide by 2026. Forensic psychology faculty are well-paid with an average annual salary of $88,490. The top 10 percent of psychology professors earn over $155,710 each year. Academia offers upward mobility for faculty to become department chair, college dean, and potentially president. Forensic psychology professors have more resources to conduct pivotal research and publish journal articles too.

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How Forensic Psychologists Can Start Teaching

Forensic psychologists can practice in the field with a Master of Arts or Science degree. Educational institutions typically require a terminal doctorate though. One exception would be community colleges where master’s credentials would qualify. Part-time adjunct faculty positions might also be suitable for psychologists with Master of Art or Master of Science degrees. Otherwise, earning a Ph.D. in Forensic Psychology is necessary. This rigorous doctoral program is four to seven years long with 60+ credits, field practicum, and dissertation research. Completing a graduate teaching assistantship is suggested to gain classroom and academic advising experience. Picking Ph.D. schools accredited by the American Psychological Association will ensure the best preparation. Colleges and universities might also prefer new faculty candidates who are certified through the American Board of Professional Psychology.


Since Wilhelm Wundt formally founded psychology in 1879, the field has gained more and more attention from college students. The APA reported that psychology is America’s fourth most popular major pursued by nearly 86,000 pupils each year. Forensic psychology is particularly intriguing for studying the root causes of criminal behavior. Top-notch colleges, such as Missouri State, Drexel, Farleigh Dickinson, Cornell, Florida International, Palo Alto, Widener, Texas Tech, and West Virginia, have forensic psychology programs now. A forensic psychologist can teach at the college level and prepare generations of behavioral science gurus for the legal system.

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