How Do You Become a Forensic Psychologist?

Forensic PsychologistIndividuals who have an interest in both the law and the practice of psychology have a number of options to consider for the path to take to become a forensic psychologist. These different paths include ways to focus on one specific area of the field, and understanding the role of a forensic psychologist is beneficial for future professionals to begin building the education, licensing, and experience to be successful in the field.

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Forensic Psychology Overview

Forensic psychologists play various roles in all areas of the law, from clinical assessment to treatment to identifying criminal patterns and behaviors. A forensic psychologist, while focused on the law, is needed in organizations including those for education, human services, and government. Forensic psychologists testify in trials, work with families and schools, counsel crime victims, and other psychology-based tasks, according to the American Psychological Association.

Education to Prepare

To be a licensed, practicing clinical psychologist, professionals must hold a conferred doctorate degree to gain the appropriate licensing and certifications required. To have a clinical practice, this is a standard requirement, and working with patients in any area necessitates this requirements. Common course work in a doctorate program includes advanced principles in forensic psychology, family systems, legal processes, group therapy processes, and techniques in assessment. A doctorate program also includes requirements for completing a dissertation, requiring extensive research, and completing an internship or externship position to gain practical experience in assessment, evaluation, analysis, and therapy.

In addition to the course and other requirements to complete a doctorate level degree, doctoral students are able to specialize in a specific area of forensic psychology to best prepare for a specific career path. Common options for specializations include forensic neuropsychology, clinical adult forensic psychology, child and family forensic psychology, and forensic psychology and the law.

Licensing and Certification

State licensing boards will require or anyone practicing clinical psychology to hold a state license and/or certification. Licensing varies by state, but it typically requires for candidates to have a doctorate degree, a minimum number of hours working in an internship or externship, and passing an examination.

Along with state licensing, professional certification can also be helpful for building skills and credentials in the field of forensic psychology. The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP), for instance, offers, professional designation in forensic psychology.

Experience in Forensic Psychology

Because of the necessity in so many situations to apply clinical practice in therapy sessions, the internship or externship while completing a doctorate degree is necessary. In addition, many positions require for prospective forensic psychologists to have clinical practice experience before qualifying for positions.


The combination of law and psychology creates a specialized knowledge base that is an essential part of the judicial system. To be a part of that system, future professionals can choose to follow various paths to become a forensic psychologist, helping in every area of the law by putting clinical psychological expertise into practice.

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