The increasing popularity of this profession has led many students to pursue a Ph.D. in forensic psychology; by earning an advanced degree in the field, students are able to play a pivotal role in criminal investigations, trial proceedings, and legal policy. Many forensic psychologists branch out into rewarding careers with solid training and re-specialization in fields like child custody, jury selection, violence risk, hostage negotiation, social science research, and civil commitment.
Why a Ph.D. in Forensic Psychology?
A doctorate in forensic psychology opens the door for psychologists and specialists to compete in this growing field; some obtain entry-level positions at counseling centers or clinics that eventually lead to the individual opening a facility of his or her own. Others sign on for long-term positions with law enforcement agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Secret Service, or various city and state departments.
Getting into a Forensic Psychology Ph.D. Program
Students who enroll in forensic psychology doctorate programs typically have a background in the field; some have worked in crime scenes or crime labs, while others have experience with clinical work. Course prerequisites will vary based on the number of psychology courses taken and are specific to program focus. General requirements of the candidate are as follows.
- Bachelor’s or master’s degree from an accredited university
- Completed application for admissions
- Sufficient scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
- Writing sample and/or statement of purpose
- Letters of recommendation from academic and/or professional references
Inside a Forensic Psychology Ph.D. Program
The curriculum for forensic psychology doctoral programs typically includes a series of core courses that cover a wide range of topics, including history, statistics, advanced psychology and laboratory science, research methods, forensic psychology, and ethics. Over a period of study that typically lasts between five and seven years, forensic psychology PH.D. students also complete up to three theses, as well as a pre-doctoral internship or supervised residency. The final thesis often includes an original research project or dissertation supplemented with knowledge gained from the internship/residency.
What’s Next for Forensic Psychology Ph.D. Holders?
With a growing workforce of roughly 13,000 jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that nine out of 10 forensic technicians work in government operated workplaces with police, crime labs, morgues and medical examiner/coroner offices.
According the BLS, forensic technicians earn a median salary of $52,180, and job growth is projected to reach 19% between 2010 and 2020. As technology grows more complex, forensic professionals who are willing to learn new programs and technological competencies stand the greatest chance of landing desirable, long-term positions.