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7 Forensic Psychology Careers to Consider

Forensic psychology careers are at the intersection of psychology and the legal system. Professionals in this field apply their expertise to understand criminal behavior, assess competency, and provide insights into legal proceedings. Careers in forensic psychology offer opportunities to work within diverse settings such as law enforcement agencies, courts, correctional facilities, and academic institutions, contributing crucial insights to the criminal justice system.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for all psychologists, including forensic psychologist careers, is expected to grow by 6% through the year 2032.

This article discusses forensic psychology careers and what you need to know before becoming a forensic psychologist.

Forensic Psychology Careers to Consider

Careers in the field of forensic psychology encompass a broad range of roles, each with its own unique responsibilities and requirements. Here are several options:

Forensic Psychologist

Forensic psychologists assess individuals involved in legal matters, such as defendants, witnesses, and victims, utilizing psychological principles to aid in legal decision-making processes, such as determining competency to stand trial or evaluating mental state at the time of the offense.

Correctional Psychologist

Correctional psychologists work within correctional facilities, providing mental health assessments, therapy, and rehabilitation programs to incarcerated individuals, aiming to address psychological issues and reduce recidivism rates.

Police Psychologist

Police psychologists collaborate with law enforcement agencies to evaluate candidates for law enforcement positions, provide counseling and support to officers facing traumatic incidents, and assist in crisis negotiation and hostage situations.

Legal Consultant

Forensic psychologists may serve as expert witnesses in court, offering evaluations and testimony on matters such as the reliability of eyewitness testimony, the impact of trauma on memory, or the psychological effects of certain legal proceedings.

Victim Advocate

Some forensic psychologists work as victim advocates, providing support, counseling, and resources to individuals who have experienced trauma or victimization, guiding them through legal processes, and helping them cope with the aftermath of crime.

Academic Researcher

Forensic psychologists engaged in academia conduct research to advance knowledge in areas such as criminal behavior, eyewitness testimony, jury decision-making, and the effectiveness of rehabilitation programs, contributing to the development of evidence-based practices within the field.

Forensic Consultant

Forensic psychologists may also work independently or for consulting firms, offering services such as psychological profiling, risk assessment, and policy development to law enforcement agencies, legal professionals, and government organizations.

These career options illustrate the diverse opportunities available within the field of forensic psychology, each playing a vital role in the intersection of psychology and the legal system.

Origins of Forensic Psychology Careers

The term ‘forensic’ comes from the Latin expression ‘forum’, which means place of public discussion. The word forensic psychology, therefore, implies practice in a judicial context, typically as an expert witness testimony at a trial. In this sense, forensic psychology may also be referred to as legal or court psychology.

The American Psychological Association did not officially recognize forensic psychology as a separate and distinct discipline until 2001. However, the study of the intersection of psychology and law dates back much further. 

Early psychologists, including Wilhelm Wundt and James McKeen Cattell, were interested in topics relevant to the field of forensic psychology. During the 1950s, psychologist Hugo Munsterberg published a book on how psychology could be applied in legal settings. Psychologists such as Alfred Binet and Lewis Terman made contributions to the field of intelligence testing, which is often used as an assessment tool in legal contexts.

Uses for Forensic Psychology Careers

In addition to psychological assessments and forensic consulting, forensic psychology may involve research and the development of forensic assessment techniques.

Forensic psychologists might work in a courthouse or prison setting, for law enforcement agencies, or for private companies such as those within the criminal justice system. They often train as clinical psychologists and receive additional training in forensic assessments either during their education or after.

Some of the ways that forensic psychology is used include:

Competency Evaluations

Forensic psychologists often assess a defendant to determine competency to stand trial and criminal responsibility. Competency to stand trial typically refers to whether a person charged with a crime is aware of what they have been accused of, if they understand the nature of the court proceedings against them, and if they can assist in their own defense.

Job Evaluations

Forensic psychologists may also assess police officers to determine fitness for duty and suitability for promotion. This may be related to an officer’s ability or capacity to meet physical requirements or perform certain tasks, such as handling a firearm. 

Child Custody Evaluations

Forensic psychologists may play a role in child custody cases to inform judicial decisions regarding child custody. 

Eyewitness Assessment

Professionals who work in this field may also be tasked with assessing whether an eyewitness’s age or emotional state affected their ability to accurately identify a perpetrator.

Responsibilities in Forensic Psychology Careers

Forensic psychologists specialize in applying psychological knowledge in the area of the law and criminal justice. Some other tasks performed by forensic psychologists include:

  • Providing expert testimony in court cases
  • Briefing witnesses
  • Offering treatment recommendations
  • Writing mental competency reports
  • Diagnosing and treating incarcerated individuals
  • Training prison and court staff to work with individuals who may have a mental health condition

This field has grown in popularity in recent years, partially due to depictions of the career in films, books, and television programs. While these pop culture portrayals might not necessarily give the most accurate view of forensic psychology, this field is still a promising area for people who have an interest in psychology and the law.

How to Get Started With Forensic Psychology Careers

To get started in forensic psychology careers, you will typically need to follow several key steps:

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Start by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field. While specific undergraduate coursework may vary, it’s important to focus on classes related to psychology, criminology, sociology, and research methods.

Gain Relevant Experience

Seek out opportunities to gain experience in the field of psychology, particularly those related to forensic settings. This could include internships, volunteer work, or entry-level positions in psychology, law enforcement, or the legal system.

Earn a Graduate Degree

Pursue a graduate degree in psychology, preferably with a focus on forensic psychology. This could involve obtaining a master’s degree in forensic psychology or a related field, followed by a doctoral degree (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) in clinical psychology or forensic psychology.

Ensure that the program is accredited by a recognized accrediting body.

Complete Supervised Clinical Experience

As part of your doctoral program, you’ll likely need to complete supervised clinical experience, typically in the form of internships or practicum placements. These experiences provide hands-on training in conducting psychological assessments, therapy, and forensic evaluations.

Obtain Licensure

Most states require licensure to practice as a psychologist. This typically involves completing a certain number of supervised clinical hours, passing a licensing exam, and fulfilling any additional requirements specific to your state.

Gain Specialized Training

Consider pursuing additional specialized training or certifications in forensic psychology, such as certification from the American Board of Forensic Psychology. These credentials can enhance your qualifications and expertise in the field.

Seek Employment Opportunities

Once you’ve completed your education and training, explore employment opportunities in forensic psychology. This could include positions in government agencies, correctional facilities, law enforcement agencies, courts, private practice, or academia.

Continue Professional Development

Stay updated on developments in the field of forensic psychology through continuing education, attending conferences, and engaging in professional networking. This ongoing learning process is essential for maintaining competence and staying informed about best practices in the field.

By following these steps, aspiring forensic psychologists can build the necessary education, training, and experience to pursue a rewarding career in this specialized field.

Forensic Psychologist Salaries

Forensic psychologist salaries can vary considerably depending on factors ranging from geographic location to years of experience. Salary statistics suggest that forensic psychology can be a well-paying field, particularly for those with advanced degrees and experience.

Just how much do forensic psychologists typically earn?

As with most careers, specific salaries vary depending upon factors such as educational background, geographic location, employment sector, and years of experience in the field.

Exact figures on salaries for forensic psychology careers are difficult to locate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not compile data on this specific subfield.

According to figures compiled by job search engine, the average national salary for a psychologist was $86,185 per year as of September 2021.

Figures offered by salary website suggest that wages vary from a low of $51,000 to a high of $92,000, with a median annual salary of around $82,000. These figures are aggregated based on self-reports from website users who work in those fields.

One study found that the average hourly rate charged by clinical-forensic psychologists was $280.23 and that the median annual income for men was $175,000 and the median annual income for women was $125,000. (Note: Such income disparities persist even when controlling for years of experience and hours worked).

In many cases, those at the lower end of the scale tend to be those in entry-level positions. These starter salaries are often offered to those with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Those employed by non-profit organizations and government agencies often find lower pay rates than those employed in the healthcare industry, private agencies, or in private consulting.


Forensic psychology is a growing field that has attracted a great deal of interest in recent years. Potential salary is only one of many factors you should consider if you are thinking about pursuing a career in this field.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Psychologists.

Neal, T. M. S., & Line, E. N. (2022). Income, demographics, and life experiences of clinical-forensic psychologists in the United StatesFrontiers in Psychology13, 910672.

Otto, R. K., & Heilbrun, K. (2002). The practice of forensic psychology. A look toward the future in light of the pastThe American psychologist57(1), 5–18.