The Field of Forensic Psychology

The study of forensic psychology is a popular topic. It is one of the most fascinating subfields of Psychology.

Consider all the books, films and documentaries depicting how to learn more about the criminal mind to aid in solving crimes and bringing victims justice.

Despite being widely popular in the media, forensic psychology is crucial in actual life. It involves evaluating people who work in the legal system psychologically.

In this article, we will show you the meaning and origin of forensic psychology. You would also see how long it takes to become a forensic psychologist, what is required of you and the annual salary of a forensic psychologist.


The word ‘forensic’ originates from the Latin word ‘forensic,’ which means “the forum,” a term mostly used in the court system of ancient Rome.

Forensic psychology combines the practice of psychology and the law. Hence, it can be deduced that those who work in this field utilize psychological expertise as it applies to the justice system.

Therefore, if you are interested in law, psychology, criminal justice, and crime prevention, becoming a forensic psychologist can be an exciting career for you.

Interestingly, there are varieties of settings you can work in. Some of which include; correctional systems, the courts, law firms, or counselling units.


In 1879, Wilhelm Wundt often called the father of Psychology planted the first seeds of forensic psychology.

Wilhelm founded his first lab in Germany. Since that time, the field of forensic psychology has blossomed, with contributions from lots of other experts.


Forensic psychologists employ Psychology in legal and correctional systems.

As a forensic psychologist, you can work in a variety of settings, including working for public prosecutors, in prisons, or as consultants for law firms.

Forensic psychologists also testify in courtrooms, carry out research, perform investigations, or implement treatment programs for patients.

Here are some of the listed duties of a forensic psychologist:

Conducting psychological assessments of accused or convicted criminals: When convicted criminals are brought in by legal bodies, a forensic psychologist must run psychological assessments on such person to determine their state and level of criminality.

Diagnosing conditions and analyzing the legal aspects of these conditions: based on studies, analysis and expertise, a forensic psychologist can deduce several facts from convicted criminals.

This enables him to diagnose the likely conditions of his patient.

Advising attorneys on psychological aspects of criminal cases: a forensic psychologist can easily observe and study likely characteristics of a convicted criminal, hence, he would be in a good position to advise attorneys and other legal personnel on the psychological aspects of criminal cases.

Other responsibilities vary based on your work setting and the focus of your degree.

Here is a summary of some common job roles listed below:

  1. Consulting with law firms
  2. Evaluating competency of convicted criminals
  3. Evaluating the risk of reoffence from a person
  4. Serving as trial consultants to help with jury selection, witness preparation, or legal strategies
  5. Providing sentencing recommendations
  6. Giving testimony as an expert witness
  7. Evaluating Child custody conditions
  8. Academic study and research on criminality
  9. Providing psychological treatment for criminal offenders
  10. Provide psychological services to inmates and offenders
  11. Designing correctional programs


Although the duties and job roles of a forensic psychologist cut across various psychological and justice systems, it is categorized into these seven(7) sectors.

  1. Researchers: they collect and disseminate psychological data and information related to various legal issues.
  2. Advisors: they provide attorneys with an informed understanding of the role that psychology can play in legal cases. They also provide them with necessary advice relating to their field of work and function.
  3. Consultants: explain the practical implications of relevant research, examination findings, and the opinions of other psychologic experts.
  4. Examiners: they evaluate a person’s performance and present findings and recommendations to a lawyer, a court, an employer, an insurance company, or other parties who may be interested.
  5. Treatment providers: provide therapeutic services tailored to the issues and context of a legal proceeding.
  6. Mediators/Negotiators: serve in a third-party neutral role and assist parties in resolving disputes.
  7. Arbiters/Special Masters/Case Managers: serve parties, attorneys, and the courts in a decision-making capacity.


The path to becoming a forensic psychologist can take ten to fifteen years. You will need to earn a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and a doctorate.

After graduation, individuals need to then apply for licensure and board certification.

With this, you may realize that forensic psychology goes beyond a mere game or adventure to study criminals’ minds, as commonly portrayed in books and movies. Rather, it takes strong commitment, dedication and hard work.


There are many ways to enter the field of forensic psychology. After high school, it starts with undergraduate programs that offer a major in the subject.

This is followed by a master’s degree program before going all the way up to acquire a doctorate.

However, only those with a doctoral degree in psychology and active state licensure as psychologists are permitted to engage in the professional practice of clinical forensic psychology.

Here are the steps involved to become a licensed professional forensic psychologist:

STEP 1: Graduate from High School

Keep your grades up in high school if you want to become a forensic psychologist.  Doing so will help you get into a reputable four-year bachelor’s degree program. It takes four years to complete high school. However, to prepare for college study, it is also advised to take as many math, physics, and social science classes as possible.

STEP 2: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Obtaining a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology takes about 3 to 4 years to complete.

For a student aspiring to become a forensic psychologist, you can either pursue a major in forensic psychology or general psychology for your bachelor’s degree.

However,  note that students with a major in forensic psychology may have a higher advantage when applying for a master’s in forensic psychology program.

Typical courses in a forensic psychology bachelor’s program include general psychology, law courses and introduction to criminology.

STEP 3: Earn your Masters’ Degree

The next step after a bachelor’s degree is to obtain your master’s degree. A master’s degree program takes between one and two years to complete.

If you had taken a general Psychology program during your bachelor’s program, a master’s program allows you to specialize in your desired field of forensic psychology.

STEP 4: Obtain and graduate from a Doctorate Degree Program

To practice as a forensic psychologist, the next thing you will need after completing a master’s program is to obtain a doctorate in psychology.

A doctorate could be either a PhD or a Psy.D. program, both of which typically take between five to seven years to complete.

STEP 5: Complete Qualified Specialized Training

Forensic psychologists receive specialized training in forensics. Many psychologists get hands-on training from internships and post-doctoral training programs early on in their careers.

Also, there are numerous certifications and training that psychologists can take to learn more about forensics.

STEP 6: Obtain License for Practice

To practice as a forensic psychologist, you’ll need a state-issued license. Note that different states require different operations for licensure.

Generally, to earn a license, applicants must complete a certain number of hours of clinical experience under a previously licensed psychologist; the number of required hours varies by state.

Applicants must then take the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology exam. Once applicants pass the exam they receive state licensure.

STEP 7: Pass the Certification Exam

Once an individual has earned state licensure as a forensic psychologist, they can opt to become board certified.

This process is optional. However, it is considered important because it shows dedication to becoming a professional in the field.

According to the ABPP, the oral exam fee in forensic psychology is $550, and the written exam fee is $300

The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) is the certifying organization for forensic psychologists.

Additionally, the ABPP awards the Specialty Board Certification in Forensic Psychology (SBCFP) to licensed forensic psychologists who pass both an oral and written exam and who have completed a certain number of hours of training and work experience.

  • Finally, forensic psychologists seeking professional certification can receive specialty certification in forensic psychology through a process administered by the ABPP. The eligibility requirements to sit for the ABPP forensic psychology exam include:
  • A doctoral degree in psychology from an APA-accredited PhD or PsyD program
  • A minimum of 100 hours of postdoctoral training through an APA-approved continuing education or graduate course in forensic psychology, or documented work experience under the supervision of a forensic psychologist
  • Direct experience
  • Forensic Psychologist Certification


Forensic psychologists can earn a wide range of salaries. For instance, a 2021 estimate determined that forensic psychologists earn an average of $95,374 a year.

However, among the 136 reporting forensic psychologists, PayScale (2021), a collection of self-reported income data, showed a range of wages in this discipline, from $52,000 to $93,000. Pay scale provided the following wage percentiles in further detail:

10th percentile: $52,000

25th percentile: $68,000

50th percentile (median): $82,000

75th percentile: $89,000

90th percentile: $93,000

Not surprisingly, pay scale also found that one of the most impactful factors on salary was an experience. Hence, the greater the number of years and expertise, the greater the salary range.

Interestingly, pay scale’s reporting forensic psychologists’ salary percentiles matched those of psychologists as a whole (BLS May 2020):

Typical income: $133,470

$119,460 is the 75th percentile.

The median (50th percentile) is $105,780.


In the UK, a master’s degree in forensic psychology is usually offered as a standalone course. You can acquire this degree either in the field of law or psychology.

You will be able to comprehend and assess the accused in various instances if you study an MSc in Forensic Psychology in the UK.

Additionally, a UK master’s program in forensic psychology intends to train attorneys and psychologists who work to reduce the frequency of such instances. This is accomplished by assessing the suspect’s competency and mental health.

Below is a list of top Universities in the UK that offer degrees in forensic psychology:

  • University of Kingston
  • University of Lincoln
  • Kings College London University of London
  • University of Bedfordshire
  • University of Portsmouth
  • Grainfield University
  • Royal Holloway University of London
  • Kings College London University of London
  • University of Wolverhampton
  • Teesside University
  • Manchester Metropolitan University
  • University of Gloucestershire
  • Cardiff Metropolitan University
  • Swansea University
  • University of Bournemouth
  • University of Bath
  • University of Liverpool
  • University of Manchester
  • University of Winchester
  • Glasgow Caledonian University
  • Sheffield Hallam University
  • North Umbria University
  • Bristol University of West England
  • Edinburgh Napier University
  • Middlesex University London
  • University of Kent

After completing high school and obtaining a bachelor’s degree, you can choose any of the above-mentioned colleges in the United Kingdom.

The colleges offer a master’s degree program in forensic psychology.


A Forensic Psychologist’s average annual pay is £43,100, which makes a monthly scale of £2,750.

Forensic psychologists are well paid in the UK with their average annual salary being about 46 per cent greater than the average national salary of £13,500.

For a start, a Forensic Psychologist’s salary is typical £34,900. The highest-paying jobs can earn more than £82,000



As one of the interesting subfields of Psychology, forensic psychology happens to be a hot topic. It combines the study of Psychology and the law to make an exciting topic.

Generally, forensic psychologists work alongside law enforcement bodies to help solve criminal cases. With their knowledge and expertise in Psychology and the law, they can make research on the criminal mind.

Furthermore, resources gathered from their research could then be used in the analysis and treatment of the criminal mind. Forensic psychologists also serve as consultants and advisors to legal bodies.

It takes several years to become an expert forensic psychologist; no less than ten (10) years.

However, there are many benefits attached to being a forensic psychologist. Not only is it a lucrative field, but it also helps solve the problem of criminality in our society.



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