Forensic psychology is a rapidly growing discipline with its own body of certification, the American Board of Forensic Psychology (ABFP).
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.?
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.
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 14,400 jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that nearly 90% of forensic technicians work in government operated workplaces, such as police stations, crime labs, morgues and medical examiner/coroner offices.
According the BLS, forensic technicians earn a median salary of $55,360, and total job growth is projected to increase by 27% between 2014 and 2024. As technology become more complex, forensic professionals who are willing to learn new programs and technological competencies stand the greatest chance of landing desirable, long-term positions.