Doctoral Degrees in Clinical Forensic Psychology: Program Overview

Several schools' clinical psychology programs offer concentrations in forensic psychology at the doctoral level. These programs include instruction in clinical procedures, research and legal issues.

Essential Information

Doctoral degrees in clinical forensic psychology are open to individuals who hold at least a bachelor's degree in a relevant field. These programs teach students about psychological topics, like cognition, behavior, social interaction and research. Students can learn about clinical procedures, such as assessments and interventions. Forensic topics can encompass legal processes, evaluation of criminals and victims, expert testimony and treatments.

Taking 4-5 years to complete, doctoral programs in clinical forensic psychology include courses in the law and mental health, psychological profiling, psychopathology and forensic interviewing. Students develop their research skills and learn to analyze data.

Graduates may qualify for state licensing as psychologists in private practice or with facilities or agencies that provide mental health care. They can also pursue careers in research or academia and may be qualified to provide expert testimony in court.

Doctoral Degree in Clinical Psychology with a Concentration in Forensic Psychology

Students pursuing a doctoral degree in clinical forensic psychology can earn a research-based Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or a professional Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.). Both options qualify students for careers in psychology within academia, research, counseling or corrections. Typically taking 4-5 years to complete, doctoral programs offer both clinical research and internship opportunities. Students usually must also complete projects, pass an exam and submit a dissertation to receive their degree.

Education Prerequisites

Applicants must have earned at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited school. They usually need to have completed prerequisite psychology classes, such as abnormal or social psychology. Some institutions require doctoral candidates to have experience in psychological or forensic settings.

Course Topics

Students learn about the legal system an the various roles of forensic professionals. Courses might cover cross-cultural psychology and other diversity issues. Legal topics teach students how to evaluate individuals' risk or violence potential, intelligence, mental state, cognition and behavioral disorders to provide adequate consultation and reporting to the courts, lawyers or corrections professionals. They also learn how to give expert testimony in court and recommend treatment plans for accused or convicted individuals. Some examples of course topics include:

  • Research methods
  • Psychological statistics
  • Forensic psychology of children and families
  • Psychological profiling
  • Mental health and the law
  • Psychopathology
  • Multicultural psychology
  • Forensic interviewing
  • Experimental psychology and the law

Popular Career Options

Graduates of doctoral clinical forensic psychology programs qualify for licensure as psychology practitioners in mental health facilities, psychiatric hospitals or private practice. They could also work in academic institutions, courts, police departments or government agencies. Clinical psychologists who specialize in forensic psychology can pursue one or more of the following career options:

  • Clinical practice
  • Consulting
  • Administration
  • Research
  • Teaching

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