Doctoral Degrees in Clinical Forensic Psychology: Program Overview

There are several schools that offer Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) programs in clinical psychology with a concentration in forensic psychology.

Essential Information

Programs teach students about psychological topics such as cognition, behavior, social interaction, clinical procedures and research methodology. Forensic topics include legal processes, evaluation of criminals and victims, expert testimony and treatments. Students can expect to take courses in law and mental health, psychological profiling, psychopathology and forensic interviewing. Through clinical research, students develop their research skills and learn to analyze data. They must submit and defend a final dissertation at the end of the program based on their findings. Prior to graduation, students may also be required to complete an internship.

Most programs last four to five years. In order to apply, prospective students must have a bachelor's degree in a relevant field. Some schools also require students to have work experience in psychological or forensic settings.

Doctoral Degree in Clinical Psychology with a Concentration in Forensic Psychology

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

  • Research methods and statistics for psychology
  • Psychological profiling
  • Mental health and the law
  • Psychopathology
  • Multicultural psychology
  • Forensic interviewing

Popular Career Options

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

  • Clinical practice
  • Consulting
  • Administration
  • Research
  • Teaching

Through lecture-based coursework, experiential learning and independent research, doctoral programs provide aspiring forensic psychologists with the legal and psychological expertise they need to get licensed for clinical work or to pursue academic research careers.

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