Advancement Opportunities for Forensic Psychologists

A forensic psychologist's education and experience merges the fields of psychology and criminal justice. In seeking further career opportunities, these professionals can choose positions in psychology, criminal justice, and education.

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Forensic Psychologist Career Options

A forensic psychologist brings together the criminal justice and psychology fields in order to help legal professionals understand their cases on a psychological level. These professionals may already have a Ph.D. in psychology, but some may hold a master's degree in the field. They assist law enforcement by creating criminal profiles, recommending sentence lengths, diagnosing possible defendant mental health problems, and serving as expert witnesses in court. This background of experience and education allows forensic psychologists to advance by seeking employment in various professional fields, including education, criminal justice, and psychology.

Job Title Median Annual Salary Job Growth (2016-26)* Qualifications
Clinical psychologist $76,990 (2018, Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists)* 14% Ph.D. in counseling or clinical psychology; state license
Criminal Investigator $81,920 (Detective and criminal investigators, 2018)* 5% (Detective and criminal investigators) Training academy; physical, written, and drug tests
Neuropsychologist $91,456 (2019)** 11% (Psychologists, all other) Ph.D. in psychology; training in brain anatomy and functions; board certification and peer review
Postsecondary Forensic Psychology Instructor $76,710 (2018, Psychology teachers, postsecondary)* 15% (Psychology teachers, postsecondary) Ph.D. in forensic psychology or related field; possible: postsecondary teaching experience and scholarly research

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **

Career Information

Clinical Psychologist

Forensic psychologists who desire to focus on their psychology expertise may choose to move into the role of a clinical psychologist. A clinical psychologist meets with patients in order to evaluate and treat short-term and long-term problems such as anxiety, depression, and other disorders. They conduct both group therapy and individual sessions, design behavior modification plans, and work alongside other healthcare professionals to coordinate the appropriate care and medication for each patient. A compassionate and understanding manner are important qualities for this role. Requirements include a Ph.D. in clinical psychology or similar field and valid state licensure.

Criminal Investigator

On the other hand, a forensic psychologist whose interest lies more with the forensic side of their profession may choose to transition into the position of criminal investigator. A criminal investigator examines evidence, conducts surveillance and interviews, and gathers pertinent data with the goal of solving criminal cases. An ability to effectively analyze evidence and draw solid conclusions is integral to this role. While reports are completed in an office setting, a large part of the criminal investigator's work is physical, gathering on-site data, interviewing witnesses, and handling arrests. Because of this, applicants may be required to complete a physical exam as well as a written exam and a drug test. Minimum education and experience requirements might include training academy and two or more years in law enforcement.


A forensic psychologist with an interest in how the brain directly influences a person's emotions, behaviors, and mental faculties may advance their career toward the specialty of neuropsychology. In the event of brain injury, illness, or other trauma, a neuropsychologist evaluates a patient's brain function to determine current cognitive abilities and then works with other specialists to determine a treatment plan. Their typical work environment is in a hospital or other medical facility, but on occasion they may be asked to evaluate a criminal defendant on a forensic level in order to testify as an expert witness. Requirements include a doctoral degree in psychology, post-doctoral training in the anatomy of the brain, professional board certification, and peer review.

Postsecondary Forensic Psychology Instructor

A passion for sharing their knowledge can lead a forensic psychologist to seek employment as a forensic psychology instructor. Teachers at the postsecondary level are responsible for instructing and assessing students, as well as serving on college committees and providing student advisement. Instruction and advisement can take place on campus or online. Forensic psychology teachers can work as full-time faculty or adjunct professors. Employers seek candidates with a Ph.D. in forensic psychology or a related field. The most competitive applicants may have previous postsecondary teaching experience and a history of research and publication.

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