How to become a forensic psychologist

Updated February 21, 2017

Forensic psychology is a growing area of criminal and civil law. Forensic psychologists evaluate criminal defendants to determine if that person is competent to stand trial. They also determine if a death is accidental or the result of a suicide and evaluate the competency of elderly persons to make their own decisions. It takes a lot of schooling and training to become a forensic psychologist.

Obtain an undergraduate degree in psychology from an accredited college or university. It is best to pursue a double major in psychology and criminology at the undergraduate level.

Pursue a master's degree or doctorate in clinical psychology, following the successful completion of a four year undergraduate program. You can also choose to pursue a master's in criminology. Attaining a doctorate in clinical psychology can take up to seven years.

Attend seminars in forensic psychology or take additional courses in psychology and criminology at an accredited college or university. You may also consult with forensic psychologists working in the field to gain more insight into the profession.

Gain experience by working closely with a chartered forensic psychologist for up to two years. Some states require only one year of fieldwork supervised by a chartered forensic psychologist to be eligible for certification.

Pass a state certification examination to become a certified psychologist. Requirements for eligibility to take this examination differ from state to state.

Attain certification in forensic psychology from the American Board of Forensic Psychology, if you so choose, by meeting its education and experience requirements and passing its examination.


Not all forensic psychologists are board certified. This is not a requirement to become a forensic psychologist.

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