Forensic psychologists are psycho-legal professionals who specialize in practicing psychology within the legal system. When testifying in court as expert witnesses, forensic psychologists must explain their psychological findings to juries, attorneys, and judges; the court relies on their authoritative insight. The testimony of expert witnesses (individuals with specialized training or expertise), can greatly impact the trajectory of a case and sentencing, and is restricted to reflect the witness’s professional observations and conclusions, never the expert’s personal opinion.
It takes years of study, training, and experience before one is considered an expert or specialist. Forensic psychologist must earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology before being accepted into a Master’s or PhD program. There are doctorate programs which allow individuals with only a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology to enroll and there are others which require that candidates possess both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree to be considered for enrollment. To become licensed to practice in the State of Nevada by the Nevada Board of Psychology, a candidate must have two years of work experience in addition to a doctorate in forensic psychology. The first year should be completed while still enrolled in the doctoral program and the second year of experience should be completed after graduation. Licensure also requires the passing of the Examination for the Professional Practice of Psychology exam. In order to pass this exam, it is important to enroll in a program that has been accredited by the American Psychological Association, as students who graduate from these programs receive a higher mean score than those graduating from unaccredited programs.
Forensic psychologists may find employment as consultants who act as advisors to attorneys, as expert witnesses, counselors in psychiatric facilities and prisons, or as educators at universities who teach and conduct research. Employment opportunities are available in both the private and public sector.
The average salary earned by forensic psychologists residing in Nevada is $78,000 per year, which is higher than the national average.
Related: How to become a Forensic Psychologist.