Best Doctorate in Forensic Psychology

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Thanks to the TV show “Criminal Minds,” more people have been exposed to the Field of Forensic Psychology.

This hit TV show features a group of FBI criminal profilers who go around the country to solve murder-related crimes. Unlike other shows that focus more on the physical evidence, “Criminal Minds” focuses on the why: Why did the criminal commit the crime? What state of mind did he or she possess to commit such a horrible thing? While the field of Forensic Psychology has some of the same characteristics as seen in the show, these psychologists are not necessarily just working to solve crimes.

Forensic Psychology is the practice of psychology (i.e. behavioral, cognitive, social) within the context of the legal system. Thus, forensic psychologists must also understand both psychological principles and theories along with how our justice system works. These professionals work alongside offenders, law enforcement, and the government. The Ph.D. is the highest degree awarded within the field. Keep reading to see College Choice’s ranking of the best 35 degrees in Forensic Psychology.

Top 10 Best Doctorates in Forensic Psychology

Rank School Location
1 University of California Berkeley, CA
2 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
3 Montclair State University Montclair, NJ
4 Fordham University Bronx, NY
5 Florida International University Miami, FL
6 Arizona State University Phoenix, AZ
7 University of Arizona Tucson, AZ
8 Sam Houston State University Huntsville, TX
9 University of Wyoming Laramie, WY
10 University of Florida Gainesville, FL

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What kind of degree in Forensic Psychology should you get?

Two main degree types exist in this field: the Doctor of Philosophy and the Doctor of Psychology. The goal of the Ph.D. is to produce scholars who will contribute something new to the field, and thus this degree is best for future educators and researchers. On the other hand, the goal of the Psy.D. is to produce practicing scholars who will work directly with patients. Generally, Ph.D. programs will take a year or two longer to complete than the Psy.D. In addition, while both degrees contain mandatory research, the Psy.D. will have more emphasis on clinical training.

Though some degrees will be titled “Forensic Psychology,” the majority of degrees listed in this ranking will be a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, usually with an emphasis or concentration in Forensic Psychology or Forensics. A few degrees listed are a combination of both Law and Psychology. To figure out which degree is right for you, be sure to look at the course requirements and program outcomes to determine if your career goals align with them.

Not quite ready for a Ph.D. program? College Choice has also ranked the best Master’s Degrees in Forensic Psychology.

How much money does a Ph.D. in Forensic Psychology make?

Unfortunately, there are not many government data on exact salaries for those who hold a Ph.D. in Forensic Psychology or for those within the field itself. According to Payscale, however, those with a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology make an average salary of about $85,000. Under this category, forensic psychologists are listed as having an average salary of $80,685. Salary will depend on one’s experience, location, and if he or she is employed by a private company or the government.

As of 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the median salary of all psychologists regardless of education level is $79,010. Government psychologists made the most with a median salary of $96,410, compared with hospital and other healthcare service employees who held median salaries of $86,530 and lower. The BLS projects that all psychologists will experience a 14% job growth from 2016 to 2026, which is much faster than the national average.

What can you do with a Ph.D. in Forensic Psychology?

The most common career goal is to become a forensic psychologist. Have you ever watched a crime show that has psychologists speaking at the witness stand in court? While forensic psychologists have many roles, one of them is to directly interact with the legal system and work alongside law enforcement. Forensic psychologists may act as counselors for offenders in correctional facilities, help to profile criminals in cases, or even get called in as expert witnesses in trials.

Of course, due to the high research activity that goes into getting one’s Ph.D., many choose to become professors and/or researchers instead. Professors work at colleges or universities teaching psychology or other related courses. Other people will work in research institutions to produce clinical studies and write papers for academic journals. There are several different jobs to choose from, and the Ph.D. is a versatile enough degree that gives students both research and clinical practice skills.

What are the requirements for a Ph.D. in Forensic Psychology?

Most applicants apply after obtaining their Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, but some may choose to apply with a Master’s degree. Generally, the Ph.D. will take anywhere from four to six years to complete, though Master’s students will be able to complete the program in a quicker time frame. Coursework will take up the first couple of years of the program. Throughout the program, students are required to maintain a very high academic standing. Generally, schools will want to see a GPA of at least a 3.0 in all major classes out of a 4.0 scale.

Some schools will allow students to start their practicum/internship right after the first year, while others will not start until later. All schools differ on how many practicum hours are required. Practicum and internship sites must be accredited by the American Psychological Association for it to be counted toward the degree. The Ph.D. will culminate with a dissertation and then usually a year-long pre-doctoral dissertation.

  1. University of California
    Location

    Berkeley, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Zot! Zot! Zot! is the sound that may be heard at sporting events held on the University of California Irvines campus. Known for its anteater mascot, UCI is home to over 36,000 students in Southern Californias Orange County district. The school was founded in 1965 to meet the educational needs of the Boomer generation. Since its beginning, it has become one of the most prestigious University of California campuses. The U.S. News World Report ranks UCI the No. 33 school on its 2019 National Universities ranking.

    Program Features

    Future scientists who wish to pursue research in psychological science should enroll in UCIs Ph.D. program in Psychology and Social Behavior. This program offers a concentration in Psychology and Law. This six-year degree offers a collaborative environment for studying current world issues. Other program features include:

    Guaranteed full-funding for the first five years Mentorship with two faculty members 33 full-time faculty members involved

    Notables

    Some topics that have been studied in the past include child maltreatment, socioeconomic disparities, and adult emotional experiences. Faculty will train students on proper evidence-based research methodologies.

  2. Drexel University
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Known for its cooperative education, Drexel University is a private institution located in Philadelphia. Drexels co-op experiences allow students to directly participate in the workforce in a field they may wish to enter. While this education model starts at the undergraduate level, it continues to benefit those even at the Ph.D. level who are continuously mentored by faculty through their research and work practicums. Drexels career-focused programs have certainly helped its graduates, as the Wall Street Journal and the Times Higher Education have ranked the school among the top 10% in the state and country based on salary value.

    Program Features

    Following a scientist-practitioner model, those who wish to practice professional psychology can earn their Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with a Forensic Psychology emphasis. Students will complete their practicum, research, and dissertation within the emphasis. This is a full-time program that will take five years to complete. Students can also expect:

    Completion in four years if a masters degree holder 12-month practicum during year two or three Required teaching duties

    Notables

    Ph.D. students will assist in a variety of teaching duties throughout the majority of their program. Some activities may include supervision of labs, leading seminars, or acting as the primary instructor. Students wishing to forgo this requirement must contact the program director.

  3. Montclair State University
    Location

    Montclair, NJ

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Despite its over 20,000 student enrollment, Montclair State University offers a small-college feel on a large campus. Founded in 1908 as a standard school, Montclair has grown to its present-day, 252-acre campus that is located only 12 miles from New York City. It is the third-largest university within the state of New Jersey, offering more than 50 undergraduate and 130 graduate degrees. It was the first state college in the state to offer masters degrees. Montclair has won numerous accolades for its high-achieving programs, research, and sustainability. In 2019, the U.S. News World Report ranks Montclair among the best 200 universities in the nation.

    Program Features

    Students will receive quality professional training through Montclairs Ph.D. program in Clinical Psychology, with an emphasis in Forensic Psychology. Throughout the degree, students will have access to the Montclair State University Center for Clinical Services as well as the Psychological Services Clinic. Other key features include:

    Competitive graduate assistantships available 86 credit hours for completion One-year internship required

    Notables

    Although funding for this program is not guaranteed, there are many opportunities for students for financial support. During the first two years of the program, students typically will receive a doctoral fellowship requiring at least 20-hours of weekly work with a faculty. During the third and fourth year, students can teach and/or receive outside assistantships.

  4. Fordham University
    Location

    Bronx, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    If you are looking for a Catholic education in a metropolitan city, Fordham University has got you covered. Fordham was founded in 1841 by Bishop John Hughes originally as St. Johns College. At the time, it was one of the first Catholic institutions of higher education within the Northeastern region. Even today, Fordham remains true to its Jesuit roots, emphasizing service and faith. It operates three campuses: Lincoln Center, Rose Hill, and Westchester within the state of New York. The school is proud to say that its students and faculty complete more than 1 million hours worth of community service annually.

    Program Features

    Whether one wishes to work in academia or practice, enrolling in Fordhams Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology degree with an emphasis in Forensic Psychology will help meet ones goals. The curriculum comprises of four required courses, a practicum diagnosing mental disorders, and a dissertation. Examples of specific Forensic Psychology courses include:

    Psychology and Civil Law Forensic Assessment Trauma and Family Violence

    Notables

    Fordham offers a rigorous clinical externship program for Ph.D. students. They will apply to six to eight externship sites and complete one full year of practicum beginning the second year of the program. Many externship locations include hospitals, private clinics, or correctional institutions.

  5. Florida International University
    Location

    Miami, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Just as its name suggests, Florida International University is a large, diverse university with about 54,000 students. It is Miamis first and only public research institution, having been established in 1965. Thanks to the schools beautiful location, students have access to a metropolitan region with stunning beaches and two national parks. FIU operates a few campuses throughout the Miami-Dade area. Its Department of Psychology is offered on its Modesta A. Maidique Campus and Biscayne Bay Campus.

    Program Features

    Learn the ropes of the criminal justice system by enrolling in FIUs Ph.D. program in Legal Psychology. Topics of study include juror decision-making, interrogations, and investigative interviewing. As well as practice, research is a huge component of this degree. More highlights of the program are:

    75 credit hours for completion Assistantships and scholarships worth $18,800 annually Access to multiple on-campus research labs

    Notables

    Ph.D. students will assist in graduate and undergraduate teaching. Some courses that students have assisted in are Social Motivation, Introduction to Social Psychology, and Memory and Memory Improvement.

  6. Arizona State University
    Location

    Phoenix, AZ

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Arizona State University is more than just its impressive rankings it is a school that truly cares about students success through their academics and beyond. Located in the Phoenix metropolitan area, ASU boasts one of the highest enrollments in the nation with a little over 98,000 total students across its seven campuses as of the fall of 2016. Since its founding in 1885, ASU has become one of the fastest-growing public research universities in the country. In 2018, the Times Higher Education listed ASU among the top 1% of the worlds most prestigious universities.

    Program Features

    ASUs Ph.D. program in Law and Psychology is an interdisciplinary degree that focuses on legal policy and psychological research. Graduates will be prepared for roles in academia rather than direct practice since coursework does not meet licensure requirements. Highlights of the program are:

    Four- to six-year projected completion time 84 credit hours required for graduation Full funding for up to five years

    Notables

    Students can apply for this degree right after their undergraduate career, or they may do so after obtaining a Masters. Those who already hold a Masters can expect to finish this program earlier. Before the final dissertation, students will complete a Masters thesis in the second year and can earn their MS in Law and Psychology.

  7. University of Arizona
    Location

    Tucson, AZ

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Become a Wildcat by enrolling in the University of Arizona, located in the city of Tucson, AZ. UA is the oldest public university within the state. It operates 19 schools and colleges and is also affiliated with two medical centers. Not only are its programs routinely ranked at the top, but UAs faculty has also been awarded for its research and service. Additionally, UA is committed to diversity in 2018 the university was designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. The U.S. News World Report has ranked UA among the best public universities within the nation for 2019.

    Program Features

    UA offers a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with the following expertise: Psychophysiology, Clinical Neuropsychology, Health Psychology, and Intervention Research. All training done follows a clinical science model, with the goal that all students will produce sound empirical research. Additional highlights include:

    Completion of a masters project and dissertation Predoctoral internship program 32 Psychology faculty members

    Notables

    The predoctoral internship can be completed either full-time or part-time in 12 months or 24 months respectively. The internship focuses on clinical training, and thus all sites must be accredited. Clinical training allows students to complete Arizona licensure requirements.

  8. Sam Houston State University
    Location

    Huntsville, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Who was Sam Houston? Mr. Houston was a former American soldier and Texan politician who served as the states sixth and seventh governor. Sam Houston State University was named after him in part because the university is located in his former hometown. SHSU is the twelfth-largest university within Texas, with a total enrollment of about 21,000 as of fall, 2017. It offers six doctoral programs and is considered a Doctoral Research University by the Carnegie Commission of Higher Education. Carnegie has also labeled SHSU as a Community Engaged University due to the high amount of community service it produces annually.

    Program Features

    Future licensed clinical psychologists can earn their Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with a Forensic emphasis. Graduates will be able to apply psychology in a variety of legal contexts. This program undergoes forensic evaluations for courts in 19 different countries. Other key highlights include:

    The schools own Psychological Services Center operated on campus Guaranteed funding worth at least $16,000 Summer funding worth about $3,000 available

    Notables

    During the program, students must complete a one-year pre-doctoral internship and practica. The practica will take at least seven semesters to complete. Past sites include the Austin State Hospital, Montgomery County Jail, and The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research.

  9. University of Wyoming
    Location

    Laramie, WY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The city of Laramie, WY began as a small town comprised of mainly European-American settlers. Over the years, its history has embodied the iconic Old West scene and culture. Today it is home to the University of Wyoming, which was established in 1886. UW is the states land-grant institution with an approximate enrollment of about 13,000. The school offers over 90 graduate programs across its nine colleges and schools. In 2018, Washington Monthly ranked UW among the 100 best universities in the country.

    Program Features

    UWs Ph.D. in Psychology and Law is a research-centered, interdisciplinary program that focuses on psychological issues throughout the legal system. Students will take courses not only within the Department of Psychology but also in the College of Law. Core courses cover topics such as:

    Biological Psychology Research Methods Developmental Psychology

    Notables

    The Psychology and Law Lab allows students of different Psychology majors to perform research in the field. Current lab members are comprised of both Masters and Ph.D. students and faculty. Some current research interests are judicial legitimacy, the effect of emotions on jury decision-making, and the impact of victim statements.

  10. University of Florida
    Location

    Gainesville, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    For over 160 years, the University of Florida has strongly influenced higher education in the city of Gainesville and the surrounding area. Every year, UF produces outstanding research; in the previous fiscal year alone, the school received more than $838 million worth of research money. Just last year, it was reported that the university contributed $7.83 billion to the states GDP. Due to UFs innovation and affordability, the U.S. News World Report ranks the university No. 35 in its National Universities ranking.

    Program Features

    UF offers a Ph.D. in Criminology, Law and Society through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. This 90 credit hour program allows both undergraduate and graduate students to apply. Key characteristics of the degree are:

    Specializations in Crime Justice or Law Society Four or five-member supervisory committee Ability to transfer up to 36 credit hours from a masters degree

    Notables

    Funding is guaranteed to all Ph.D. students via assistantships and fellowships. There are research and teaching assistantships available, each with their own minimum hours of work requirements. Students can also apply for fellowships, such as Graduate Minority Fellowships.

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