Forensic psychologists merge the fields of law and psychology, often working side-by-side with police officers, federal law enforcement and investigations agencies like the FBI, or within prisons.
Connecticut’s own Dr. David Bernstein—a forensic psychologist that works in Norwalk and Greenwich—first began his career by completing a doctoral internship at the Yale University School of Medicine and by completing his residency at Harvard University Medical School in the Department of Law and Psychiatry.
He then went on to train with the Secret Service, and currently offers consulting services to the FBI and other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. His area of expertise includes issues such as targeted violence, insider threats, psychopathy, and more. He has provided consulting services on high-profile cases such as the Anne Le murder at Yale, the Omar Thornton mass murder at Hartford Distributors, the Albert DeSolvo serial murders (Boston Strangler), the DC Navy Yard mass murders, and the Jodi Arias murder trail.
Dr. Bernstein serves as the President of the Connecticut Psychological Association Forensic Division, which formed in 2013 as a resource for Connecticut’s community of forensic psychologists.
Steps to Becoming a Forensic Psychologist in Connecticut
If you’re ready to begin your career as a forensic psychologist in Connecticut, you will start by becoming licensed as a clinical psychologist through the Connecticut Board of Examiners of Psychologists.
For guidance on how to become a forensic psychologist in Connecticut, follow these simple steps:
Step 1. Complete your Undergraduate and Doctoral Study
To be licensed in Connecticut, you must complete a doctoral degree in psychology; however, you will first begin by enrolling in the right undergraduate degree program.
Schools may offer either on-campus or online degree programs, which will give you a strong foundation of knowledge in both clinical psychology and the legal system.
Undergraduate Degrees in Forensic Psychology
For your bachelor’s degree, you can choose from options that include:
- Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Forensic Psychology
- Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Psychology
- Bachelor of Arts (BA)/Master of Arts (MA) in Forensic Psychology
Your undergraduate program will prepare you to serve as an expert witness in court, to identify motives of criminal behavior, to define mental stability, to conduct criminal profiling, and more.
Schools offering degree programs in forensic psychology will offer courses such as these:
- Introduction to Criminal Justice
- Sociology of Gender
- Sociology of Deviant Behavior
- Forensic Law
- The American Legal Tradition
Completing a baccalaureate degree in forensic psychology will give you the training necessary to apply for a graduate degree program in the field—both at the master’s and doctoral level.
Graduate and Doctoral Degrees in Forensic Psychology
Graduate programs in forensic psychology include, but are not limited to:
- PhD in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in Law
- PhD in Clinical-Forensic Psychology
- Joint PhD/JD in Clinical Psychology with a Forensic emphasis and Law
- Joint JD/PsyD in Clinical Forensic Psychology
- Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology
While some doctoral programs require applicants to already hold a master’s degree, many offer admission to outstanding students who hold just a bachelor’s degree. To make the cut, you will want to meet the university’s minimum admission criteria, which often includes:
- Hold an undergraduate degree in forensic psychology
- Be in great academic standing
- Submit official GRE scores
The Connecticut Board requires that your doctoral program be accredited through the American Psychological Association (APA), or meet the requirements outlined in the Connecticut State Regulations.
In accordance with licensing requirements, your doctoral program must provide courses in four basic areas, including:
- Biological bases of behavior, including physiological psychology, comparative psychology, neuro-psychology, sensation, and more
- Cognitive-affective bases of behavior, including learning, thinking, motivation, and emotion
- Social bases of behavior, including social psychology, group process, and more
- Individual differences, including personality theory, human development, abnormal psychology, and more
Generally, most graduate degrees will consist of:
- Core courses
- Forensic specialization courses
- Internship hours
Forensic specializations can include areas such as:
- Adult Psychopathy
- Child and Family
- Forensic Neuropsychology
- Law Enforcement
Example courses for a graduate students specializing in forensic neuropsychology include:
- Introduction to Clinical Neuroscience
- Neuro-Biology and Criminality
- Theories of Criminology
Step 2. Complete 1800 Hours of Supervised Clinical Experience
After completing your doctoral program, you will be ready to complete your supervised clinical experience. The Connecticut board does not allow you to count any internship that was necessary to complete your doctoral program as supervised clinical experience hours.
You have two options for how you will go about completing these supervised hours:
- No less than 35 ours per week for no less than 46 weeks within 12 consecutive months
- No less than 1800 hours within 24 months (no more than 40 hours per week)
Whichever option you choose, you will want to work with APA-accredited supervised clinical experience providers. In Connecticut, these providers include, but are not limited to:
- The Village for Families and Children – Hartford
- Connecticut Valley Psychology Internship Program Middletown
- University of Connecticut – Storrs
Because you are aspiring to work in a forensic setting, you should strive to each your supervised hours in a forensic setting, such as:
- State family services department
- Federal, state, or local police force
- Trauma recovery centers
Step 3. Submit Connecticut Psychologist Licensure Application
When you’ve finished your education and supervised hours, you will be eligible to submit an exam and license application. To do so, submit the following documents and fees:
- Completed, notarized Connecticut Psychologist Licensure Application
- $565 initial application fee (made out to “Treasurer, State of Connecticut)
- Official transcripts
- Verification of work experience
You may send all application materials to the Board at the following address:
Connecticut Department of Public Health
410 Capitol Ave., MS #12 APP
P.O. Box 340308
Hartford, CT 06134
Once all of your application material has been reviewed by the Connecticut Board, you will be notified in writing of your approval to take the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.
Step 4. Pass the National Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology
Once the Board notifies you of your eligibility to take this exam, you will be given instructions on registering with Professional Examination Services (PES) for the online exam.
Once you register online with PES for the exam, you will be given instructions on scheduling the date and time for your test with a local Prometric Testing Center.
Before you take the EPPP, make sure to read through the Candidate Handbook, which will give you useful information on taking and retaking the exam, if necessary.
The EPPP consists of questions concerning various psychological issues, including:
- Biological Bases of Behavior (12 percent)
- Cognitive-Affective Bases of Behavior (13 percent)
- Growth and Lifespan Development (12 percent)
- Social and Cultural Bases of Behavior (12 percent)
- Assessment and Diagnosis (14 percent)
- Treatment and Prevention (14 percent)
- Ethical Issues (15 percent)
To pass, you will need to receive a score of 500. You will send your scores directly to the Board through the EPPP Score Transfer Service.
Step 5. Pass the Connecticut Jurisprudence Examination
Finally, you will need to pass the Connecticut Jurisprudence Exam. This exam is a 25-question, multiple-choice exam. To pass, you must get 18 of the 25 questions correct.
This exam is scheduled by the Board 6 or more times per year, in the months of:
This exam will cover the Connecticut General Statues, which are outlined in the Board’s online study guide.
Upon the completion of this final exam, you will be granted your Connecticut psychologist license to work as a forensic psychologist in the state.
Step 6. Begin Your Career as a Forensic Psychologist in Connecticut
As a licensed forensic psychologist, you are trained to work in federal, state, and local organizations dedicated to criminal justice, government, the law, and more, including:
- Mental health centers
- Mental health hospitals
- State departments
- Federal prisons
- State and local courts
More specifically, you will be trained to enter jobs such as:
- Inpatient or Outpatient Forensic Psychologist
- Forensic Clinician
- Forensic Mental Health Clinician
- Trauma Therapist
- Forensic Evaluator
Step 7. Complete Continuing Education to Renew Your License Annually
As a licensed psychologist in Connecticut, you will renew your license each year during the month that you were originally licensed. To renew, you will need to submit the renewal application with the $565 renewal fee.
To renew your license, will need to complete 10 hours of continuing education per year. Approved continuing education includes seminars, workshops, conferences, or postdoctoral courses offered by:
- The American Psychological Association
- A regionally accredited institute or graduate program
- A nationally recognizes provider of continuing education
- The Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services
- A behavioral science organization that is professionally recognized
Only 50 percent (or 5 credit hours) of continuing education may be completed online during each licensing period.
APA-accredited continuing education providers in Connecticut include, but are not limited to:
- Connecticut Psychological Association
- Orlando Behavior Health Services LLC
- The National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine
- Yale Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic
Forensic Psychologist Salary Information for Connecticut
In 2014, the United States Department of Labor reported that Connecticut was the third highest-paying state for forensic psychologists in the nation. In addition, the Connecticut Department of Labor named forensic psychologists among the state’s list of highest paying occupations. At that time, forensic psychologists employed here received an average annual salary of $87,323 and an average hourly wage of $41.98. Of course, partners and principals in independent firms routinely earn more than this.
How Experience Impacts Earnings for Forensic Psychologists in Connecticut
Salary studies piloted by the United States Department of Labor in 2014 show a direct link between forensic psychology salaries and experience levels. Common ways for forensic psychologists to accumulate experience and thereby increase their earning potential include:
- Engaging in continuing education events through professional organizations like the Connecticut Psychological Association
- Participating in internships, fellowships, mentorships
- Volunteering to handle pro bono cases
- Landing paid jobs over several years
In 2014, the federal government reported that forensic psychologists with entry-level positions in Connecticut earned an average annual salary of just $51,600. After acquiring a few years of field experience, mid-career forensic psychologists received an average annual salary closer to $82,600. Yet, the most experienced forensic psychologists practicing statewide were awarded a much higher average annual salary of $115,800.
Forensic psychologists are particularly drawn to Connecticut because the state offers higher salaries to professionals at all experience levels compared to the national average. For example, in 2014, the national average annual salary for entry-level forensic psychologist was $40,100; those working at the mid-career level received $82,600 on average; and the most experienced forensic psychologists took home an average of $113,600.
Forensic Psychologist Salaries by Locale in Connecticut
Geographic location of employment is a determining factor that can affect a forensic psychologist’s earning potential in Connecticut.
For example, research conducted by the United States Department of Labor in 2014 revealed that forensic psychologists employed in the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, and New Haven areas received average annual salaries of over $88,000. On the other hand, those working in the Norwich-New London (CT-RI) and the Eastern Connecticut nonmetropolitan areas were paid an average annual salary of under $73,500.