How to Become a Forensic Psychologist in Michigan

Forensic psychology involves understanding the complex relationship between human behavior and criminal activity. The U.S. justice system depends heavily on the work of forensic psychologists whose expertise is utilized in diverse stages of the legal system such as:

  • Analyzing a defendant’s competence to stand trial
  • Criminal punishment
  • Inmate rehabilitation
  • The prevention of future crimes
  • The analysis of long-term criminal trends
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Michigan’s best-known forensic psychologist, Dr. Katherine Okla, specializes in cases involving sexual abuse. She gave testimony in the 2014 case involving Francis Brent Mallo, who was on trial for three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and the 2012 case involving Jacob Trakhtenberg, who was convicted on three counts of second-degree sexual criminal conduct. Dr. Okla obtained her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Michigan in 1989.

Steps to Becoming a Forensic Psychologist in Michigan

Forensic psychologists bridge psychological principles with the justice system in an effective, ethical manner. As such, your path to becoming a forensic psychologist will involve extensive educational and professional preparation to ensure you are properly prepared for the unique challenges of the career.

The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) licenses psychologists in the state. To obtain full licensure as a forensic psychologist, you must undergo the following steps:

Earn an Undergraduate Degree in Forensic Psychology
Earn a Doctorate Related to Forensic Psychology
Complete an Approved Internship and Limited License Practice
Pass National Board Examination
Finalize your License
Begin your Career as a Forensic Psychologist in Michigan


Step 1. Earn an Undergraduate Degree Related to Forensic Psychology

To become a licensed forensic psychologist in Michigan you must first complete a doctoral program accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) or National Register/ASPPB. Your academic path to a career in forensic psychology starts with enrolling in a relevant bachelor’s degree program. While many schools offer general psychology programs, there are specific degree options involving forensic psychology.

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Among the bachelor’s degrees related to forensic psychology available in Michigan are:

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Forensic Psychology
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Applied Psychology — Forensic Psychology
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Forensic Studies
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in Forensic Psychology
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice — Forensic Psychology
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in Investigative Forensics

Bachelor’s programs related to forensic psychology offer fundamental courses in psychology, law, and criminal behavior. As you advance in the program you will be offered courses that target specific areas of forensic psychology such as:

  • Sexuality
  • Cultural psychology
  • Psychological disorders
  • Psychological inquiry
  • Sociological impacts on criminality


Step 2. Earn a Doctorate Related to Forensic Psychology

To receive full licensure as a forensic psychologist in Michigan you must first complete a doctoral program accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) or National Register/ASPPB. You may begin applying to these programs upon receiving your bachelor’s degree, as most programs contain both master’s- and doctorate-level courses.

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Both the APA and National Register/ASPPB list accredited Michigan programs on their respective websites.

Admission to these programs is highly selective. In fact, admission to the University of Michigan’s Clinical Psychology program saw a 2.12% admission rate for the 2014-2015 school year, while the admission rate to Wayne State University’s Clinical Psychology program was 6.08%.

What follows are some of the factors these programs will analyze when reviewing your application:

  • Your undergraduate GPA
  • Your GRE and GPA scores
  • Your past research experience
  • Your writing, including prior thesis work or past publications
  • Your educational background in math, psychology, and sciences
  • Your letters of recommendation
  • Your application essay and your general career goals

Courses within Ph.D. programs are taught by current Doctors of Philosophy and Doctors of Psychology. Generally, admission rates vary based on these doctors’ availability to take new students.

Examples of doctorate degrees related to clinical forensic psychology include, but are not limited to:

  • D. in Forensic Psychology
  • D. with a concentration in Forensic Psychology
  • D. in Forensic Psychology
  • Law and Psychology J.D./Ph.D. program
  • D./Ph.D. or Ph.D. with a concentration in Forensic Psychology
  • D. in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in Forensic Psychology

Just a few examples of course titles you may take within these programs include:

  • Assessment in Forensic Psychology Settings
  • Performance-Based Assessment of Personalities
  • Neuropsychological Assessment
  • Criminal Behavior
  • Advanced Psychopathology
  • Personality, Theory and Research
  • Psychology in the Courts
  • Treatment of Forensic Populations
  • Ethical Issues and Professional Responsibilities in Forensic Psychology


Step 3. Complete an Approved Internship and Practice under a Limited License

The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs lists the following internship and limited license practice requirements for students who wish to obtain full licensure as a psychologist in the state:

  1. During your doctorate program, you must complete an internship with a full licensed psychologist as your supervisor. Your internship must equal 2,000 hours, and you must work at least 20 hours per week while meeting individually with your supervisor for a minimum of eight hours per month.
  1. Once you have earned your doctorate degree, you may practice with a limited license. Under the supervision of a fully licensed psychologist, you must work between 16-40 hours per week until you have worked a total 2,000 hours. Additionally, you must meet with your supervisor individually on a weekly basis for a minimum of four hours per month. This practice must be completed within two years of receiving your degree.

The following Michigan internship programs are approved by the American Psychological Association:

  • John D. Dingell VA Medical Center, Detroit
  • Children’s Hospital of Michigan, Detroit
  • Henry Ford Health Sciences Center, Detroit
  • VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, Ann Arbor
  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • University of Michigan Mary A. Rackham Institute, Ann Arbor
  • University of Michigan Internship Consortium, Ann Arbor
  • Hawthorn Center, Northville Township
  • Grand Valley State University, Allendale
  • Battle Creek VA Medical Center, Battle Creek
  • Michigan State University Counseling Center, East Lansing
  • Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center, Iron Mountain (Accredited on contingency)


Step 4. Pass National Board Examination

The Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) is the standard used by Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs in determining your eligibility for full licensure as a psychologist. To take the test, you must possess a Doctoral Educational Limited License or be eligible for full licensure and submit your application.

To receive full licensure, you must obtain a score of at least 500 on the exam. According to the EPPP website, the passing scores of each test vary based on the difficulty of the questions.

To prepare for the exam, you may take practice exams available at the EPPP website. You may only take the practice exams if you have been approved to take the EPPP. When you are ready to take the exam, LARA suggests you contact the Michigan Board of Psychology by e-mail at Once approved, you will receive an email from Pearson VUE, who conducts the testing. You will then have 90 days to take the exam, providing time to practice on the mock exams offered by EPPP.


Step 5. Finalize Your License

Once you have completed the educational and professional requirements for full licensure, you must undergo the following steps to finalize your status as a licensed psychologist.

  1. You must complete and submit the application found on the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs website. You must include a $150.00 fee with your application.
  1. Once your application has been processed, you will receive a packet that contains instructions on undergoing a criminal background check and submitting your fingerprints. You must complete each of these processes under the instructions you’ll receive in your packet.
  1. The director of your school’s psychology education program must submit your Certification of Psychology Education to LARA. Additionally, your school must send your official transcript to LARA.
  1. You must submit your official internship and post-doctoral work Supervision Confirmation forms.


Step 6. Start your Career as a Forensic Psychologist in Michigan

Once you are fully licensed as a psychologist in the State of Michigan, you will be prepared to begin a career in the field. However, many licensed psychologists undergo more training at Michigan’s Center for Forensic Psychiatry to become a consulting forensic examiner. The State of Michigan lists five levels of state-employed forensic psychologists in the state, including entry level careers and careers for highly experienced professionals. These professionals work in Michigan’s courts, state police departments, correctional facilities, prisons, and more.

Beyond working for the state, Michigan is home to forensic psychologists who work in the private realm. Examples of these professionals include:

  • Forensic psychologists
  • Substance abuse counselors
  • Consulting forensic examiners
  • Forensic clinicians
  • Assessment psychologists
  • Research specialists

A survey of job vacancies for forensic psychologists in Michigan in July 2015 produced a listing for a forensic psychologist position at Michigan’s Center for Forensic Psychiatry (Job listing is for illustrative purposes only and does not constitute a job offer). The State of Michigan listed the following qualifications for potential candidates:

  • State of Michigan certification as a Consulting Forensic Psychologist
  • Full licensure to practice psychology, issued by the State of Michigan, or a passing grade on the Examination for Professional Practice.
  • A doctorate degree from an accredited psychology program that is substantially clinical in nature, according to APA standards.

Among the job duties posted are conducting interviews with patients and analyzing data to offer insight that aids Michigan courts in adjudicating criminal forensic issues.

Renewing Your License Every Two Years

In Michigan, you must renew your full licensure as a psychologist initially before the first expiration date, which can range from four months to a year. After your first renewal, you will then have to renew your license every two years.

In addition to continually renewing your license with the state, you must also stay up to date on the American Psychology-Law Society (APA, DIV.41) Specialty Guidelines for Forensic Psychologists. These guidelines must be met throughout your daily work.

Michigan does not require psychologists to continue their education to maintain their license.


Forensic Psychologist Salary Information for Michigan

Michigan has a high demand for forensic psychologists, and the state’s Department of Technology, Management and Budget expects the numbers of these professionals to grow by 0.6% a year between 2012 and 2022. This level of growth should generate an average of 96 jobs a year.

In fact, the nonmetropolitan area of the balance of Lower Peninsula Michigan had the fourth highest number of forensic psychologists of any rural area in the country in 2014 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The salaries for forensic psychologists can be particularly high in Michigan’s rural areas.   The BLS reported that the nonmetropolitan area of Upper Peninsula Michigan had the fourth highest average salary for forensic psychologists of any such area in the country.

In addition to their work consulting with employment and child custody issues, forensic psychologists are common expert witnesses. This was an issue in a landmark 1940 case in Michigan known as the People Vs. Hawthorne. The court refused to allow a psychologist who had a Ph.D. to testify as an expert witness in a case where the defendant was pleading not guilty by reason of insanity. The Supreme Court of Michigan eventually ruled that the court should have allowed the man to serve as an expert witness. This ruling was controversial at the time, since many believed that an M.D. was necessary to properly rule in such a case.

A number of Michigan’s forensic psychologists currently work with mentally ill inmates. Michigan has a dedicated 210-bed, $93 million Center for Forensic Psychiatry. However, a number of prisoners in Michigan’s jails are mentally ill. Their numbers increased drastically after then-Governor John Engler closed what he considered to be underutilized state mental hospitals and moved most of the patients into the care of the community in 1997.

The Sheriff of Oakland County told WXYZ that the number of mentally ill inmates in his jail has more than tripled since the state hospitals started to close. As a result of this trend, some counties in Michigan created mental health courts to divert mentally ill defendants to treatment instead of jail. One study said that this approach saved Wayne County over $1 million.

Job Growth for Forensic Psychologists in Michigan by Region

According to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget, the number of forensic psychologists is expected to dramatically increase between 2010 and 2020 in certain regions in the state:

  • Northwest lower peninsula: 5%
  • Northeast lower peninsula: 3%
  • Grand Rapids area: 9%
  • Kalamazoo area: 1%
  • Ann Arbor area: 4%
  • Flint area: 5%
  • Thumb area: 5%


Salaries for Michigan’s Forensic Psychologists

Forensic psychologists for Michigan’s Center for Forensic Psychiatry earned from $52,062 to $80,517 a year in 2014. Managers in this field earned salaries ranging from $60,778 to $100,651 a year.

The Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget provides the salaries of forensic psychologists throughout the state as of 2014. The median salary of these professionals was $67,750, while experienced forensic psychologists in the 90th percentile of their occupation earned an average of $109,610. Professionals just starting out averaged $37,980 a year.

Shown here for comparison is data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics on salaries for forensic psychologists throughout Michigan (2014):

Area name
Annual mean wage
Ann Arbor MI
Battle Creek MI
Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn MI Metropolitan Division
Detroit-Warren-Livonia MI
Flint MI
Grand Rapids-Wyoming MI
Holland-Grand Haven MI
Kalamazoo-Portage MI
Lansing-East Lansing MI
Niles-Benton Harbor MI
Warren-Troy-Farmington Hills MI Metropolitan Division
Upper Peninsula of Michigan nonmetropolitan area
Northwest Lower Peninsula of Michigan nonmetropolitan area
Balance of Lower Peninsula of Michigan nonmetropolitan area

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