Forensic psychology involves applying a psychological understanding of what motivates human behavior to the judicial process. Working alongside law enforcement officials, correctional administrators, and attorneys, forensic psychologists are vitally important to supporting the judicial process.
Applied and research-based forensic psychology in practice can involve:
- Analyzing a defendant’s competence to stand trial
- Determining appropriate criminal punishment
- Inmate rehabilitation
- Violence risk assessments that can help prevent violent crimes from occurring
- The analysis of long-term criminal trends
Steps to Becoming a Forensic Psychologist in Mississippi
Your path to becoming a forensic psychologist in Mississippi will involve meeting the education, experience and education requirements of the Mississippi Board of Psychology. Specifically, you will have to undergo the following steps.
Step 1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology
Your 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.
The following are among the bachelor’s degrees related to forensic psychology available through schools in Mississippi:
- 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 activity. As you advance into the program, you will be offered courses targeting specific areas of forensic psychology that include:
- Cultural psychology
- Psychological disorders
- Psychological inquiry
- Sociological impacts on criminality
Specific course titles you may find within bachelor’s degree programs include:
- Criminal Psychology
- Social Psychology
- Sociology of Violence and Crime
- Forensic Law
- Abnormal Behavior
- Introduction to Counseling
- Drugs and Society
- Psychology of Sex Crimes
Step 2. Obtain your Master’s Degree and Doctoral Degree in Psychology
There are some colleges and universities that offer both master’s and doctorate-level coursework in psychology in a single combined program, allowing you to obtain your master’s and doctoral degree in just one contiguous program. But, many students elect to pursue a master’s degree in forensic psychology at one institute before applying to a doctoral-level program at another location.
Master’s Degrees in Forensic Psychology
Just some of the master’s degrees related to forensic psychology you could choose to pursue include:
- Master of Arts (MA) in Forensic Psychology
- Master of Arts in Psychology – Forensics (MA)
- Master of Arts (MA) in Forensic Mental Health Counseling
- Master of Legal Studies (MLS)
- Master of Science (MS) in Forensic Psychology
- Master of Science (MS) in Criminal and Investigative Psychology
Examples of course titles you may find in forensic psychology master’s degree programs include:
- Intersection of Law and Psychology
- Lifespan Development and the Cultural Context
- Forensic Mediation and Dispute Resolution
- Theories of Personality
- Substance Abuse
- Evaluation and Treatment of the Juvenile Defender
- Psychology in the Courtroom
- Criminal Evaluations
Completing a master’s degree programs in forensic psychology will give you advanced preparation for doctoral-level programs, which often have highly strict admission standards. Just some of the points that schools will evaluate during the application process include:
- Your past research experience
- Your application essay and your general career goals
- Your letters of recommendation
- Your educational background in math, psychology, and sciences
- Your writing, including prior thesis work or past publications
- Your undergraduate GPA
- Your GRE and GPA scores
Doctoral Degrees in Forensic Psychology
Current Doctors of Philosophy and Doctors of Psychology will teach your courses within a PhD of PsyD program. Some of these course titles may include:
- Forensic Assessment in Civil Court
- Theories of Criminal Behavior
- Criminal Behavior
- Performance-Based Assessment of Personalities
- Ethical Issues and Professional Responsibilities in Forensic Psychology
- Psychology and the Legal System
- Personality, Theory and Research
- Psychology in the Courts
- Assessment in Forensic Psychology Settings
- Children and Adolescents in the Legal System
- Evaluation and Treatment of Offenders
Just some of the doctorate degrees related to clinical forensic psychology you may pursue include:
- Law and Psychology J.D./Ph.D. program
- D./Ph.D. or Ph.D. with a concentration in Forensic Psychology
- D. in Forensic Psychology
- D. with a concentration in Forensic Psychology
- D. in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in Forensic Psychology
- D. in Forensic Psychology
In addition to completing the coursework required for your degree, the Mississippi Board of Psychology requires that you complete either one year of full-time predoctoral experience or two years of half-time predoctoral experience as part of an internship program accredited by the APA or Canadian Psychological Association (CPA). The internship must be completed within a two-year period and be supervised by a certified, practicing psychologist. In total, your internship must include a minimum of 2,000 hours of supervised work.
The American Psychological Association (APA) approves the following internships in Mississippi:
- Mississippi State Hospital, Doctoral Internship Program / Psychological Services
- Pine Grove Behavioral Health & Addiction Services, Doctoral Internship in Professional Psychology
- Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System, Psychology Service
- of Mississippi Medical Center/VAMC Consortium, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior
Step 3. Complete an Internship and Post-Doctoral Supervised Employment
In addition to your educational and internship requirements, the Mississippi Board of Psychology requires that all licensed psychologists complete 2,000 hours of post-doctoral supervised employment. Like your internship, your post-doctoral employment must be completed within a two-year period and be conducted under the supervision of a licensed, practicing professional.
The APA currently accredits G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery Veterans Affairs Medical Center as a post-doctoral residency center.
Step 4. Pass the EPPP and PRE Exams
The Mississippi Board of Psychology requires that you pass the Examination for the Professional Practice of Psychology (EPPP) before applying for licensure.
To be approved to take the EPPP, you must submit an application for licensure, along with a $300 application fee and a $50 criminal background check fee, to the Mississippi Board of Psychology, who will forward your application to the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPBB).
You will be contacted by the ASPBB when your application is received. You will then have to complete another online application on the ASPBB website along with a $200 fee. The ASPBB will review your application and notify you when you are ready to take the EPPP.
To prepare for the exam, you may take practice exams offered by the EPPP website. You may only take the practice exams if you have been approved to take the EPPP.
A passing score on the written portion of the exam is 500, and test grades are scaled based on the difficulty of the questions. If you fail your EPPP exam, you may retake the exam two months after you have received your initial score. If you fail a second time, you will not be eligible for licensure in Mississippi for two years following the date of your second failed test. Every additional failure will result in an additional two years of suspension for your application.
Once you have passed the written portion of the exam, you are eligible to take the oral examination. The Mississippi Board of Psychology will mail you an additional jurisprudence exam that you must bring to your oral examination. The board offers oral examinations four times per year, and the schedule for this examination is listed on their website. Oral examinations typically take between 45 minutes and one hour.
Step 5. Begin your Career as a Forensic Psychologist in Mississippi
Once you have obtained your license from the Mississippi Board of Psychology, you may begin establishing your career in forensic psychology. While the State of Mississippi does not grant specialized licensure, the Board of Psychology offers training for your Civil Commitment Certification at the annual meeting of the Mississippi Psychological Association. This certification will allow you to perform civil commitment evaluations for the chancery court.
To obtain certification, you must have completed your educational and internship requirements in a clinical area setting. Additionally, the Board must determine that you are competent in your understanding of civil commitment law and capable of detecting the presence or absence of mental illnesses in individuals in civil commitment evaluations. You will then work with a Credentialing Coordinator to schedule an examination, which you must pass for certification.
Beyond civil commitment, some of the jobs related to forensic psychology you may choose to pursue include:
- Research specialist
- Forensic clinician
- Assessment psychologist
- Substance abuse counselor
- Consulting forensic examiner
- Police psychologist
- Correctional psychologist
- Forensic psychologist
Step 6. Maintain your License
To maintain your license as a practicing psychologist in Mississippi, you must complete a form sent to you by the Mississippi Board of Psychology every April. You must submit your form along with a renewal fee as determined by the board.
Forensic Psychologist Salary Information for Mississippi
Forensic psychologists earn high salaries for applying their dual expertise in psychology and legal issues to the criminal and civil judicial process. The need for these professionals is increasing in Mississippi, and the state’s Department of Employment Security expects the number of forensic psychology positions to increase by 7% between 2010 and 2020. This agency expects this level of growth to generate an average of 45 jobs a year for forensic psychologists. Job growth is expected to be even higher in two of Mississippi’s major cities:
- Hattiesburg: 7%
- Gulfport-Biloxi: 1%
While forensic psychologists have many specialties, including analyzing the behavior of minors, serving as consultants for law enforcement, and serving as expert witnesses in custody cases, a number of these professionals work with inmates that are mentally ill.
Although the situation in the county jails in Mississippi is grim according to a joint report from the National Sheriff’s Association and the Treatment Advocacy Center, the Mississippi State Penitentiary (Parchman) became a national model for prison reform.
Many of the seriously mentally ill inmates were housed in segregation in the super max Unit 32, which was recognized as a highly dangerous environment. After a study conducted by Dr. James Austin, nearly 80% of the inmates in the unit were reclassified to the general population in the unit instead of being segregated from the other prisoners. This change produced a striking drop in the number of incidents requiring the use of force and produced a higher level of care for the mentally ill inmates.
Salaries for Forensic Psychologists in Mississippi
Shown below are the salaries for forensic psychologists working for the state of Mississippi in 2015:
- Level II: $73,139 – $127,992
- Level I: $66,553 – $116,468
The Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES) provides the salaries for forensic psychologists in the state as of 2015. Experienced forensic psychologists earned an average of $64,340, while those who were new to the profession averaged $35,800. The overall average salary for a forensic psychologist in Mississippi was $54,820 that year.
The MDES also provides the salaries of forensic psychologists in the major cities of Mississippi as of 2015:
Forensic Psychologist Salaries in Gulfport-Biloxi, Jackson, and Rural Areas of Mississippi
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a salary analysis by percentile for forensic psychologists in Mississippi’s two largest cities and several rural areas (2014):