Forensic psychologists bring social scientific expertise to the U.S. justice system, playing an integral role in everything from criminal trials and inmate rehabilitation to child custody determination and dispute resolution. Working alongside correctional administrators and trial attorneys, forensic psychologists provide unmatched insight into such things as the psychological factors that motivate criminal behavior.
Alwyn S. Whitehead Jr., Psy.D is one prominent forensic psychologist in Missouri with offices in Springfield. Dr. Whitehead’s duties as a forensic psychologist are emblematic of the multifarious aspects of the job. Just some of Dr. Whitehead’s responsibilities include:
- Serving as an expert witness in State and Federal Courts
- Serving as a Board member of National Alliance on Mental Illness
- Serving as a member of the Greene County DWI Court and Mental Health Court
- Seeing patients in a private practice.
Your path to becoming a forensic psychologist in Missouri will require you to become licensed as a clinical psychologist through the Missouri Committee of Psychologists within the Missouri Division of Professional Registration.
Steps to Becoming a Forensic Psychologist in Missouri
To become a licensed clinical psychologist in Missouri that specializes in forensic psychology, follow the steps shown here:
Step 1. Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology
Your first step to a career in forensic psychology will involve completing a bachelor’s degree program in psychology. In addition to a large number of general psychology degree options available through schools in Missouri, there are an increasing number of undergraduate programs specific to forensic psychology.
Some of the degrees offered through these schools include:
- Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Forensic Studies
- Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Applied Psychology — Forensic Psychology
- Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Forensic Psychology
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Investigative Forensics
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Forensic Psychology
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice — Forensic Psychology
Bachelor’s degree programs in forensic psychology include foundational courses in areas such as law, criminal activity, and psychology. Once you have completed these courses, you will move on to courses related specifically to forensic psychology in areas such as:
- Cultural psychology
- Psychological inquiry
- Psychological disorders
- Sociological impacts on criminality
Just some of the specific course titles you may find within these programs include:
- Abnormal Behavior
- Criminal Psychology
- Drugs and Society
- Psychology of Sex Crimes
- Introduction to Counseling
- Sociology of Violence and Crime
- Social Psychology
- Forensic Law
Step 2. Obtain your Master’s Degree and Doctoral Degree in Psychology
You will have the option to choose one of two educational paths to receive your doctoral degree in forensic psychology:
- Completing a master’s degree program in forensic psychology, then applying to a separate doctoral program
- Enrolling in a college or university that includes both master’s and doctoral-level courses in forensic psychology resulting in earning both degrees
Master’s Degrees in Forensic Psychology
Examples of master’s degrees related to forensic psychology include, but are not limited to:
- Master of Legal Studies (MLS)
- Master of Science (MS) in Forensic Psychology
- Master of Science (MS) in Criminal and Investigative Psychology
- Master of Arts (MA) in Forensic Psychology
- Master of Arts in Psychology – Forensics (MA)
- Master of Arts (MA) in Forensic Mental Health Counseling
Just some of the course titles you may find within these programs include:
- Evaluation and Treatment of the Juvenile Defender
- Theories of Personality
- Psychology in the Courtroom
- Intersection of Law and Psychology
- Lifespan Development and the Cultural Context
- Criminal Evaluations
- Substance Abuse
- Forensic Mediation and Dispute Resolution
Completing a master’s degree program in forensic psychology will mean applying to a doctoral-level program with extensive credentials, which could help you during the application process. Doctorate programs in forensic psychology have very strict admission standards. Just some of the criteria that will be reviewed when you apply include:
- Your undergraduate and/or graduate GPA
- Your educational background in math, psychology, and sciences
- Your writing, including prior thesis work or past publications
- Your past research experience
- Your letters of recommendation
- Your GRE and GPA scores
- Your application essay and your general career goals
Doctoral Degrees in Forensic Psychology
To be licensed as a psychologist in the State of Missouri, you must attend a program that has been accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). Doctorate programs available through schools in Missouri include:
- D. in Forensic Psychology
- D. in Forensic Psychology
- D. with a concentration in Forensic Psychology
- D. in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in Forensic Psychology
- Law and Psychology J.D./Ph.D. program
- D./Ph.D. or Ph.D. with a concentration in Forensic Psychology
Just some of the courses you are likely to encounter 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
In addition to your coursework, the State of Missouri requires that your curriculum include:
- A minimum of one year’s residency at the educational institution granting the doctoral degree
- A supervised internship, field, practicum, or supervised laboratory training appropriate to the practice of psychology.
The American Psychological Association (APA) approves the following internships in Missouri:
- University of Missouri, Columbia, Counseling Center
- Louis Psychology Internship Consortium, Department of Psychology
- Center for Behavioral Medicine, Psychiatry
- Louis Health Care System, Mental Health Service
- Missouri Health Sciences Psychology Consortium, Department of Health Psychology
- S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners, Department of Psychology
- University of Missouri Kansas City, Counseling Center
- Children’s Mercy Kansas City, Department of Pediatrics, Developmental & Behavioral Sciences Section
- Heart of America Psychology Training Consortium, Doctoral Internship Program
- Forest Institute of Professional Psychology, Robert J. Murney Clinic
- Fulton State Hospital, Psychology Department
Step 3. Complete an Internship and Post-Doctoral Supervised Employment
Once you have received your degree, you would begin your application process for licensure by having your college or university send your official transcripts to the Missouri Committee of Psychologists. You must then complete an application form, which can be found here.
You must complete these steps before beginning your post-doctoral supervised employment.
In total, your post-doctoral work must include no less than 1,500 hours and be completed in a 12-24-month period. You must work between 20 and 50 hours a week to complete the total time requirements.
During your post-doctoral work, you will have one to two supervisors, as mandated by the State. These supervisors must be qualified psychologists and must be approved by the Missouri Committee of Psychologists.
Step 4. Pass the EPPP Exam and Finalize the Licensing Process
You must pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) administered by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards to receive licensure as a psychologist in Missouri. To take the test, you must fill out an application on the Missouri Committee of Psychologists website, available here.
After your application has been approved, the Committee will contact you with instructions on how to take the exam. You have 60 days from the date or your test authorization to take the exam. The ASPPB has a mandatory $600 fee for candidates who wish to take the exam.
The EPPP test consists of 225 questions that vary in difficulty. A passing score is 500, but scores are scaled based on the difficulty of the questions. To prepare for the test, you may take practice exams offered by the EPPP website.
You will have a maximum four chances to pass the EPPP exam in the course of 12 months. If you do not pass the exam in 24 months, he or she must reapply for licensure.
To finalize your psychology license in Missouri, you must complete the state’s Jurisprudence Exam as well as an oral exam administered by the Division of Professional Registration. The Jurisprudence exam consists of 100 questions based on Missouri Psychology Practice Act and Rules. The Missouri Committee of Psychologists notes that the exam focuses particularly on the Ethical Rules of Conduct (Chapter 5). You must score a minimum of 70% to pass the exam.
Dates and locations for both the jurisprudence and oral examinations can be found here.
Step 5. Begin your Career as a Forensic Psychologist in Missouri
Once you have received your psychology license, you may begin practicing in Missouri. Forensic psychology experts often pursue jobs with titles that include:
- Assessment psychologists
- Forensic clinicians
- Substance abuse counselors
- Forensic psychologists
- Consulting forensic examiners
- Research specialists
As a forensic psychologist in Missouri, you could be hired by organizations that include:
- Hazelwood & Weber, LLC
- Husch Blackwell, LLP
- Jefferson City Correctional Center
- Western Missouri Correctional Center
- Independence Police Department
- Kansas City Police Police Department
Step 6. Maintain your Missouri Clinical Psychologist License
To maintain your license as a psychologist, you must complete 40 hours or 40 credits of Continuing Education (CE) every two years after licensure. As determined by the Missouri Committee of Psychologists, your CE must include:
- Attending recognized educational seminars related to psychology
- Presenting your own educational seminar related to psychology
- Taking an approved graduate-level course related to psychology
- Presenting your own graduate level course related to psychology
For complete details on Continuing Education as a psychologist in Missouri, visit the Rules of the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration.
Additionally, you must renew your license every two years by completing the renewal form and submitting the accompanying fee.
Forensic Psychologist Salary Information for Missouri
Forensic psychologists are highly compensated for their expertise in psychology and jurisprudence. The number of positions for these professionals in Missouri is expected to increase by 5.01% on average statewide between 2012 and 2022 according to the state’s Economic Research and Information Center. The rate of increase is projected to be substantially higher for certain regions in Missouri:
- Northeast: 75%
- Ozark: 29%
In addition to their roles as consultants for law enforcement and as expert witnesses in domestic and child custody cases, forensic psychologists often work closely with mentally ill inmates. Missouri is home to a number of these professionals, because Springfield is home to a federal mental health prison hospital that houses nearly 1,200 inmates as of 2015.
Due to cutbacks in outpatient mental health funding, Missouri’s prisons are home to a number of mentally ill individuals. According to a joint 2014 report conducted by the National Sheriff’s Association and the Treatment Advocacy Project, the state prisons in Bonne Terre and Farmington probably each have more seriously mentally ill individuals than the state hospital in Fulton. The Missouri Department of Corrections estimated that 20% of the state’s prison population was mentally ill in 2006—a substantial increase since 1997.
The situation is even worse in Missouri’s jails. In 2007, at least 30% of the inmates in Boone County were said to be mentally ill, while a jail official in Greene County told KY3 News in 2011 that officials were seeing increasingly numbers of individuals with chronic mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Missouri’s Department of Corrections policy allows personnel to administer medication on a non emergency involuntary basis in cases of clinical necessity even if there is no immediate danger. Thus, mental health professionals can help inmates who are gravely disabled, could pose a likelihood of harm to themselves or others if not treated, and display symptoms of severe mental illness.
Salaries for Forensic Psychologists Throughout Missouri
The state of Missouri paid the following salary ranges for forensic psychologists in 2015:
- Level II: $55,416 – $77,556
- Level I: $49,128 – $71,208
According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, forensic psychologists in the state earned an average salary of $66,859. Those with experience averaged $78,176 a year, while forensic psychologists who were new to the profession earned an average of $44,225.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics provides salary data for forensic psychologists throughout Missouri as of 2014: