Forensic psychologists are integral to the U.S. justice system, as they provide scientific insight on issues ranging from a defendant’s competency to stand trial to the level of risk of violence an individual poses.
Forensic psychologists bring their expertise to organizations that include:
- Police departments
- Correctional facilities
- Law firms
- State and Federal Court
- Clinical psychology practices
One well-known forensic psychologist in Montana is Dr. Patrick Davis, who has been licensed to practice psychology in the state since 1991. Davis earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in experimental psychology at the University of Montana before enrolling at the California School of Professional Psychology to earn his Ph.D. in Professional Psychology with a specialization in Clinical Psychology. Just some of the highlights of Dr. Davis’ career as a forensic psychologist include:
- Conducting over 200 forensic psychological examinations in areas including civil commitment, testamentary capacity, sentencing mitigation, and more.
- Serving as an expert witness in criminal cases
- Serving as a member of the Montana Psychological Association
- Conducting seminars for other practicing psychologists
If you’re ready to make your contribution to Montana’s criminal and civil court system, follow the steps shown in this guide.
Steps to Becoming a Forensic Psychologist in Montana
To become a licensed forensic psychologist in Montana, you must meet the guidelines set by the Montana Board of Psychologists. To do so, you will need to undergo the following process:
Step 1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology or Forensic Psychology
The first step on your path to a career in forensic psychology is to obtain a bachelor’s degree related to the field. While many master’s and doctoral programs in forensic psychology accept applicants with general psychology degrees, there are a number of degrees related specifically to forensic psychology.
Just some of these degrees include:
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice — Forensic Psychology
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Investigative Forensics
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Forensic Psychology
- Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Forensic Psychology
- Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Applied Psychology — Forensic Psychology
- Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Forensic Studies
In the first few semesters of your bachelor’s degree program, you will take fundamental psychology courses in psychology, criminal activity, and law. As you advance further into the program, courses will delve into more specific areas of forensic psychology such as:
- Cultural psychology
- Psychological inquiry
- Sociological impacts on criminality
- Psychological disorders
Specific course titles your forensic psychology bachelor’s program may offer include, but are not limited to:
- Psychology of Sex Crimes
- Abnormal Behavior
- Criminal Psychology
- Drugs and Society
- Sociology of Violence and Crime
- Introduction to Counseling
- Social Psychology
- Forensic Law
Step 2. Earn a Master’s Degree and a Doctoral Degree Related to Forensic Psychology
Once you have earned your bachelor’s degree, you will need to begin the path towards a doctoral degree in clinical psychology, which is required for licensure in the state of Montana. Your options for pursuing a doctoral degree include:
- Enrolling in a master’s degree program, then applying to a separate doctoral degree program
- Enrolling in a college or university that offers master’s- and doctoral-level programs as part of the same curriculum, allowing you to earn both degrees at one location.
Master’s Degrees in Forensic Psychology
Master’s programs dedicated to forensic psychology will give you advanced preparation for doctoral-level programs. Just some of the master’s degrees you may pursue through schools in Montana include:
- Master of Arts (MA) in Forensic Mental Health Counseling
- Master of Arts (MA) in Forensic Psychology
- Master of Arts in Psychology – Forensics (MA)
- Master of Science (MS) in Forensic Psychology
- Master of Science (MS) in Criminal and Investigative Psychology
- Master of Legal Studies (MLS)
Specific courses within these programs may include:
- Lifespan Development and the Cultural Context
- Forensic Mediation and Dispute Resolution
- Intersection of Law and Psychology
- Psychology in the Courtroom
- Evaluation and Treatment of the Juvenile Defender
- Criminal Evaluations
- Substance Abuse
- Theories of Personality
Doctoral Degrees in Forensic Psychology
The admission standards for doctoral-level psychology programs are very strict. Just some of your credentials that will be considered during the admission process include:
- Your undergraduate and graduate GPA
- Your past research experience
- Your letters of recommendation
- Your writing, including prior thesis work or past publications
- Your educational background in math, psychology, and sciences
- Your application essay and your general career goals
- Your GRE and GPA scores
Courses within doctoral forensic psychology programs will provide you with the advanced knowledge and skills to be successful as a professional forensic psychologist. Among the course titles you may find in these programs:
- Children and Adolescents in the Legal System
- Criminal Behavior
- Psychology and the Legal System
- Theories of Criminal Behavior
- Forensic Assessment in Civil Court
- Treatment of Forensic Populations
- Evaluation and Treatment of Offenders
- Personality, Theory and Research
- Advanced Psychopathology
- Assessment in Forensic Psychology Settings
- Psychology in the Courts
- Psychological Profiling
- Neuropsychological Assessment
You may pursue degrees related to clinical forensic psychology that include:
- D./Ph.D. or Ph.D. with a concentration in Forensic Psychology
- D. in Forensic Psychology
- Law and Psychology J.D./Ph.D. program
- D. in Forensic Psychology
- D. in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in Forensic Psychology
- D. with a concentration in Forensic Psychology
Step 3. Complete your Residency Training and Post-Doctoral Supervised Employment
In addition to your coursework, the Montana Board of Psychologists requires that you complete two years of supervised experience related to clinical psychology. These two years must meet the following requirements outlined by the Board:
- One year must be residency training provided by the college or university where you are pursuing your doctoral degree
- One year must be completed after you have obtained your doctoral degree.
- Your post-doctoral work must include no more than six months of supervised research or teaching.
The American Psychological Association (APA) currently approves Montana State University Counseling and Psychological Services in Bozeman as an internship facility.
Step 4. Pass your EPPP and Oral Examinations
The Montana Board of Psychologists requires that you pass the Examination for the Professional Practice of Psychology (EPPP) to obtain licensure as a forensic psychologist. To begin the process for taking the exam, you must fill out the detailed application on the Montana Board of Psychologists website. The Montana Board of Psychologists will review your application and notify you if you have been approved to take the exam. Once you have been approved, you may take practice exams offered by the EPPP website.
The EPPP is a written exam that consists of 225 questions. A passing score is 500, and grading is scaled based on the difficulty of the questions.
In addition to passing the EPPP exam, you must pass an oral examination administered by the Montana Board of Psychologists. Before you take the exam, you must submit three written work samples that are approved by the board. You may be questioned on these work samples during your oral examination. Your work samples must:
- Have been written within two years of the application
- Include two psychological evaluations
- Not include newspaper articles or articles from similar publications
Your oral examination will consist of questions on topics including, but not limited to:
- Psychopathology and diagnosis
- Montana mental health law
You will be considered fully licensed as a psychologist in Montana once you have passed both of these examinations.
Step 5. Begin your Career as a Forensic Psychologist in Montana
With your Montana psychology license in hand, you may pursue forensic psychology jobs that include:
- Substance abuse counselor
- Consulting forensic examiner
- Research specialist
- Correctional psychologist
- Police psychologist
- Forensic psychologist
- Assessment psychologist
- Forensic clinician
Examples of Montana organizations who may employ forensic psychologists include, but are not limited to:
- Browning, Kaleczyc, Berry & Hoven, P.C
- Garlington, Lohn & Robinson, PLLP
- Montana State Prison
- The Great Falls Police Department
- Billings Police Department
Step 6. Maintain your License
To maintain your license as a psychologist in Montana, you must complete 40 hours of continuing education (CE) every two years. Examples of continuing education include, but are not limited to:
- Taking courses approved by the APA
- Attending seminars at APA-sponsored conventions and conferences
- Publishing a review paper in a refereed psychological journal
The detailed requirements of continuing education are outlined on the Montana Secretary of State website.
Additionally, you must reapply for licensure every year and submit a $600 fee. You may find the 2014 application for license renewal on the Montana Board of Psychologists website.
Forensic Psychologist Salary Information for Montana
Forensic psychologists earn high salaries for their combined expertise related to psychological and legal issues. This field is growing, and the Montana Department of Labor and Industry projects that the number of forensic psychologists in the state will increase by 10.7% between 2014 and 2024. This level of growth is expected to generate an average of 19 jobs a year in Montana.
Law enforcement officials consulted with high-level forensic psychologists to try and catch the person who placed a pair of severed legs off Moulton Reservoir Road in Butte in 2012. As of July 2015, the killer had not been caught.
Other forensic psychologists serve as expert witnesses in cases ranging from child custody during divorce, to murder trials. A number of these professionals work with mentally ill inmates. Given the size and sparse population of Montana, it is difficult to provide good services for people with mental illness, and many of them end up in county jails while they await transportation to the Montana State Hospital.
According to a report released by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriff’s Association, estimates of the number of inmates in the Montana State Prison who have a serious mental illness were 15% in 2014. This percentage equals 224 people—greater than the capacity of the Montana State Hospital. The situation at the prison is so grave that the warden suggested building a special unit for mentally ill inmates in 2007.
Salaries by Location of Forensic Psychologists in Montana
Forensic psychologists who were employed by the Montana Department of Corrections in Deer Lodge earned $76,482 and $59,613 in 2015. In contrast, a forensic psychologist in Miles City earned $109,200 that year.
The Montana Department of Labor and Industry reported that the average annual salary for forensic psychologists in the state was $59,230 in 2014, while the median salary was $53,260.
Only 36.8% of the 380 forensic psychologists employed in Montana in 2014 were located in Billings and Missoula. The largest number of Montana’s forensic professionals was employed in the southwest balance of the state. One hundred and twenty such professionals practiced in this area in 2014.
Shown here for comparative purposes, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics provides the salaries for forensic psychologists in Montana’s major cities and rural areas as of 2014: