While Nebraska has had an unfortunate number of mass murders, the Simants case, in particular, garnered national attention and drew prominently upon the expertise of forensic psychologists. Insanity defenses had rarely been used in Nebraska at the time of the 1975 murders.
On his second trial, Simants was found innocent by reason of insanity and confined to the forensic unit at the Lincoln Regional Center.
The judge initially sought to bar the press from a preliminary hearing, and the US Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision affirming the First Amendment rights of the press.
The case drew attention again in 2013 when forensic psychologists determined that he was no longer mentally ill and could be released.
According to Omaha.com, about one-third of the state’s prison population was classified as mentally ill in 2014. In contrast to Simants, many of these individuals are incarcerated for nonviolent crimes such as trespassing and littering.
Douglas County started its Mental Health Diversion (MHD) Program to place individuals with a serious mental illness in treatment in the community. With the help of forensic psychologists, they have been able to divert a number of inmates from jail to successfully re-enter the community.
Forensic psychologists bring their unique psychological expertise to courtrooms, prisons, police departments, and law firms, working in the areas of civil, criminal, family and tort law. Just some of the ways forensic psychologists bridge the fields of psychology and law include:
- Analyzing trends to prevent future crimes
- Determining a criminal defendant’s competency to stand trial
- Providing insight that helps a judge determine a criminal’s punishment
- Rehabilitating inmates
- Determining parental competency
Forensic Behavioral Health, Inc. in Papillion is a psychology practice that employs two forensic psychologists who offer their services to criminal justice professionals, courts, families, and more. The practice also offers group training on subjects such as vicarious trauma.
Steps to Become a Forensic Psychologist in Nebraska
Whether you want to work in Nebraska’s criminal justice system, or in the areas of family and civil law, in order to become a forensic psychologist in Nebraska you will need to be licensed through the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services’ Board of Psychologists. This process is outlined in seven stages:
Step 1. Earn your Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology or Forensic Psychology
Your first step to becoming a forensic psychologist is to enroll in an undergraduate program in general or forensic psychology. While master’s and doctoral programs accept candidates with general psychology degrees, you will find a number of schools online and with campus locations in Nebraska that offer bachelor’s degrees specific to the field of forensics.
These degrees include, but are not limited to:
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Forensic Psychology
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice — Forensic Psychology
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Investigative Forensics
- Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Forensic Psychology
- Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Forensic Studies
- Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Applied Psychology — Forensic Psychology
Bachelor’s degree programs will provide you with foundational knowledge in various areas of psychology. You will also have the opportunity to take more advanced courses in areas such as:
- Psychological disorders
- Psychological inquiry
- Cultural psychology
- Sociological impacts on criminality
Specific examples of course titles you may find include, but are not limited to:
- Criminal Psychology
- Psychology of Sex Crimes
- Abnormal Behavior
- Social Psychology
- Introduction to Counseling
- Sociology of Violence and Crime
- Forensic Law
- Drugs and Society
Step 2. Earn your Master’s and Doctoral Degrees in Forensic Psychology
Once you have completed your undergraduate studies, you will have two options when it comes to graduate programs in forensic psychology:
- You can earn your terminal master’s degree in forensic psychology and then go on to enroll in a separate doctoral program.
- You can enroll in a program that offers both masters’ and doctoral-level courses in one comprehensive program.
Master’s Degrees in Forensic Psychology
Just some of the master’s degrees in forensic psychology you may choose to pursue 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)
Courses within master’s degree programs provide advanced insight into areas of forensic psychology that are directly applicable to careers in the field. You may find specific course titles in master’s degree programs such as:
- Lifespan Development and the Cultural Context
- Forensic Mediation and Dispute Resolution
- The intersection of Law and Psychology
- Criminal Evaluations
- Substance Abuse
- Theories of Personality
- Evaluation and Treatment of the Juvenile Defender
- Psychology in the Courtroom
An added benefit of obtaining a master’s degree in forensic psychology is that it may help you in the application process for doctoral programs.
Doctoral Degrees in Forensic Psychology
Doctorates in forensic psychology 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. in Forensic Psychology
- D. with a concentration in Forensic Psychology
- D. in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in Forensic Psychology
Psy.D. and Ph.D. programs related to forensic psychology have very strict admission standards, admitting only the most qualified candidates. Among the credentials that will be reviewed upon submitting your application include:
- Your past research experience
- Your educational background in math, psychology, and sciences
- Your application essay and your general career goals
- Your letters of recommendation
- Your undergraduate and graduate GPA
- Your writing, including prior thesis work or past publications
- Your GRE and GPA scores
Doctoral-level courses in forensic psychology allow you to gain high-level knowledge in specific areas in the field. Among the course titles you may find within these programs:
- Advanced Psychopathology
- Psychological Profiling
- Evaluation and Treatment of Offenders
- Children and Adolescents in the Legal System
- Forensic Assessment in Civil Court
- Theories of Criminal Behavior
- Assessment in Forensic Psychology Settings
- Psychology in the Courts
- Neuropsychological Assessment
- Psychology and the Legal System
- Criminal Behavior
- Personality, Theory, and Research
- Treatment of Forensic Populations
In addition to your coursework, you will be required to complete an internship accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA).
The internship, which will give you experience in a real clinical psychology setting must be completed within a two-year period and must include a total of 1,500 hours.
The APA has accredited the Nebraska Internship Consortium in Professional Psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Step 3. Complete your Post-Doctoral Supervised Employment Experience
To receive full licensure as a psychologist in Nebraska, you must first obtain a provisional license that allows you to complete one year of supervised post-doctoral employment. You may find the application for this license on the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services website.
To become a forensic psychologist, your post-doctoral employment should take place in a clinical psychology setting that is approved by the American Psychological Association. Your employment must total a minimum of 1,500 hours, 1,000 of which must consist of direct service. You must complete these hours within 24 months.
Step 4. Pass your EPPP and Jurisprudence Exams
The Examination for the Professional Practice of Psychology (EPPP) will be used by the Nebraska Board of Psychologists as one of several markers to ensure you are properly prepared for a career in forensic psychology.
The exam consists of 220 questions of varying difficulty. A score of 70% (a scaled score of 500 on the EPPP) or a score above the national mean for all doctoral candidates are both considered sufficient by the State of Nebraska Licensing Unit.
After you have been notified of your passing score, you must pass a jurisprudence exam developed by the Nebraska Board of Psychologists with a score of at least 80%. These exams are scheduled six times throughout the year. Detailed information on the exam is listed on the DDHS website.
Step 5. Obtain your Independent License to Practice from the Board of Psychologists
Practice from the Board of Psychologists
When you have passed both the EPPP and jurisprudence exams, you must fill out an application for initial licensure as a psychologist. You will need to have both your internship and post-doctoral supervisors fill out verification sections of the form, detailing your supervised experience.
Additionally, you must submit a fee to the Department of Health and Human Services. The fee varies by month of application.
Step 6. Begin your Career as a Forensic Psychologist in Nebraska
Once you have been licensed, you may begin establishing your career as a forensic psychologist. With your expertise in the area, you may pursue forensic psychologists jobs that include:
- Consulting forensic examiner
- Forensic clinician
- Correctional psychologist
- Substance abuse counselor
- Assessment psychologist
- Research specialist
- Police psychologist
Forensic psychologists bring invaluable knowledge to professionals working within the realm of law. Just some of the organizations you may work with as a forensic psychologist in Nebraska include:
- Omaha Police Department
- Lincoln Police Department
- Nebraska State Penitentiary
- Nebraska Diagnostic and Evaluation Center
- Rembolt Ludtke Law Firm
- Berry Law Firm
Step 7. Maintain your License
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services requires that you renew your license as a psychologist every two years. You must additionally complete 24 hours of Continuing Education every two years. Continuing Education hours may consist of activities including, but not limited to:
- Designing and teaching an academic psychology course
- Approved home study
- Taking and passing a graduate-level course in psychology
- Writing a psychology-related publication
Forensic Psychologist Salary Information for Nebraska
Forensic psychologists in Nebraska combine their psychological and legal expertise to earn high salaries while contributing to public safety.
This field is growing, and the Nebraska Department of Labor predicts that the number of forensic psychologists in the state will increase by 1% a year between 2010 and 2020.
The increase in the number of jobs for forensic psychologists in the Lincoln metropolitan area is expected to be even more. The number of these positions is expected to grow by 1.3% during this time frame.
May 2020 records of BLS provide salary information for forensic psychologists. Experienced professionals earned an average of $79,820 a year, while the median salary was $60,750. The average entry-level salary for a forensic psychologist in Nebraska was $46,410.
BLS May 2020 reported that the median salary varied substantially between different workforce regions in the state in 2020:
- Greater Nebraska: $105,788
- Lincoln: $67,558
- Omaha: $71,510
May 2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics Salary and Job Market Figures for Psychologists reflect state data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed October 2021.
Forensic Psychologist Salaries Throughout Nebraska
Shown below for comparative purposes are salaries for forensic psychologists throughout Nebraska (US Department of Labor, 2021):