Forensic psychology blends advanced knowledge of the civil and criminal judicial process with scientific insight into what motivates human behavior. Forensic psychologists bring their expertise to courtrooms, correctional facilities, law offices, law enforcement agencies and more, providing services that include psychological evaluations, violence risk assessments, determination of punishment assessments, child custody evaluations, expert witness testimony and much more.
In Nevada, Dr. John Paglini is a well-known forensic psychologist who has been providing forensic psychological assessments for over 18 years. Paglini’s career began with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the Catholic University of America in 1983 and a doctorate degree in clinical psychology from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology in 1990. Paglini’s experience as a forensic psychologist includes 40 death penalty cases as well as cases that involved:
- Sexual offender and violence risk assessments
- Death Penalty Mitigation evaluations
- Criminal responsibility evaluations
- Civil Psychological evaluations for plaintiff and defense
Steps to Becoming a Forensic Psychologist in Nevada
To become a forensic psychologist in Nevada, you must first qualify for a license through the Nevada Board of Psychological Examiners. Follow the steps in this guide to learn how:
Step 1. Earn your Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology or Forensic Psychology
The Nevada Board of Psychological Examiners requires that all practicing psychologists earn a bachelor’s degree in a social science-related field or another field approved by the board. While you may elect to pursue a general psychology degree, you will still have the option to pursue a bachelor’s degree specific to forensic psychology.
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
Your coursework in a bachelor’s degree program will help you develop a foundation of knowledge in different components of psychology including, but not limited to:
- Cultural psychology
- Psychological inquiry
- Sociological impacts on criminality
- Psychological disorders
Courses you may take that are dedicated to forensic psychology include, but are not limited to:
- Abnormal Behavior
- Introduction to Counseling
- Learning and Motivation
- Sociology of Violence and Crime
- Drugs and Society
- Social Psychology
- Principles of Individual and Community Advocacy
- Forensic Law
- Psychology of Sex Crimes
- Criminal Psychology
Step 2. Earn your Master’s and Doctoral Degree in Forensic Psychology
With your bachelor’s degree in hand, you may either apply to a traditional terminal master’s degree program in forensic psychology, or a doctoral program that also includes master’s-level courses and that results in both a master’s and doctoral degree in a single program.
You will have several master’s degree options to choose from through schools in Nevada:
- 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)
Examples of courses you may find within master’s degree programs include:
- Lifespan Development and the Cultural Context
- Forensic Mediation and Dispute Resolution
- Intersection of Law and Psychology
- Criminal Evaluations
- Research Design
- Substance Abuse
- Theories of Personality
- Forensic Report Writing
- Evaluation and Treatment of the Juvenile Defender
- Psychology in the Courtroom
Completion of a master’s degree program may increase your chances of being accepted into a forensic psychology doctoral program. Schools offering these programs often set very selective admission standards. Upon applying, you will be assessed on criteria that is likely to 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 programs and dual degree combined doctoral/J.D. programs available to you through schools in Nevada 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
Your doctoral program will consist of advanced coursework that targets specific areas of forensic psychology. Taught by practicing Ph.Ds and Phys.Ds, these courses will provide you with knowledge that is directly applicable to your future practice as a forensic psychologist. Among the course titles you may find within your program:
- Advanced Psychopathology
- Assessment in Forensic Psychology Settings
- Personality, Theory and Research
- Psychology in the Courts
- Psychological Profiling
- Forensic Assessment in Civil Court
- Theories of Criminal Behavior
- Criminal Behavior
- Trauma and Family Violence
- Evaluation and Treatment of Offenders
- Psychology and the Legal System
- Treatment of Forensic Populations
- Children and Adolescents in the Legal System
- Neuropsychological Assessment
In addition to your coursework, you must complete a board-approved pre-doctoral internship that is no less than 1,750 hours. The American Psychological Association currently approves internships at the VA Sierra Nevada Healthcare System’s Mental Health Service Department. Additionally, the Nevada Psychological Association Training Consortium (NPACT), a non-profit subsidiary of the Nevada Psychological Association, offers pre-doctoral internship opportunities in clinical psychology for full-time students.
You may find an application form for internship registration on the Board of Psychological Examiners website.
Step 3. Complete your Post-Doctoral Employment Hours
The Nevada Board of Psychological Examiners requires all applicants for licensure in psychology to complete an additional year of supervised following graduation from doctoral programs. To apply for your post-doctoral employment, you must complete and submit the form on the Board of Psychological Examiners website.
Like your internship, your post-doctoral employment must consist of 1,750 total hours. While you complete your supervised employment, you must submit a series of logs detailing your work to the Board. Additionally, your supervisor will meet with you at least once per week to review your progress.
Complete details regarding the requirements of your post-doctoral employment may be found on the State of Nevada website.
Step 4. Pass the EPPP and State Examinations
Once you have completed your post-doctoral employment, you must apply for licensure as a psychologist with the Board of Psychological Examiners to be approved to take the national Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). The exam consists of 225 questions and generally takes several hours to complete. A passing score of 500 is scaled based on the difficulty of these questions.
Once you have been approved, the Board will send you information on how to take the exam. You can prepare for the exam by taking practice exams offered by the EPPP website.
In addition, you must pass a 50-question multiple choice exam administered by the Board. You will have 90 minutes to complete the examination, which takes place every year in February, June, and October at locations in Las Vegas and Reno. You will receive an invitation to take the exam two to three months preceding the exam date. The Board encourages candidates seeking more information on the state exam to contact them at email@example.com.
Step 5. Enroll in the PLUS Program as the Final Step to Earn your License
Nevada is one of several states participating in the The Psychology Licensure Universal System® (PLUS), run by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPBB). To finalize your license as a psychologist in Nevada, you must enroll in this program.
The PLUS system allows you to bank your credentials in a central location, streamlining the process of applying for jobs, additional licenses, and more.
To sign up for the PLUS program, contact the Nevada Board of Psychological Examiners.
Step 6. Begin your Career as a Forensic Psychologist in Nevada
Once you have received licensure as a psychologist, you may begin pursuing a career in forensic psychology. Your credentials bank in the PLUS program will allow you to easily forward your qualifications to correctional facilities, law firms, police departments, and more. Just some of the jobs you may choose to pursue as a forensic psychologist in Nevada include:
- Research specialist
- Case manager
- Police psychologist
- Correctional psychologist
- Consulting forensic examiner
- Substance abuse counselor
- Service coordinator
- Assessment psychologist
- Forensic psychologist
- Forensic clinician
Examples of law enforcement agencies and correctional facilities in Nevada that may employ forensic psychologists on a full time or contract basis include, but are not limited to:
- Las Vegas Police Department
- Reno Police Department
- High Desert State Prison
- Lovelock Correctional Center
- Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Center
Step 7. Maintain your License
The Nevada Board of Psychological Examiners requires all licensed psychologists to renew their license every two years. On your application, you must list your area of competence in forensic psychology. Full details on reporting your area of competence may be found on the State of Nevada website.
To maintain your license, you must complete 30 hours of approved Continuing Education (CE) every two years. Six of these hours must be related to ethics. Before starting your CE, you must submit an application to the Board.
Forensic Psychologist Salary Information for Nevada
The prevalence of mental illness among inmates is of grave concern both nationally and in Nevada.
The Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health (DPBH) surveyed the jails of the three most populated counties in the state to determine the extent of mental health issues among their inmates. In a 2013 report, the DPBH found that 10.3% of inmates in the Clark County Detention Center and 23.1% in the Carson City Jail were in need of mental health services.
Governor Sandoval convened the Behavioral Health and Wellness Council to address mental health issues in Nevada. The council brings together providers, behavioral health experts, the judiciary, and members of the law enforcement community to provide recommendations on how to improve the mental health of Nevada’s residents. Prominent forensic psychologist Joel Dvoskin, Ph.D. chairs this council.
The prevalence of mental illness among Nevada’s defendants and inmates is contributing to a significant increase in the number of jobs for forensic psychologists in the state. The state’s Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation expects the number of jobs for forensic psychologists to increase by 7.4% between 2012 and 2022.
Job growth for forensic psychologists is expected to be even higher in the Reno metropolitan area. The state of Nevada predicts that the number of forensic psychology jobs in this location will increase by 10.9% during this ten-year period.
Salaries for Forensic Psychologists in Nevada
According to a 2015 salary report published by Nevada’s Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, the median salary for forensic psychologists in the state was $66,532. Experienced professionals in the 90th percentile of this occupational classification earned an average of $94,067.
The median salary for forensic psychologists varied substantially in Nevada’s major metropolitan areas:
More than half of Nevada’s 480 forensic psychologists were located in the Las Vegas metropolitan area. An additional 110 of these professionals practiced in the Reno area in 2015.
Forensic Psychologist Salaries in Nevada’s Metropolitan and Rural Areas
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a highly detailed profile of salary data for Nevada’s forensic psychologists (2014):