New Jersey is home to prominent forensic psychologists known for handling high profile cases and making significant contributions to the field. New Jersey’s own, Dr. Jonathan Mack, who owns a practice in Hamilton, received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Amherst College, his master’s degree in clinical psychology from the American International College, and his doctoral degree from the Virginia Consortium for Professional Psychology Program.
Dr. Mack’s practice provides forensic psychological evaluations of children and adults alike using neuropsychological testing, which rely less on the evaluator’s judgment and more on tests that evaluate neurological brain responses.
If you’re ready to develop a similar level of expertise in human behavior and law so as to offer forensic psychological services to New Jersey’s law offices and civil and criminal courts, you’ll start by gaining the education and experience needed to qualify for a psychologist license.
Steps to Become a Forensic Psychologist in New Jersey
Becoming a forensic psychologist in New Jersey starts by earning a psychologist license through the New Jersey Board of Psychological Examiners. For detailed information on how to become licensed, follow these steps:
Step 1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology or Forensic Psychology
Enrolling in a bachelor’s degree program related to forensic psychology will provide you with foundational knowledge in the field.
Examples of forensic psychology bachelor’s programs available online and through schools with campus locations in New Jersey include:
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice — Forensic Psychology
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in 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
Within these programs, you will take fundamental psychology coursework in such areas as:
- Cultural psychology
- Psychological disorders
- Sociological impacts on criminality
- Psychological inquiry
While master’s and doctoral programs will admit students with general psychology degrees, earning an undergraduate degree specific to forensic psychology will better prepare you for a career in the judicial and correctional systems through courses such as these:
- Forensic Law
- Introduction to Counseling
- Abnormal Behavior
- Criminal Psychology
- Drugs and Society
- Social Psychology
- Sociology of Violence and Crime
- Psychology of Sex Crimes
Step 2. Earn a Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology
After receiving your bachelor’s degree, your graduate degree options include programs that combine master’s and doctoral-level coursework in a single program, as well as traditional terminal master’s degree programs that require you to enroll in a separate doctoral program after completing your master’s.
Just some of the conventional terminal master’s degrees related to forensic psychology available online and through schools in New Jersey 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)
Coursework within master’s degree programs will continue to help you build a foundation of knowledge in forensic psychology while preparing you for career-specific coursework found in doctoral programs. Examples of courses you may take at the master’s level include, but are not limited to:
- Lifespan Development and the Cultural Context
- Forensic Mediation and Dispute Resolution
- Intersection of Law and Psychology
- Criminal Evaluations
- Substance Abuse
- Theories of Personality
- Evaluation and Treatment of the Juvenile Defender
- Psychology in the Courtroom
Step 3. Complete Doctoral-Level Coursework to Meet State Requirements
You have the option of pursuing a PhD, PsyD or dual degree program that confers both a JD and a PhD or PsyD:
- 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
- Law and Psychology J.D./Ph.D.
The New Jersey Board of Psychological Examiners has set forth very specific doctoral degree requirements for aspiring psychologists in the state. Forty of your credit hours must be within the field of psychology, 36 of which must be in the following areas:
- Six credits in Personality Theory and Human Development Theory
- Six credits in Psychological Measurement and Psychological Assessment
- Six credits in Learning Theory and/or Physiological Psychology
- Six credits in Research and Statistical Design
- Six credits in Psychological therapy/counseling or Industrial/Organizational Psychology
- Six credits in Psychopathology
Also required is an additional 20 credit hours specific to the field of psychology, but that don’t necessarily need to be obtained as part of your doctoral program. These credit hours may be earned at the pre-doctoral or post-doctoral graduate level and must be obtained as part of a program at a regionally accredited institution.
The advanced knowledge you develop in both psychological principles and criminal justice will come as a result of the coursework in your doctoral programs. Just some of the courses taught at this level include:
- Assessment in Forensic Psychology Settings
- Psychology in the Courts
- Psychological Profiling
- Evaluation and Treatment of Offenders
- Theories of Criminal Behavior
- Forensic Assessment in Civil Court
- Psychology and the Legal System
- Treatment of Forensic Populations
- Personality, Theory and Research
- Children and Adolescents in the Legal System
- Criminal Behavior
- Advanced Psychopathology
Step 4. Complete Supervised Employment
In addition to your coursework, the New Jersey Board of Psychological Examiners requires that you undergo 3,500 hours of supervised practice before receiving licensure as a psychologist.
The American Psychological Association (APA) approves the following psychology internships in New Jersey:
- Trenton Psychiatric Hospital, Department of Psychology
- Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital Psychology Department
- Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care/Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
- Veterans Affairs New Jersey Health Care System
- Ancora Psychiatric Hospital, Department of Psychological Services
- Princeton House Behavioral Health
- Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences/ University Behavioral Healthcare
- Rutgers University Behavioral HealthCare
- Trinitas Regional Medical Center, Department of Behavioral Health and Psychiatry
Of your 3,500 hours, 1,750 must be completed after completing your doctoral program. Within those 1,750 hours, you must complete 1,000 client contact hours and 550 hours performing office-related work such as consultations and report writing. You must also be under supervision from a Board-approved supervisor for 200 of those hours, 100 of which must be individual supervision.
Step 5. Pass the EPPP and Jurisprudence Examination
The 225-question Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) is the standard written exam used to determine your eligibility for licensure in New Jersey. You are required to pass the exam with a score of 500 or above.
The difficultly of the exam differs based on a random selection of questions. Your score will be scaled based on the difficulty of the questions.
To sign up for the exam, contact the Board.
Once you have been passed the EPPP, you will receive notification and then have 90 days to take the jurisprudence exam. This exam tests your knowledge of state laws governing the practice of psychology in New Jersey. More information on the New Jersey jurisprudence exam can be found here.
Step 6. Begin your Career as a Forensic Psychologist in New Jersey
Your career as a forensic psychologist may involve working in a specialty practice, establishing your own practice and offering services on a contract basis, or finding full time employment within a judicial district or the state’s correctional system.
Common jobs for licensed psychologists with specialized training and experience in forensics includes:
- Forensic clinician
- Case manager
- Research specialist
- Police psychologist
- Correctional psychologist
- Service coordinator
- Assessment psychologist
- Substance abuse counselor
- Consulting forensic examiner
- Forensic psychologist
Forensic psychologists work in various criminal justice settings. New Jersey-based organizations that may employ forensic psychologists include:
- East Jersey State Prison
- New Jersey State Prison
- Southern State Correctional Facility
- New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission
- New Jersey State Commission of Investigation
- New Jersey State Police
Many psychologists in New Jersey elect to join the New Jersey Psychological Association, which houses the Forensic Interest Group. You can apply to join the association here.
Step 7. Renew your Psychologist License Every Two Years
New Jersey does not have Continuing Education (CE) requirements for psychologists. However, you will have to renew your license with the Board every two years. Once you have been licensed, the Board will contact you roughly three months prior to the date your license expires with instructions on how to renew it.
Forensic Psychologist Salary Information for New Jersey
New Jersey is a particularly lucrative state in which to work as a forensic psychologist. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that forensic psychologists in the state were the fourth most highly paid in the country as of 2014.
A large number of New Jersey’s forensic psychologists work in Trenton’s Ann Klein Forensic Center is located there, which houses inmates deemed not guilty by reason of insanity. This 200-bed psychiatric hospital also serves people who have been declared incompetent to stand trial and those who require special security measures.
Mental illness treatment among New Jersey’s inmates has been a controversial issue for a number of years. In 2011, the New Jersey Department of Corrections used its medication roster to determine that 3,203 inmates suffered from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or depression according to the American Association for Justice. This figure only includes prisoners sentenced through Superior Court.
The Union County Prosecutor’s Office altered its handling of selected nonviolent mentally ill defendants by starting a treatment program for them in 2005. Staff members such as forensic psychologists from the Trinitas Regional Medical Center were critical to the success of this program.
A 2011 analysis showed that the recidivism rate among defendants enrolled in this treatment program was almost two-thirds lower than the average for New Jersey. Recently other County Prosecutors have started adopting this approach.
New Jersey Forensic Psychologist Salaries
Shown below are the salaries for forensic psychologists at the Anne Klein Forensic Center from 2014. These represent level 2 positions for primary level supervisors:
- Maximum: $110,979
- Average: $104,370
- Minimum: $85,147
Half of those that held this position in 2014 earned the maximum salary shown.
The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development provides the salaries of forensic psychologists as of 2013. The median salary for clinical psychologists in New Jersey was $76,750, while the median salary for those in the major counties in the state are shown below:
- Warren: $89,270
- Mercer: $80,150
- Atlantic: $77,450
- Cape May: $76,280
- Cumberland: $73,870
- Salem: $70,710
Job Growth Rates for Forensic Psychologists in New Jersey
The number of forensic psychologists in New Jersey is expected to increase by 2.7% between 2012 and 2022. This should result in an average of 120 positions a year becoming available in this field during this time frame.
The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development expects a much higher rate of job growth for this field in a number of counties:
- Warren: 3%
- Bergen: 8%
- Morris: 4%
- Camden: 4%
- Somerset: 3%
- Monmouth: 7%
- Mercer: 0%
Forensic Psychologist Salaries in New Jersey’s Major Cities
Shown below is a detailed analysis of forensic psychologist salaries throughout New Jersey (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014):