Forensic psychologists are active in all areas of the criminal justice system, as well as civil and family law. They are often found working for independent firms that serve law offices, court systems and correctional facilities, providing psychological assessments, determining sanity and competence to stand trial, resolving parental custody disputes and serving as trial consultants.
Just some of the ways forensic psychologists contribute to the civil and criminal judicial process include:
- They determine whether criminals are psychologically competent to stand trial
- They help to rehabilitate inmates, potentially preventing future crimes
- They analyze criminal trends and make expert suggestions on preventing future crimes
Steps to Becoming a Forensic Psychologist in New Mexico
Your path to a career in forensic psychology will require you to meet licensing requirements maintained by the New Mexico Board of Psychologist Examiners. Review these steps to learn how to become a forensic psychologist in New Mexico:
Step 1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Psychology
Forensic psychology is an advanced field that requires extensive knowledge of various psychological principles. As such, your path to becoming a forensic psychologist starts with developing a foundation of knowledge through a bachelor’s degree program in psychology.
While master’s and doctoral forensic psychology programs accept applicants with a general psychology degree, there are a growing number of bachelor’s degree programs related to forensic psychology. Among the degrees available online and through schools with campus locations in New Mexico are:
- 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 Applied Psychology — Forensic Psychology
- Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Forensic Psychology
- Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Forensic Studies
Within these programs, you will gain your foundational knowledge of psychology through courses in areas such as human sexuality, cultural psychology, psychological disorders, and more. As you advance into your program, your coursework will delve more specifically into forensic psychology.
Among the course titles you may find in your program:
- Forensic Law
- Criminal Psychology
- Sociology of Violence and Crime
- Introduction to Counseling
- Drugs and Society
- Social Psychology
- Abnormal Behavior
- Psychology of Sex Crimes
Step 2. Earn a Master’s and Doctoral Degree in Forensic Psychology
Obtaining a bachelor’s degree will open the door to advanced study of forensic psychology.
You may take one of two paths to earn your doctorate degree in the field:
1) Enroll in a terminal master’s degree program related to forensic psychology before going on to enroll in a separate doctoral program.
2) Enroll directly in a program that offers both master’s- and doctoral-level coursework and that results in both a master’s and doctorate degree through a single continuous program.
Master’s degree programs related to forensic psychology delve further into the relationship between U.S. law and the human psyche. Courses you may find within these programs could include:
- 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
Master’s degrees related to forensic psychology available online and though schools with campus locations in New Mexico 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 Legal Studies (MLS)
- Master of Science (MS) in Forensic Psychology
- Master of Science (MS) in Criminal and Investigative Psychology
Obtaining a master’s degree can potentially be what separates you from other candidates applying to doctoral programs, which have very strict admission standards. Your past research experience, your prior thesis work, and your educational background are just some of the criteria these programs use to assess qualified applicants.
Once you have been admitted to a doctoral program, you will begin taking courses that will prepare you for the challenges of a career in forensic psychology. Taught by practicing psychologists, these courses may include:
- Evaluation and Treatment of Offenders
- Children and Adolescents in the Legal System
- Psychology in the Courts
- Psychology and the Legal System
- Advanced Psychopathology
- Personality, Theory and Research
- Psychological Profiling
- Assessment in Forensic Psychology Settings
- Forensic Assessment in Civil Court
- Treatment of Forensic Populations
- Theories of Criminal Behavior
- Criminal Behavior
- Neuropsychological Assessment
Doctoral degrees related to forensic psychology include, but are not limited to:
- D./Ph.D. or Ph.D. with a concentration in Forensic Psychology
- D. in Forensic Psychology
- Law and Psychology J.D./Ph.D.
- D. in Forensic Psychology
- D. in Clinical Psychology with a concentration in Forensic Psychology
Step 3. Complete 3,000 Hours of Supervised Training
New Mexico’s Board of Psychological Examiners requires that all psychologists complete 3,000 total hours of supervised training before receiving a license to practice. Of these 3,000 hours, 1,500 may be completed before finishing your doctoral program while the other 1,500 must be completed after you have received your doctoral degree.
The American Psychological Association (APA) approves the following predoctoral internships in New Mexico, although the Board allows candidates to earn up 750 hours in an internship not approved by the APA. These Board-approved programs include:
- University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
- Southwest Consortium Doctoral Psychology Internship
- VA Healthcare System
For post-doctoral training, the APA approves the Clinical Psychology Postdoctoral Program at the New Mexico VA Health Care System in Albuquerque.
Detailed information on the legal requirements of your supervised training can be found on the Board website.
Step 4. Pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)
The Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), developed by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB), is one of two tests you will need to pass in order to receive licensure to practice psychology in New Mexico. The EPPP consists of 225 questions and covers topics including, but not limited to:
- Ethical, legal and professional issues
- Research methods and statistics
- Biological bases of behavior
- Social and multicultural bases of behavior
- Cognitive-affective bases of behavior
- Growth and lifespan development
- Assessment and diagnosis
Each exam is unique, and questions vary in difficulty. A passing score of 500 will be scaled based on the difficulty of your particular test.
For instructions on how to take the exam, contact the Board.
Step 5. Complete the Jurisprudence Exam to Submit Along with Your Application for Licensure
The second test you must pass for licensure as a psychologist in New Mexico is the Examination of Ethics and New Mexico Jurisprudence. This multiple-choice, open-book exam on the rules and regulations of psychology practice in New Mexico can be found on the Board of Psychological Examiners website. You must score at least 75% or higher on the exam to pass and receive licensure.
Once you have completed your exam, you must send it in the board along with your Application for licensure. You must additionally submit fees of $75 for the jurisprudence exam and $300 for the license application. The Board’s physical address is as follows:
State Board of Psychologist Examiners
Toney Anaya Building
2550 Cerrillos Road, Second Floor
Santa Fe, New Mexico
PO BOX 25101
Santa Fe, NM 87504
Step 6. Begin your Career as a Forensic Psychologist in New Mexico
Once granted your state-issued license, you can begin your career in the vast world of forensic psychology. Jobs within the field include, but are not limited to:
- Consulting forensic examiner
- Forensic clinician
- Research specialist
- Assessment psychologist
- Service coordinator
- Police psychologist
- Case manager
- Forensic psychologist
- Substance abuse counselor
- Correctional psychologist
New Mexico prisons, courts, and police departments are just some of the settings where forensic psychologists may be employed full time or offer services on a contract basis.
Specific organizations in the state that may require your services as a forensic psychologists include, but are not limited to:
- Penitentiary of New Mexico
- Western New Mexico Correctional Facility
- New Mexico State Police
- Roswell Correctional Center
- New Mexico Department of Public Safety
- Albuquerque Police Department
Step 7. Maintain your License Through Continuing Education
Once you have received your license, you must renew it with the state Board every two years. You must complete 40 hours of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) during this biennial period. If you are a conditional prescribing or unrestricted prescribing psychologist, you must complete 60 hours of CPE.
During your first two years of licensure, you must also complete eight hours of cultural awareness work, which must be approved by the Board.
The Board offers the option to renew your license online.
Complete information on CPE requirements in New Mexico can be found on the Board website.
Forensic Psychologist Salary Information for New Mexico
Forensic psychologists in New Mexico earn high salaries for contributing their psychological and legal expertise to help both individuals and society. A major employer of forensic psychologists in New Mexico is the state’s Behavior Health Institute in Las Vegas.
This institute’s forensic section houses defendants that have been found not competent to stand trial and deemed highly dangerous. While many patients are eventually released, eight patients are likely to spend the rest of their lives there. This includes John Hyde who was institutionalized after his five murders in 2005.
Albuquerque’s reaction to this tragic set of crimes had national implications. Hyde’s refusal to keep taking his medication and subsequent homicidal behavior led the city to become the first in the country to adopt Kendra’s law. This statute allows the police to force mentally ill patients to take their meds if they pose a danger to the community or themselves.
Salaries for New Mexico’s Forensic Psychologists
New Mexico has among the highest rates of serious mental illness in its general population in the country according to a 2015 report released by the state’s Legislative Finance Committee. This has strong implications for the state’s criminal justice system, which relies on expert testimony from forensic psychologists.
The New Mexico Division of Workforce Solutions expects the number of forensic psychology jobs in the state to increase significantly between 2012 and 2022. This agency expects this rate to be 1.7%–more than 50% higher than the average for all occupations in the state. Job growth for forensic psychologists is expected to be particularly high in Albuquerque, where it is expected to increase at a rate of 2.4% per year.
Shown below are the salaries for forensic psychologists that worked for the state of New Mexico in 2015:
According to the New Mexico Division of Workforce Solutions, forensic psychologists in New Mexico earned an average salary of $62,360 as of 2014. Those with experience earned an average of $72,860, while the average salary for entry-level professionals was $41,370.
Forensic Psychologist Salaries Throughout New Mexico
Forensic psychologist positions in rural parts of New Mexico can pay extremely well according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014):