Forensic psychologists provide professional psychological services for the judicial system, through their expertise in criminology, the law, and human behavior.
Forensic psychologists have worked some of the most high profile criminal cases in North Carolina, including the March 2015 murder trial of a Durham father who claimed he suffered from sleepwalking and had no memory of the events leading to the murder of his young son. A leading forensic psychologist testified, however, that the father was not a sleepwalker, but a narcissist.
Using her forensic expertise, Dr. Nancy Laney found, after four interviews with the defendant, that he lacked empathy, had a tendency to inflate his abilities and accomplishments, and did not suffer from any type of mental disease, defect, or condition that rendered his unconscious during the time of his alleged offense.
This case is just one of many that have required the unique expertise of forensic psychologists to provide assessments and serve as expert witnesses.
Steps to Become a Forensic Psychologist in North Carolina
To become a forensic psychologist in North Carolina, you must complete the necessary steps for licensure through the North Carolina Psychology Board:
Step 1. Complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology/Forensic Psychology
You must complete a doctoral degree in psychology before you can apply for licensure as a clinical psychologist in North Carolina and begin practicing as a forensic psychologist. Your years-long academic preparation starts with a bachelor’s degree, preferably in psychology or forensic psychology.
These programs may be designed as a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS), although their core psychology coursework is very similar. Typical coursework includes:
- Introductory psychology
- Psychology as a science and profession
- Basic research methods in psychology
Electives in a forensic psychology bachelor’s degree program often include:
- Psychology of violence and aggression
- Psychology and law
- Introduction to counseling
- Abnormal behavior
- Social psychology
Internships, usually a requirement in a bachelor’s degree program, are the ideal way to familiarize yourself with real-world experiences in North Carolina’s forensic psychology field.
Step 2. Complete a Doctoral Degree in Forensic Psychology
Many of today’s doctoral programs combine the educational requirements of both a master’s degree and a doctoral degree; therefore, you may enter these programs upon completion of your bachelor’s degree in psychology.
Admission to these programs is competitive, with only those students with exemplary undergraduate GPAs and comprehensive resumes accepted.
The North Carolina Psychology Board recognizes doctoral programs in psychology and forensic psychology accredited by the American Psychology Association (APA). Currently, the APA recognizes eight such programs in North Carolina.
Clinical forensic psychology programs are most often designed as Psy.D. programs. Typical program titles include:
- D. in Clinical Psychology with a Forensic Psychology concentration
- D. in Forensic Psychology
You may also choose to pursue a dual program like the J.D./Psy.D. in Forensic Psychology, which prepares you for licensure as a clinical psychologist in North Carolina and also prepares you to sit for the bar, if desired.
Approved doctoral programs must consist of at least three academic years of full-time graduate study (60 semesters)—two years of study and one year in residence. A residence requires interaction with the psychology faculty and other matriculated psychology students. The Board recognizes one year’s residence as 30 semester hours.
The doctoral program must include instruction in:
- Scientific and professional ethics and standards
- Research design and methodology
- Statistics and psychometrics
- The specialty area (forensic psychology)
Further, the program must include at least four content areas, which include at least three semester hours in each of the content areas:
- Biological bases of behavior
- Cognitive-affective bases of behavior
- Social bases of behavior
- Individual differences
A doctoral degree in forensic psychology often includes courses such as:
- Special topics in forensic science
- Forensic assessment in criminal cases
- Forensic assessment in civil court
- Forensic assessment in child custody and parental rights
- Forensic neuropsychology assessment
Step 3. Complete a Supervised Internship Experience
To qualify for licensure as a clinical psychologist in North Carolina, you must complete a year of supervised experience at the pre-doctoral level and an additional year at the post-doctoral level. The experience must include at least one calendar year (1,500 hours) of supervised experience.
The North Carolina Psychology Board recognizes internships accredited by the American Psychological Association. Just a few of the internship locations in North Carolina include:
- Appalachian State University/Counseling and Psychological Services Center, Boone
- NC Department of Public Safety/Division of Adult Corrections, Raleigh
- VA Medical Center Durham/Psychology Service, Durham
- UNC – Charlotte/Counseling Center, Charlotte
Step 4. Apply for a Clinical Psychologist License in North Carolina
To work as a forensic psychologist in North Carolina, you must take and pass an examination to practice clinical psychology. But before you can sit for the examination, the Board must determine your eligibility to do so. Therefore, you must first apply for a North Carolina license to practice clinical psychology. This requires the completion and submission of the following (all forms must be notarized):
- Application for Licensure Form
- The North Carolina Practice Act
- Supervision Contract Form
- Reference Form
- Supervisor Form
- Transmittal Form
- Health Services Provider Application Form
- Application fee of $100
The Board will acknowledge receipt of your application materials and notify of your eligibility to sit for the examination once they have reviewed the materials.
Step 5. Take and Pass the Necessary National and State Examinations for Licensure
To earn licensure as a clinical psychologist in North Carolina, you must take and pass the following:
- National Examination: The Board utilizes the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), a national examination administered on computers at Prometric Testing Centers throughout the U.S. The cost of the examination is $650. Prometric testing centers are located in the following North Carolina locations:
- State Examination: The Board-developed state examination assesses your knowledge of the North Carolina Practice Act and the APA Ethics Code. It is currently a multiple-choice examination with 50 questions. Once the Board has received your $200 state examination fee, you must contact PSI to schedule your examination at a PSI testing center of your choice. PSI testing centers in North Carolina are located in:
- Winston Salem
Step 6. Begin a Forensic Psychology Career in North Carolina
As a licensed clinical psychologist with forensic psychology expertise, you can begin working throughout North Carolina, providing your services in settings such as:
- State hospitals
- Private practices
- Mental health centers
- Government agencies
- Court systems
- Law enforcement agencies
Just a few of the forensic psychology practices throughout North Carolina where your expertise in the field can make a difference include:
- Triangle Forensic Psychologists, Cary
- Austin Forensic Psychological Services, Wrightsville Beach
- The Haymount Institute for Psychological Services, Fayetteville
- Carolina Partners in Mental Healthcare, Forensic Services
- Chapel Hill
- Wake Forest
Step 7. Renew your License to Practice Forensic Psychology
Forensic psychologists in North Carolina must keep their licenses current by renewing every two years (October of even-numbered years) and completing a minimum of 18 continuing education hours during each renewal period.
To meet continuing education requirements for license renewal, you must complete at least three continuing education hours in the area of ethical and legal issues in the professional and at least nine continuing education hours in the following:
- Organized courses, seminars, workshops, symposiums, and postdoctoral institutes
- Online or correspondence courses
You may find a wealth of valuable continuing education activities through the following North Carolina psychology associations:
- North Carolina Psychological Association
- Western North Carolina Psychological Association
- North Carolina Association of Professional Psychologists
Forensic Psychologist Salary Information for North Carolina
Forensic psychologists combine a rigorous knowledge of psychology with expertise in legal issues concerning both criminal and civil matters. These professionals work with civil cases, consulting with employers about the safety of their employees and serve as expert witnesses providing impartial expertise on family matters such as post-divorce custody. Many forensic psychologists also work within the legal system, helping law enforcement officers with criminal investigations, assessing mentally ill inmates and serving as expert witnesses.
In recent years, lawmakers have been trying to get a clear picture of the extent of mental health issues in North Carolina’s prisons and jails to better address the treatment needs of mentally ill inmates. However, this is a difficult task, since jails don’t uniformly track mental illness among their inmates according to Eddie Caldwell, the general counsel for the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association who was quoted in WUNC in 2014. A joint report by the National Sheriff’s Association and the Treatment Advocacy Center estimated the Mecklenburg County Jail and the Wake County Jail combined probably have at least as many mental mentally ill individuals as the state mental hospital.
The state Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice estimated that there were about 4,600 mentally ill inmates under its care in 2014. The Division is starting to consolidate mental health services in some locations instead of having them spread throughout the system’s 56 facilities, thus making it easier for forensic psychologists to provide the care these inmates need.
Salaries for Forensic Psychologists in North Carolina
A forensic psychologist for the state of North Carolina earned from $48,195 to $79,204 a year in 2015.
The North Carolina Labor & Economic Analysis Division (LEAD) provides the range of salaries that forensic psychologists earned in the state during 2015. Professionals with experience earned an average of $76,710, while the median salary for forensic psychologists in North Carolina was $55,100. Those just entering the workforce earned an average of $41,640 a year.
LEAD also provides the salaries for forensic psychologists in the major metropolitan areas of North Carolina in 2015:
Forensic Psychologist Salaries Throughout North Carolina
Shown below for comparative purposes are forensic psychologist salaries throughout North Carolina’s major metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2014 salary survey: