How to Become a Forensic Psychologist in Oklahoma

Forensic psychologists apply psychological analysis, theory and research to the judicial process, as they work to support criminal investigations, assess the mental state of accused criminals, and serve as expert witnesses.

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The value of forensic psychology to the criminal justice system in Oklahoma is evident when looking at the Oklahoma Forensic Center (OFC), the only inpatient forensic facility in the state. The OFC serves two populations:

  • Pretrial defendants deemed incompetent for adjudication
  • Individuals adjudicated as Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity

The OFC also provides initial outpatient evaluations of adjudicative competency for many Oklahoma counties. The OFC has completed a number of performance improvement projects throughout the years. Just a few of these projects have included:

  • 2004: Developed and implemented a research-based competency restoration treatment program, which is now used throughout the U.S.
  • 2007: Developed a comprehensive model of violence risk assessment
  • 2009: Developed a system to facilitate timely patient referral for treatment and competency evaluations


Steps to Become a Forensic Psychologist in Oklahoma

If you want to begin practicing in the exciting field of forensic psychology in Oklahoma, you’ll need to complete the rigorous education process required for state licensure.

The Oklahoma State Board of Examiners of Psychologists requires the successful completion of the following steps for licensure:

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
Complete Graduate Studies and Earn a Doctoral Degree in Forensic Psychology
Complete an Internship/Post-Doctoral Experience
Apply for Licensure as a Clinical Psychologist in Oklahoma
Take and Pass Required Examinations
Start your Career in Forensic Psychology in Oklahoma
Keep your Oklahoma Psychologist License Current


Step 1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

The first step to becoming a forensic psychologist involves the completion of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Students that complete an undergraduate degree in another major may need to complete specific coursework in psychology before moving onto a graduate program.

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Just a few of the bachelor degree programs in psychology offered by Oklahoma schools include:

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Psychology
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in Criminal Justice – Forensic Psychology
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in Psychology, Applied Behavior Analysis concentration

These programs prepare you for graduate-level studies in forensic psychology by requiring the completion of a psychology core, which often includes courses like these:

  • Introduction to psychology
  • Applications in psychology
  • Lifespan development
  • Cognitive processes
  • Statistics for behavioral sciences
  • Industrial psychology

You may be required to complete an internship in your undergraduate program, which will provide you with an opportunity to work in an applied community setting or clinical therapeutic setting with professional psychologists.


Step 2. Complete Graduate Studies and Earn a Doctoral Degree in Forensic Psychology

Once you have successfully completed an undergraduate program, you must consider your graduate options. To earn licensure as a forensic psychologist in Oklahoma, you must possess a doctorate in psychology, usually with a concentration or emphasis in forensic psychology.

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There are two ways to accomplish this educational goal:

  • Complete a terminal master’s degree program, followed by a doctoral program
  • Complete a doctoral program that encompasses all master’s-related coursework

Master’s Degrees in Forensic Psychology

If you choose to complete a terminal master’s degree, you have a few options. Some of the master’s degree programs in forensic psychology in Oklahoma include:

  • Master of Science (MS) in Applied Psychology
  • Master of Arts (MA) in Psychology
  • Master of Science (MS) in Forensic Psychology
  • Master of Arts (MA) in Clinical Psychology

Some of the basic requirements for admission into a master’s degree in forensic psychology include:

  • Competitive GRE scores
  • Minimum undergraduate GPA
  • Admission essay/statement of purpose
  • Completion of specific undergraduate psychology courses

A comprehensive master’s degree in forensic psychology prepares you to learn the research methods required to evaluate programs aimed at forensic populations. You will also learn how to conduct forensic assessments and about programs for incarcerated or recently released offenders.

Some of the core coursework in this type of graduate program includes:

  • Abnormal behavior
  • Community psychology
  • Assessment in forensic psychology settings

You may also have the opportunity to focus your master’s program in an area such as:

  • Mental health applications
  • Forensic psychology in the community
  • Psychology and the legal systems

A field experience is often indicative of a master’s degree in forensic psychology program. A field experience allows you to further immerse yourself in clinical work in forensic psychology, thus preparing you for work as a forensic psychologist and for graduate study in the same area.

Doctoral Degrees in Forensic Psychology

Many of today’s doctoral degrees in forensic psychology encompass the coursework and experiences of both a master’s degree and a doctoral degree. Therefore, students enter these programs upon completion of their undergraduate degree. However, just as many programs do not provide this option; instead requiring students to first complete a master’s degree in psychology or forensic psychology.

The Oklahoma State Board of Examiners of Psychologists requires you to complete a psychology doctoral program that has been accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). Currently, the APA accredits four such programs in Oklahoma.

Just a few of your program options for doctoral degrees in forensic psychology in Oklahoma include:

  • PhD in Clinical Psychology, Forensic Psychology concentration
  • D. in Forensic Psychology

Because forensic psychology explores the close relationship between law and psychology, you may also decide to pursue a joint doctoral program, such as the Pys.D./J.D. in Forensic Psychology. This type of degree not only prepares you to become a licensed forensic psychologist in Oklahoma, but also prepares you to sit for the bar upon graduation, if desired.

Admission into a doctoral program in Oklahoma is often very competitive, with only a fraction of applicants accepted. Just a few of the requirements for admission include:

  • Exemplary master’s/undergraduate GPA
  • Professional references
  • Minimum GPA scores
  • Well-rounded resume

Some of the coursework required in a doctoral program in forensic psychology includes:

  • Group processes of therapy
  • Family systems and family treatment
  • Diversity in forensic psychology

In addition to the completion of an empirical dissertation, a common requirement of a doctoral program, many schools offer students plenty of applied learning experiences during the course of their program.

A forensic psychology doctoral program may also provide you with opportunities to focus your forensic psychology degree. Just a few of the specializations offered by Oklahoma schools include:

  • Adult
  • Child and family
  • Law enforcement
  • Neuropsychology


Step 3. Complete an Internship/Post-Doctoral Experience

Once you have completed the required course of study for state licensure as a clinical psychologist, you must complete at least two years of an internship/post-doctoral experience in forensic psychology by someone working in forensic psychology.

The Board of Examiners of Psychologists requires that the internship portion of your experience be in clinical, counseling, and school psychology. One of the two years may be a pre-doctoral internship, provided it is in the areas of clinical, counseling, or school psychology.

APA-approved internships in Oklahoma include (but are not limited to):

  • University of Oklahoma, Health Sciences Center Internship Consortium, Oklahoma City
  • Oklahoma Health Consortium, Norman
  • Northeastern Oklahoma Psychology Internship Program, Vinita


Step 4. Apply for Licensure as a Clinical Psychologist in Oklahoma

Once you have completed your internship experience, you are eligible to apply for licensure as a clinical psychologist in Oklahoma. You complete and submit the following:

Once the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Board (ASPPB) has received all of your application items, you will receive a welcome email from them, which includes information on completing the online PLUS application. Once you have done so, ASPBB will forward your completed application to the Board.

You can expect to receive a letter of approval from the Board’s committee with instructions on how to take the EPPP.


Step 5. Take and Pass Required Examinations

You must take and pass the national psychologist examination, the Examination for the Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), with a scaled score of at least 500, once the Board has approved your application. You can learn more about taking the EPPP here.

You must also take and pass the Oklahoma State ethics examination, which consists of 120 multiple-choice questions, and an oral examination administered by the Board. You can learn more about these examinations here.


Step 6. Start your Career in Forensic Psychology in Oklahoma

Once you have attained your Oklahoma clinical psychologist license to practice forensic psychology, you may begin your clinical practice in a number of settings, such as:

  • Courts
  • Police departments
  • Private practice
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Mental health centers
  • Government agencies

Some of the Oklahoma settings in which you can begin exploring forensic psychology in Oklahoma include:


Step 7. Keep your Oklahoma Psychologist License Current

You must renew your Oklahoma psychologist license by December 31 each year. The renewal fee is $400 annually. To successfully renew your license, you must complete at least 20 hours of continuing education.

The following resources may prove beneficial when searching for continuing education opportunities in Oklahoma:


Forensic Psychologist Salary Information for Oklahoma

Forensic psychologists utilize their expertise in psychology and the law to help individuals and society and tend to receive high salaries for doing so. Their roles range from advising the family courts during custody cases, to evaluating the competency of mentally ill defendants in criminal trials. Profiling is another aspect of the job for many forensic psychologists. This is particularly germane to Oklahoma given their involvement in the Timothy McVeigh terrorism case.

A number of forensic psychologists are employed at the Oklahoma Forensic Center. Prosecutors were furious with the recommendation of the center’s Director of Forensic Psychology that Dr. Stephen Paul Work was fit to be released after being treated for the mental illness that led him to brutally murder his nine-year old son. While the Oklahoma Forensic Center has 200 beds, this is not enough to treat the large number of mentally ill inmates in the state. As the state hospitals have been downsized and closed, the county jails in Oklahoma have noted an increasing number of mentally ill inmates according to a joint 2014 report published by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriff’s Association.

A report released by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services published in 2014 estimated at least 200 inmates in the Tulsa Jail have mental illness at any given time, while that number is estimated to be 500 at the Oklahoma County Jail.

Given the need for forensic psychologists in Oklahoma, the state’s Employment Security Commission estimates that the number of these professionals will increase by 8.84% between 2012 and 2022. This should generate an average of 50 jobs in Oklahoma each year.

Salaries for Oklahoma’s Forensic Psychologists by Location

Forensic psychologists for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections were paid $72,000 in 2015.

The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission provides the salaries of forensic psychologists in the state for 2015. The median salary for a forensic psychologist that year was $47,490, while those in the 90th percentile of this occupation earned an average of $77,880.

This agency also provides the salaries for forensic psychologist in Oklahoma’s major metropolitan areas for 2015:

Oklahoma Area
90th Percentile
Oklahoma City
Fort Smith

Nearly two-thirds of Oklahoma’s 1,120 forensic psychologists are concentrated in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metropolitan areas. In 2015, there were 450 such professionals practicing in Oklahoma City, while 280 were employed in Tulsa.

Shown below for comparative purposes is salary data for forensic psychologists in the metropolitan and rural areas of Oklahoma as of 2014 (provided by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics):

Area name
Annual mean wage
Lawton OK
Oklahoma City OK
Tulsa OK
Northeastern Oklahoma nonmetropolitan area
Northwestern Oklahoma nonmetropolitan area
Southeastern Oklahoma nonmetropolitan area

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