How to Become a Forensic Psychologist in South Dakota

Forensic psychologists are charged with the duty of objectively determining criminal intent, motives, and often have some influence in determining the appropriate punishment—whether their findings are for or against the prosecution.

Forensic psychologist Mark Freado testified in the Trevor Kruthoff case in South Dakota—a case where 17-year-old Kruthoff was accused of murdering 20-year-old Jordan LeBeau in a robbery connected to drug dealing.

Freado testified that Kruthoff was not a hardened criminal; instead, he was a young kid trying to fit in with his friends. When LeBeau’s father attacked Kruthoff, an older drug dealer commanded Kruthoff to shoot, and he did. Freado assessed and determined that Kruthoff had not premeditated this shooting, and should be tried as a juvenile.

Freado’s expert testimony was vital to Kruthoff’s case; if Kruthoff were to be tried as a juvenile, he would stay in the correctional system until age 21. However, if he were to be tried as an adult, he could serve life in prison. Freado argued that society would be best served by giving Kruthoff the type of rehabilitative treatment offered in juvenile detention centers, rather than life in prison.

Despite Freado’s testimony and the US Supreme Court’s 2005 ruling in Miller v. Alabama—which indicated that juveniles cannot be tried in adult court—the South Dakota Court’s circuit judge, Bradley G. Zell, decided that Kruthoff would be tried as an adult.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology and political science from Westminster College, a master’s degree in counseling from West Virginia University, and another master’s degree in forensic psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Freado went on to become the President of Reclaiming Youth International in Lennox, South Dakota. This nonprofit provides training, consultation, mental health services, social services, and juvenile justice services.

If you’re ready to start your own career as a forensic psychologist, you’ll first need to qualify for a psychologist license through the South Dakota Board of Psychologist Examiners.

Steps to Becoming a Forensic Psychologist in South Dakota

For step-by-step guidance on how to become a licensed forensic psychologist in South Dakota, follow these simple steps:

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Psychology
Earn a Master’s and Doctorate Degree in Forensic Psychology
Complete One Year of Postdoctoral Supervised Experience
Submit the South Dakota Psychologist License by Examination Application
Pass the National EPPP Exam and the South Dakota Oral Exam
Start Your Career as a Forensic Psychologist in South Dakota
Complete Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to Renew Your License Annually


 

Step 1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Psychology

Earning a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology is your first step toward becoming a licensed forensic psychologist. Undergraduate degree programs in forensic psychology available online and through schools in South Dakota include, but are not limited to:

  • Bachelor of Arts or Science (BA/BS) in Forensic Psychology
  • Bachelor of Arts or Science in Psychology: Forensic Psychology
  • Bachelor of Arts or Science in Criminal Psychology
  • Bachelor of Arts or Science in Criminal Justice: Forensic Psychology
  • Bachelor of Arts or Science in Forensic & Correctional Psychology

Your undergraduate degree program will include around 120 credits of courses distributed as follows:

  • General Electives – 60 credits
  • Forensic Psychology – 40 credits
  • Electives – 20 credits

Your forensic psychology courses will include, but are not limited to:

  • Statistics
  • Research Methods
  • Psychopathology
  • Introduction to Forensic Psychology
  • Criminology and Victimology
  • Juvenile Justice
  • Criminal Law
  • Criminal Investigations
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Behavior Management
  • Psychology of Criminal Behavior

Depending on your college, you may be able to complete a forensic psychology undergraduate internship during your program, as well.

Once you complete your bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology, you’re ready to apply to graduate school.


 

Step 2. Earn a Master’s and Doctorate Degree in Forensic Psychology

You may enroll in a doctoral program that includes master’s level coursework and awards a master’s degree along with a doctorate, or you can opt for the more traditional route of earning a terminal master’s degree first before going on to a separate doctoral program.

Graduate school in forensic psychology will give you the tools you need to conduct original research, evaluate and assess criminal intent, serve as an expert witness in court, and more.

Although each school is different, most master’s and doctoral programs have minimum admission criteria that include:

  • Hold a bachelor’s degree in psychology
  • Have high scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
  • Submit a Resume
  • Submit a Statement of Purpose
  • Submit Official Transcripts (that indicate GPA of 3.0 or higher)
  • Have 2-3 Letters of Recommendation

Some doctoral degree programs can be highly competitive, and they may require you to have a GPA of 3.5 or higher, or be able to prove that you have previous research or clinical forensic psychology experience.

Earning a Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology

Master’s degree programs in forensic psychology available online and through schools in South Dakota include:

  • Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology (MA)
  • Master of Arts in Psychology: Forensics (MA)
  • Master of Arts in Criminal Justice: Forensic Psychology (MA)
  • Master of Science in Psychology: Terrorism and Security (MS)
  • Master of Legal Studies: Psychology (MLS)
  • Master of Arts/Juris Doctor in Forensic Psychology (MA/JD)

Master’s degrees in forensic psychology are generally two-year programs that consist of 40-60 credits of coursework and clinical internships.

Depending on your school, you may be able to specialize in a particular area of forensic psychology:

  • Forensics and the Law
  • Leadership and Management
  • Victims and Justice

Your forensic psychology courses will include, but are not limited to:

  • Physiological Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Adult Psychopathology
  • Ethics and Professional Issues
  • Mental Health Law
  • Diversity in Forensic Psychology
  • Substance Abuse Treatment and Evaluation
  • Forensic Interviews and Interrogations
  • Psychopathology of Criminal Behavior
  • Courtroom Psychology
  • Forensic Legal Death Investigation

After you complete your courses, you will move on to completing your internships, which should be conducted in a forensic setting, such as a juvenile detention center, a rehabilitation center, or a victim therapy center.

Earning a Doctoral Degree in Forensic Psychology

Your doctoral program should be accredited by one of the following organizations:

  • American Psychological Association (APA)
  • Regional Accreditation Agency
  • Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

South Dakota’s main campus location for an APA-accredited doctoral program in psychology is located in Vermillion.

Doctoral programs in forensic psychology include, but are not limited to:

  • PhD or PsyD in Forensic Psychology
  • PhD or PsyD in Clinical Psychology: Forensic Psychology
  • PhD/JD in Clinical Psychology

Although each school is different, most doctoral programs are 4-7 year programs that include around 100 credit hours of coursework, internship credits, and a dissertation.

Forensic psychology courses at the doctoral level include, but are not limited to:

  • Theories of Criminology
  • Couples therapy
  • Sex Offender Assessment
  • Assessment of Juvenile Offenders
  • Police and Correctional Psychology
  • Family Systems in Court
  • Clinical Forensic Neuroscience

Once you complete your coursework, you will finish the doctoral program by completing your internship and dissertation. APA-accredited internship providers in South Dakota include, but are not limited to:

  • VA Black Hills Health Care System – Fort Meade
  • Sioux Falls VA Health Care System – Sioux Falls

Once you complete your dissertation and receive your doctoral degree, you’ll be ready to start your year of postdoctoral supervised psychological experience.


 

Step 3. Complete One Year of Postdoctoral Supervised Psychological Experience

During your year of postdoctoral supervised psychological experience, you will want to be gaining experience in forensic setting, such as a correctional facility, rehabilitation center, police department, or juvenile delinquent center.

During this year, you will practice providing services such as:

  • Group and individual therapy
  • Intake screenings
  • Assessments and evaluation
  • Crisis management and intervention
  • Consultation with Department of Corrections Staff
  • Treatment plan development
  • Counseling for youth offenders
  • Counseling for adults offenders
  • Staff training and education
  • Discharge planning

Although you are allowed to practice psychology during this time, you must self-identify by titles that clearly show your training status, such as, “psychological associate,” or “psychological assistant.”

Once you complete a year of postdoctoral supervised training experience, you’ll be ready to apply for your South Dakota psychologist license and take the licensing examinations.


 

Step 4. Submit the South Dakota Psychologist License by Examination Application

Once you complete your postdoctoral supervised experience, you will be ready to submit your application for a South Dakota license by examination.

Once the Board approves this application, you will be allowed to sit for the licensing exams, and once you pass the exams, receive your license.

To complete the full application, you will need to submit each of the following documents to the Board:

You can mail all application materials to the Board at their address, which is listed as follows:

Psychologist Examiners
Carol Tellinghuisen, Executive Secretary
810 N. Main St. Suite 298
Spearfish, SD 57783


 

Step 5. Pass the National EPPP Exam and the South Dakota Oral Exam

When the Board approves your application, you will be approved to sit for both licensing exams: the national Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology and the state oral examination.

Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)

The Board must approve you to sit for this exam, which is given by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB). Once you are approved by the Board, you can complete these steps:

  • Register for the EPPP
  • Pay $600 exam fee

The South Dakota Board states that the EPPP is given two times each year—in April and October—in Spearfish, South Dakota.

To pass this exam, you will need to earn a score of 70 percent or higher. This 225-question exam will test your knowledge on psychological domains, such as:

  • Biological Bases of Behavior
  • Treatment, Intervention, Prevention, and Supervision
  • Growth and Lifespan Development
  • Research Methods and Statistics
  • Cognitive-Affective Bases of Behavior
  • Ethical, Legal, and Professional Issues
  • Assessment and Diagnosis
  • Social and Cultural Bases of Behavior

Once you finish the exam, you will request a score transfer report to be sent directly to the South Dakota Board.

South Dakota Oral Examination

The state’s oral examination contains questions on ethical issues concerning the South Dakota state laws and rules. To study for this exam, you can download and read through the following documents:

Or, for $10.00, you can purchase the ethical code adopted by South Dakota, which is the American Association of State Psychology Boards (AASPB) Code of Conduct.

You can order the ethical code from the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards, at the following address:

Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards
P.O. Box 4389
Montgomery, AL 36103

Once you pass this oral exam, you will be ready to receive your South Dakota psychologist license. To receive this license, you will need to pay your initial license fee. The initial license fee changes based on the month in which you are licensed, such as:

  • July, August, September – $200.00 license fee
  • October, November, December – $150.00 license fee
  • January, February, March – $100.00 license fee
  • April, May, June – $50.00 license fee


 

Step 6. Start Your Career as a Forensic Psychologist in South Dakota

Once you’re licensed as a psychologist, you can begin marketing your services as an independent forensic psychologist, or apply for related jobs, which may include:

  • Forensic Clinician
  • Psychometrist
  • Caseworker
  • Licensed Clinician
  • Probation and Parole Officer
  • Forensic Mental Health Counselor
  • Criminal Psychologist

Forensic psychology jobs are generally found in South Dakota’s correctional facilities, juvenile correctional programs, and police departments. Some of South Dakota’s top correctional facilities for juveniles and adults include, but are not limited to, these organizations:

  • South Dakota Department of Corrections – Pierre
  • South Dakota State Penitentiary – Sioux Falls
  • Jameson Annex to the Penitentiary – Sioux Falls
  • Mike Durfee State Prison – Springfield
  • South Dakota Women’s Prison – Pierre
  • Yankton Community Work Center  – Yankton
  • Rapid City Community Work Center  – Rapid City
  • Aberdeen Parole Services – Aberdeen
  • Rapid City Parole Services – Rapid City
  • STAR Academy – Custer
  • Patrick Henry Brady Academy – Custer
  • QUEST Program – Custer
  • West Farm – Sioux Falls
  • Pierre Parole Services – Pierre

As a forensic psychologist, you can also choose to develop your own independent practice and offer your services on a contract hire basis.


 

Step 7. Complete Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to Renew Your License Annually

Although the State of South Dakota does not have any specific CEU requirement, you are required to prove that you have earned some continuing education.

You can earn continuing education credits through attending workshops, courses, seminars, or conferences hosted by various organizations, including, but not limited to, organizations such as:

  • American Psychological Association
  • South Dakota Psychological Association
  • Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards

Once you’ve completed continuing education, you can renew your license by completing the following steps:

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