Forensic psychologists are experts at bridging the gap between psychology and the criminal justice system, working closely with federal and state law enforcement during criminal investigations, assessing criminal motivation and competency to stand trial, and serving as expert witnesses in the court system.
In a 2011 case in Tennessee that required the expertise of forensic psychologists (State of Tennessee v. Jacob Andrew Brown), Brown had been accused of premeditated, first-degree murder for killing two of his neighbors with a baseball bat. However, to try him for murder, forensic psychologist Dr. Wyatt Nichols first had to disprove mental illness and retardation, and prove that he was in fact competent to stand trial.
Upon extensive analysis, Nichols determined that Brown did, in fact, suffer from the early signs of paranoid schizophrenia; however, this did not inhibit his ability to form intent. Nichols then determined that he was competent to proceed with the trial. In proceeding, the court would decide whether Brown should be committed to a correctional facility or hospital for his crime; however, Nichols was able to prove that Brown’s mental illness was not severe enough to have him committed to a hospital.
In the end, Nichols’ analysis and expert testimony led the Tipton County Grand Jury to indict Jacob Andrew Brown on two counts of premeditated first degree murder, two counts of felony murder, and two counts of aggravated burglary. In March 2011, Nichols’ expertise and analysis allowed justice to be served.
As a forensic psychologist, you will have the opportunity to support the judicial process by objectively analyzing human motivation and behavior, often giving testimony in criminal and civil cases as to the mental health and culpability of defendants.
Steps to Becoming a Forensic Psychologist in Tennessee
If you’re ready to start your career as a forensic psychologist in Tennessee, you’ll need to become licensed as a clinical psychologist through the Tennessee Board of Examiners of Psychology.
For a quick guide on how to become a licensed forensic psychologist in Tennessee, follow these steps:
Step 1. Earn Your Baccalaureate Degree in Forensic Psychology
Your first step is to earn an undergraduate degree in forensic psychology, which will lay the foundation for your future research and practice concerning criminal motivation, crime prevention, and criminal rehabilitation.
Bachelor’s degree programs in forensic psychology available in Tennessee include, but are not limited to:
- Bachelor of Arts or Science in Psychology
- Bachelor of Arts or Science in Forensic Psychology
- Bachelor of Arts or Science in Psychology – Forensic Studies
- Bachelor of Arts or Science in Criminology – Forensic Psychology
- Bachelor of Arts or Science in Psychology / Bachelor of Arts in Pre-Law
Schools offering a forensic psychology degree will include courses such as these:
- General education
- Core psychology courses
- Forensic psychology courses
- Elective courses
- Practicum or internship
- Final research project
These courses will give you the foundation you need in varying areas of psychology, such as:
- Psychology Statistics
- Research Methodology
- Abnormal Psychology
- Individual Differences
- Introduction to Criminal Justice
- Introduction to Forensic Psychology
Once you’ve earned a baccalaureate degree in forensic psychology from an American Psychological Association (APA)-accredited online college or campus location in Tennessee, you’ll be ready to apply for your graduate degree program.
Step 2. Complete Your Master’s and Doctoral Degree in Forensic Psychology
To earn a Tennessee psychologist license, you will first need to earn a doctorate in psychology. You can do that in one of two ways:
- Enroll directly in a doctoral program
- Enroll first in a terminal master’s program, then move on to a doctoral program
Both master’s and doctoral programs have minimum admissions requirements, which often include:
- Have an undergraduate degree from an accredited school
- Have a high GPA
- Have high scores on the GRE
However, some doctoral programs are highly selective—only admitting 3-6 students per year. For programs like these, you will want to have a stellar application that reflects previous research and internship experience.
Enrolling in a Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology
There are many master’s degree programs available through colleges in Tennessee, some of which include:
- Master of Legal Studies – Forensic Psychology
- Master of Arts or Science in Forensic Psychology
- Master of Arts in Experimental Psychology – Forensics
- Master of Arts or Science in Criminology – Forensics
- Master of Arts or Science in Psychology – Forensics
- Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology / Juris Doctor in Law
- Master of Arts or Science in Counseling – Criminal Justice
Each of these degrees will consist of 30-60 credits, including your core courses, an internship, and a final thesis.
Core courses in programs such as these include, but are not limited to:
- Interviewing and Theories of Psychotherapy
- Issues in Forensic Psychology: Mental Health Basics
- Issues in Forensic Psychology: Law Enforcement & Correctional Psychology
- Group Interventions
- Research Methods
- Issues in Measurement
- Psychopathology and Diagnosis
- Trauma and Crisis Intervention
- The Psychology of Criminal Behavior
- Conflict Resolution
- Cognitive and Self Report Assessments
- Socio-Cultural Issues in Forensic Psychology
- Mental Health Law
- Criminal Evaluations
Your master’s program will also include a practicum that places you in a relevant setting applying the principals and theories of forensic psychology.
Finally, you will complete a master’s capstone project. Depending on the program, you can choose between writing a thesis or completing a practicum.
Completing Your Doctoral Degree in Forensic Psychology
When searching for a doctoral degree program in forensic psychology, you will generally find three main types of programs are available in Tennessee:
- PhD or PsyD in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Forensic Psychology
- PsyD or PhD in Forensic Psychology
- Dual PhD in Clinical Psychology & Juris Doctor in Law
While a PhD will generally focus on more research-based courses, a PsyD will focus on more practice-based courses and training.
The Tennessee Board prefers your doctoral degree to be accredited by the APA. Thus, the Board lists the APA-approved doctoral programs in the state, which are located in Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville.
Your doctoral program may include up to 100 credit hours of:
- Internship credits
- Dissertation credits
Courses will include, but are not limited to:
- Forensic Psychology: Police and Public Safety
- Special Topics in Forensic Psychology
- Forensic Neuropsychology Assessment
- Forensic Assessment in Civil Court
- Forensic Assessment in Child Custody
- Forensic Psychology Lab
The Board requires that your program include a pre-doctoral internship—meaning, an internship you complete before you complete your doctoral degree.
APA-approved internship programs in Tennessee include, but are not limited to:
- University of Tennessee Health Science Center – Memphis
- Vanderbilt University/VA Internship Consortium – Nashville
- University of Memphis – Memphis
- James H. Quillen VA Medical Center – Mountain home
- Tennessee Internship Consortium in Psychology – Loudon
Once you complete your dissertation and earn your doctoral degree, you will be ready to move on to the next step: post-doctoral supervised experience.
Step 3. Complete One Year of Post-Doctoral Supervised Experience
Once you’ve earned your doctorate degree, you’re ready to move on to earning your post-doctoral supervised experience hours.
The Tennessee Board requires you to earn 1900 hours of supervised experience. Because you are aspiring to work as a forensic psychologist, you will want to earn your hours in a forensic setting, such as:
- A correctional center
- A jail or prison
- A rehabilitation center
- With the Tennessee Department of Health
APA-approved post-doctoral programs in Tennessee include, but are not limited to:
- Clinical Psychology Fellowship at the Memphis VA Medical Center
- Clinical Neuropsychology Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Memphis VA Medical Center
- Clinical Health Psychology Fellowship at the Memphis VA Medical Center
Upon the completion of 1900 hours of experience, you will be ready to submit your application for examination and licensure.
Step 4. Submit a State of Tennessee Psychologist License Application
By submitting this application, you will be considered eligible to take the national written exam, the state jurisprudence exam, and—based on your passing exam results—approved for a Tennessee psychologist license.
To apply, simply submit all application documents, including:
- Signed and notarized Psychologist Application
- Official doctoral transcripts
- Two signed passport-sized photographs
- Declaration of citizenship form
- Postdoctoral supervised experience affidavit
- Postdoctoral supervised experience form (enclosed in application)
- Three letters of recommendation
- Criminal background check
You will also want to attach all applicable fees to your application, including:
- Application fee ($175)
- Licensure fee ($200)
- State regulatory fee ($10)
- Ethics and jurisprudence exam fee ($200)
All documents can be mailed to the Board at the following address:
Board of Examiners in Psychology
665 Mainstream Drive
Nashville, Tennessee 37243
Step 5. Pass National and State Licensing Examinations
Once the Board receives your application, you will be approved to take the Examination for the Professional Practice of Psychology (EPPP) national written exam and the Tennessee Jurisprudence Exam.
When you are approved by the Tennessee Board to take the EPPP, your name will be submitted to Professional Exam Services (PES), which is the testing vendor. When they receive your name, they will send you information regarding registration and scheduling of your exam.
This 225-question, multiple-choice examination covers basic psychology domains, such as:
- Psychological science
- Professional application
- Professional ethics
You must pass this exam with a score of 500 or higher to be eligible for a Tennessee psychologist license. Upon receiving passing scores, immediately forward your results to the Board.
Tennessee Jurisprudence Exam
Once the Board has been notified that you successfully passed the national written exam, the Board will send you the jurisprudence exam.
This exam will test your knowledge of Tennessee law related to:
- The practice of psychology
- The code of ethics
- The Board’s rules and laws
- Current professional standards
- National and state psychology guidelines
After completing this exam, return it to the Board.
Once the Board approves your passing of the exam, you will be issued a Tennessee psychology license.
Step 6. Begin Your Career as a Forensic Psychologist in Tennessee
Although many forensic psychologists establish private practices, offering forensic psychology services on a consultation basis, many pursue jobs with existing firms and specialize in one of the following roles:
- Forensic Clinician
- Expert Witness
- Forensic Evaluator
- Victim Trauma Therapist
Organizations and agencies throughout Tennessee that may be hiring forensic psychologists include, but are not limited to:
- Tennessee Department of Correction – Nashville
- Whiteville Correctional Facility – Whiteville
- South Central Correctional Facility – Clifton
- Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center – Knoxville
- Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts – Nashville
Step 7. Obtain 40 Hours of Continuing Education Every Two Years
To renew your license every two years, you’ll first earn 40 hours of continuing education.
Your continuing education credits may be Type I, Type II, or Type III, as described here:
- Type I – APA-approved providers of continuing education
- Type II – attending a regional, state, or national psychological association conference, taking an APA-approved graduate course in psychology, passing the ABPP exam
- Type III – clinical peer consultation groups, research presentations, or other less structured learning experiences
For these types of credits, you can earn the following number of hours:
- Type I Programs – at least 9 hours
- Type I or II Programs –at least 9 hours
- Type I, II, or III Programs – up to 22 hours
Once you’ve completed the continuing education, you can renew your license online.
Forensic Psychologist Salary Information for Tennessee
The federal government recognizes the great earning potential that forensic psychologists enjoy in Tennessee. In 2014, the United States Department of Labor reported that Clarksville was the seventh highest-paying metropolitan area for forensic psychologists in the country. At that time, forensic psychologists working here took home an average annual salary of $98,580 and an average hourly wage of $47.39.
Experience Brings Higher Salaries for Forensic Psychologists in Tennessee
The United States Department of Labor predicts jobs for forensic psychologists in Tennessee will increase by 11% between 2012 and 2022, which is 2% faster that the national job growth rate for this field.
This optimistic employment projection places forensic psychology among Tennessee’s fastest-growing occupations during this timeframe. As more forensic psychologist positions continue to open, the most experienced job candidates will garner the highest salary offers. As of 2014, the average annual salary for forensic psychologists in Tennessee was $74,020 and the average hourly wage was set at $35.59.
A forensic psychologist in Tennessee can earn approximately $30,000 more or less annually than this average salary depending upon their level of experience. For instance, forensic psychologists that landed entry-level positions in 2014 earned an average annual salary of $45,500 and an average hourly wage of $21.89. However, those with years of experience received an average annual salary of $64,100 and an average hourly wage of $30.83 by mid-career.
In that year, the most experienced forensic psychologists practicing statewide earned an average annual salary of $103,700.
Forensic Psychologist Salaries Vary by Region in Tennessee
Salaries can vary by as much as $40,000 annually based on location in Tennessee.
According to the United States Department of Labor, in 2014 forensic psychologists working the nonmetropolitan region of Eastern Tennessee earned an average annual salary of $58,170 and an average hourly wage of $27.97. Meanwhile, in that same year, forensic psychologists practicing in the Clarksville area were paid a significantly higher average annual salary of $98,580 and an average hourly wage of $47.39.
A more comprehensive breakdown of forensic psychologist salaries by region in Tennessee is shown in the following data table:
*The hourly wage is equal to or greater than $90 while the annual salary is equal to or greater than $187,199. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics does not report salary data greater than these values.