Forensic psychologists work at the crossroads between psychology and the criminal justice system, working hand-in-hand with detectives, lawyers, and more to investigate criminal and civil court cases.
Given the growing demand for forensic psychology services, the University of Houston developed a Center for Forensic Psychology that brings together distinguished forensic psychologists throughout the state for two purposes:
- To advance knowledge in psycholegal issues through forensic research
- To develop state-of-the-art practices for psycholegal consultation
Descriptions of projects the Center is working on include:
- A Bayesian Approach to Determining Factors Influencing Emotional distress Damage Awards in Sexual Harassment Cases
- Using the J-SOAPP-II to Predict Institutional Sexual Misconduct among Juvenile Sexual Offenders
One of the Center’s leading faculty members, Dr. John P. Vincent, has served as a professor of clinical psychology, director of the Victim’s Resource Institute, and as a forensic psychologist practitioner for over 35 years since receiving his doctorate in clinical psychology.
Dr. Vincent has also been recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime for his dedication to research and practice concerning victims of trauma and violence.
Finally, he has also served as an expert witness in State and Federal Court cases, has been a consultant for major law firms, and has consulted governmental agencies regarding forensic psychology concerning labor, employment, family, and civil law.
Steps to Becoming a Forensic Psychologist in Texas
If you’re ready to embark on your career as a forensic psychologist in Texas—where you can work to uncover the truth concerning criminal motivation—you’ll first start by becoming a licensed psychologist with the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists.
Follow these steps for guidance on how to become a licensed forensic psychologist in Texas:
Step 1. Earn an Undergraduate Degree in Forensic Psychology
If you want to take courses on psychology, criminal justice, and the intersection of the two, a bachelor’s in forensic psychology may be the right degree for you.
Bachelor’s degrees in forensic psychology include, but are not limited to:
- Bachelor of Arts or Science (BA/BS) in Forensic Psychology
- Bachelor of Arts or Science (BA/BS) in Criminal Justice – Forensic Psychology
- Bachelor of Arts or Science (BA/BS) in Psychology – Forensics
- Bachelor of Arts or Science (BA/BS) in Forensic & Correctional Psychology
- Bachelor of Arts or Science (BA/BS) in Criminal Psychology
Colleges that offer bachelor’s degrees in forensic psychology have designed programs to consist of courses such as:
- Core competency requirements
- Major requirements
- Internship credits
- Final senior project
Forensic psychology degree programs will consist of major courses such as:
- Introduction to Criminal Justice
- Criminal Justice Research
- Administration of Justice
- Juvenile Justice
- Criminal Law
- Crisis Intervention
- Abnormal Psychology
- Psychology of Criminal Behavior
Once you complete all of your courses, you will be able to complete an internship, which will give you hands-on experience in the field. Your program’s final capstone project will allow you to demonstrate your capacity to conduct research in the field.
Step 2. Advance to a Master’s and Doctoral Degree
To apply for a license as a Texas psychologist, you will first need to hold a doctoral degree in clinical or forensic psychology.
With your bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology, you can pursue your doctorate in forensic psychology through one of two routes:
- Enroll in a terminal master’s degree in forensic psychology to prepare for enrollment in a doctoral degree program
- Enroll directly in a doctoral degree program in forensic psychology
Master’s Degrees in Forensic Psychology
If you choose to enroll in a terminal master’s degree program, you will find schools in Texas offering options that include:
- Master of Arts in Criminal Justice (MA)
- Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology (MA)
- Master of Arts in Psychology – Forensics (MA)
- Master of Legal Studies (MLS)
- Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology / Juris Doctor in Law (MA/JD)
- Master of Arts in Counseling – Criminal Justice
Different schools will have different admissions requirements; however, minimum requirements typically include:
- Hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university
- Submit official graduate record exam scores
- Submit official psychology subject test scores
- Hold a high undergraduate grade point average
If you are applying to a joint MA/JD program, you will also need to submit LSAT scores
Master’s degree programs will include anywhere between 30-50 credits of courses, including:
- Forensic Psychology Core Courses
- Internship/Practicum Courses
- Master’s Thesis
Core courses generally include titles such as:
- Law & Topics in Law and Psychology
- Mental Health Law
- Criminal Procedure
- Family Law
- Juvenile Law
Though your thesis, you will be able to develop outstanding research that will contribute to your application to doctoral programs.
Doctoral Degrees in Forensic Psychology
Your doctoral degree in forensic psychology must be accredited through the American Psychological Association (APA) to meet the requirements for Texas licensure.
As of 2015, there were 10 APA-accredited clinical psychology programs in Texas, in cities such as:
- College Station
Doctoral programs in forensic psychology include, but are not limited to:
- Juris Doctor in Law / PhD in Clinical Psychology (JD/PHD)
- Master of Legal Studies / PhD in Forensic Psychology (MLS/PhD)
- PhD or PsyD in Forensic Psychology
- PhD or PsyD in Clinical Psychology – Forensics
Because many doctoral programs accept students based on their bachelor’s degree and previous research, they often have similar admissions requirements as master’s programs and often include:
- Hold a bachelor’s degree in psychology
- Hold a high grade point average
- Achieve high scores on the GRE and psychology subject test
Doctoral programs can be highly selective, requiring applicants to have outstanding credentials, previous research experience, and previous internship experience.
Doctoral programs will consists of around 100 credit hours of coursework and internship experience that include:
- Forensic psychology courses
- Elective courses
- Practicum experience/pre-doctoral internship (at least 1000 hours)
- Dissertation credits
Forensic psychology courses will include titles such as:
- Personality Features in Social Deviancy
- Contextual Influences in Prisoner Research
- Factor Analysis for Behavioral Scientists
- Psychometric Theory and Methods
- Motivation and Cognitive Processes
- Theories of Social Psychology
- Physiological Psychology
- Clinical Interventions
Once you write your dissertation, you will be ready to defend your dissertation and receive your doctoral degree in forensic psychology.
Step 3. Apply for and Pass National and State Licensing Examinations
Once you’ve completed your doctoral program, you’ll be able to apply to take the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) and the Texas Jurisprudence Exam.
To apply for examination eligibility, complete these steps:
- Complete and submit the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists Exam Request Form
- Indicate that you are applying to become a Provisionally Licensed Psychologist
- Attach $200 EPPP exam fee and $200 jurisprudence exam fee
Once the Board receives your application, they will send you information, instructions, and materials on the exams within 7-10 business days.
When the Board approves your exam application, they will send you an email that invites you to activate your account with the exam vendor. Once you activate your account, you will be able to:
- Register for the exam directly with the exam vendor
- Schedule a date and time for the exam
- Pay the $600 examination fee
Once you complete the exam, you will receive results from the vendor, and you will also need to wait to receive your official results from the Board.
A score of 70% or higher is required to pass the EPPP national exam.
Texas Jurisprudence Exam
The Board will mail you this exam, which is an open-book, multiple-choice exam. Once you receive it, you will have two weeks to complete it and send it back to the Board.
This exam will cover the Act and Rules of the Texas Board. Because this is an open-book exam, you will need to achieve a score of 90% or higher to pass.
Step 4. Submit Application to Become a Provisionally Licensed Psychologist
Once you receive your passing exam scores, you can apply for a provisional license. To apply, complete the following steps:
- Submit General Application for Licensure, indicating “Provisionally Licensed Psychologist”
- Submit $340 application fee
- Submit documents to establish citizenship or legal presence
- Submit criminal background check
- Submit official doctoral transcripts
You will send these materials to the Board at the following address:
Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists
333 Guadalupe, Suite 2-450
Austin, Texas 78701
Once the Board approves your application, you will be issued a provisional psychologist license in Texas.
Step 5. Earn Two Years of Supervised Experience with your Provisional License
To earn your full, independent psychology license, you will complete two years of supervised experience with your provisional license.
These supervised experience hours, or your post-doctoral residency, should be completed in a forensic setting, such as:
- Correctional settings
- Federal threat assessment settings
- Forensic hospitals
- Policy settings
- Public sector mental health settings
- Local jails
- Juvenile justice settings
APA-accredited post-doctoral residency programs in Texas include, but are not limited to:
- South Texas Veterans Health Care System – San Antonio
- Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center – Lackland
- VA North Texas Health Care System – Dallas
- Children’s Medical Center – Dallas
Step 6. Pass the Texas Board Oral Examination
When the Board is notified of you passing both the national exam and the jurisprudence exam, the Board will send you a request to submit your $320 oral examination fee.
After you submit your fee, you will be able to take this examination during or after your two years of supervised experience.
This exam will cover:
- Knowledge of psychological principles and techniques
- Applicable laws and regulations
- Ethical principles
The oral examination schedule indicates that the Board gives the exam twice a year— in January and July.
Step 7. Submit Application to Become an Independent Licensed Psychologist
Finally, once you’ve completed your two years of supervised experience with a provisional license and passed your oral examination, you will be ready to apply for the independent psychology license.
To apply, submit the following documents:
- Application for Licensure, indicating “Licensed Psychologist”
- $180 application fee
- Proof of supervised experience
Submit this and any other supporting documents to the Board at the following address:
Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists
333 Guadalupe, Suite 2-450
Austin, Texas 78701
Once the Board approves your application, you will be issued a Texas psychologist license.
Step 8. Begin Your Career as a Forensic Psychologist in Texas
Once you’re a fully licensed forensic psychologist, you will be prepared to apply for forensic psychology jobs in Texas that include:
- Criminal psychologist
- Police detective
- Corrections officer
- Probation counselor
- Forensic clinician
Organizations and agencies throughout Texas that may hire forensic psychologists include, but are not limited to:
- Brazos County Detention Center
- Brazos County Probation and Parole Services
- Brazos County Supervision and Corrections Department
- Texas Department of State Health Services
- Department of Aging & Disability
- Legal Consensus
- Texas Federal Correctional Institution in Bastrop
- Houston Police Department
- Arlington Police Department
- Texas Association Against Sexual Assault
- Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Step 9. Complete Continuing Education to Renew your License Annually
Once you are working as a licensed forensic psychologist, you will need to renew your license each year.
With your renewal form, you’ll need to submit proof that you earned a minimum of 20 hours of professional development over the renewal cycle, with:
- 3 hours relating to ethics, Board Rules of Conduct, or professional responsibility
- 3 hours dedicated to cultural diversity
- At least 10 hours obtained from a Board-approved provider
Board-approved providers include continuing education providers accredited with the APA, such as:
- Advanced NP Systems LLC – Dallas
- American Academy of Clinical Psychology – San Antonio
- Society for Military Psychology – McAllen
- The Colin A. Ross Institute for Psychological Trauma – Richardson
Forensic Psychologist Salary Information for Texas
The United States Department of Labor expects the number of forensic psychologists working in Texas to increase by 17% between 2012 and 2022, which is 6% faster than the national growth rate expected for this occupation. As employment levels continue to rise, forensic psychologists can expect greater access to high-salaried jobs throughout the state.
In 2014, Texas held the third highest number of forensic psychologists in the country. In addition, the Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown district was among the top ten metropolitan areas in the nation in terms of having the highest number of forensic psychologists in the country. Forensic psychologists working for the criminal courts and in correctional centers in Texas received an average annual salary of $61,580 that year. Those offering expert witness testimony and psychological assessments on a contract basis as partners or principals of independent firms were known to earn well into the six-figures.
When the US Department of Labor compared forensic psychologist salaries across Texas in 2014, the highest earnings were found among the most experienced professionals in the field.
Those with moderate levels of experience earned an average annual salary of $57,500 and an average hourly wage of $27.64. Meanwhile, the most experienced forensic psychologists in Texas took home over $30,000 more annually, receiving an average annual salary of $88,500 and an average hourly wage of $42.55.
Forensic Psychologist Salaries Across Locations in Texas
In 2014, the United States Department of Labor reported the top five highest-paying locations for forensic psychologists in Texas to be:
- Tyler, TX: $73,770
- Forth Worth-Arlington, TX $71,540
- San Antonio, New Braunfels. TX: $69,460
- Longview, TX: $65,240
- Corpus Christi, TX: $65,130
The data table featured below provides a greater analysis of forensic psychologist salaries across several metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas of Texas in 2014: