How to Become a Forensic Psychologist in Washington

As experts of both psychology and law, forensic psychologists work within the judicial system to support criminal investigations, assess accused criminals to determine sanity and competency to stand trial, serve as expert witnesses and much more.

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Whether working on behalf of prosecution or defense teams, forensic psychologists are charged with the duty of objectively determining motivation and mental stability during criminal proceedings. Their findings have the power to influence court cases, ensuring that justice is served and that rehabilitative counseling is available when necessary.

Forensic psychologist, Dr. Christine Tellefsen, who rose to fame in Washington State for her analysis of Pacific County resident and convicted murderer, Brian Brush, has a uniquely illustrious educational background to support her forensic expertise. She received initial psychiatry training at MIT, completed a forensic psychiatry residency at the University of Maryland, and earned her M.D. from the University of Illinois.

If you’re ready to begin your career as a forensic psychologist in Washington, you’ll also start by gaining impressive educational credentials before going on to become licensed through the Washington State Department of Health Board of Psychologists.

Steps to Becoming a Forensic Psychologist in Washington

For step-by-step instruction on how to become a licensed forensic psychologist in Washington, review this guide:

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Psychology
Complete a Master’s and Doctoral Degree Doctoral in Forensic Psychology
Complete 3,300 Hours of Supervised Experience
Submit a Washington State Psychology License Application Packet
Pass the National Written Examination and the Washington Jurisprudence Examination
Begin your Career as a Forensic Psychologist in Washington
Complete 60 Hours of Continuing Education Every Three Years


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

Earning a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology means being prepared with an understanding of the basic theory and practice of mental health in the context of the criminal justice system. Your undergraduate program would involve an exploration of psychopathology of the mentally ill, the incarcerated population, newly released offenders, and/or juvenile offenders.

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Bachelor’s degrees in forensic psychology include, but are not limited to:

  • Bachelor of Arts or Science in Forensic Psychology
  • Bachelor of Arts or Science in Criminal Justice – Forensic Psychology
  • Bachelor of Arts or Science in Psychology – Forensic emphasis
  • Bachelor of Arts or Science in Forensics – Psychology emphasis

In these programs, you will complete 124-130 credit hours of courses, including:

  • General education
  • Core psychology
  • Forensic psychology
  • Electives
  • Internship
  • Capstone project

Core psychology courses would include:

  • Statistics
  • Research methods
  • Research design
  • Psychopathology
  • Theories of personality

Courses specific to forensic psychology include, but are not limited to:

  • Psychology and law
  • Drugs and society
  • Death and dying
  • Psychology of sex crimes
  • Criminology
  • Victimology
  • Crisis intervention

Once you complete your bachelor’s degree, you will be ready to move on to graduate school.


Step 2. Complete a Master’s and Doctoral Degree Doctoral in Forensic Psychology

Earning a clinical psychologist license in Washington State requires you to hold a PhD or PsyD.

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Many doctoral programs in clinical psychology allow you to enroll directly after completing an undergraduate program. However, many aspiring forensic psychologists choose to pursue a terminal master’s degree first in preparation for post-graduate studies before beginning a doctoral program in forensic psychology.

Although each university is different, advanced programs in forensic psychology – both master’s and doctoral – often have stated admissions requirements that include:

  • Bachelor’s degree at minimum from an accredited institution
  • 0 GPA or higher
  • High GRE scores

However, some of the more selective colleges offering doctoral programs may have additional admissions requirements, such as taking the Psychology GRE Subject Test, having a 3.2 GPA, or having conducted previous research.

Finally, both your master’s and your doctoral program should be APA-accredited.

Earning a Master’s Degree

Master’s degrees available to aspiring forensic psychologists in Washington State include, but are not limited to:

  • Master of Arts or Science in Forensic Psychology
  • Master of Arts/Juris Doctor in Forensic Psychology
  • Master of Arts or Science in Psychology – Forensic Psychology
  • Master of Arts or Science in Criminal Justice – Forensic Psychology

These programs include between 30-60 credit hours, including:

  • Forensic psychology courses
  • Internship/practicum
  • Master’s thesis

Courses in these programs include, but are not limited to:

  • Foundations of Graduate study in Psychology
  • Criminal Behavior
  • Introduction to Forensic Psychology
  • Research, Theory, Design, and Methods
  • Psychology of Personality
  • Quantitative Reasoning and Analysis
  • Lifespan Development

Once you complete your master’s-level courses, you will be able to gain hands-on experience and conduct first-hand research that will better prepare you for your doctoral program.

Earning a Doctorate

Doctorate programs in forensic psychology available through schools in Washington State include:

  • PhD or PsyD in Clinical Forensic Psychology
  • PhD or PsyD in Forensic Psychology
  • PhD or PsyD in Clinical Psychology – forensic specialization
  • PhD or PsyD in Clinical Psychology / Juris Doctor

The three APA-accredited clinical psychology doctoral programs in Washington are located in Pullman and Seattle.

According to the Washington Board of Psychology, your doctoral program should include, at minimum:

  • 40 semester hours of graduate courses in specified curriculum areas
  • A 300-hour practicum
  • A 1500-hour internship
  • At least one year in residency
  • A dissertation requirement

Next, your practicum should include:

  • At least 300 hours of direct experience
  • At least 100 hours of supervision

Supervised experience within your practicum must involve activities that include:

  • Discussion of services provided by student
  • Selection of service plan
  • Discussion of and instruction of theoretical concepts underlying the work
  • Discussion of relevant state laws and rules
  • Discussion of ethical principals

Finally, because you are aspiring to write your dissertation on forensic psychology, it is advised that you complete your internship and residency in a forensic setting, such as a correctional institute or juvenile probation center.

APA accredited internships and residency programs in Washington include, but are not limited to the following:

  • VA Puget Sound Health Care System – Seattle
  • University of Washington School of Medicine – Seattle
  • Western State Hospital – Tacoma
  • Washington State University – Pullman
  • Columbia Valley Community health – Wenatchee
  • Madigan Army Medical Center – Tacoma


Step 3. Complete 3300 Hours of Supervised Experience

You will only need to complete post-doctoral supervised experience hours if you have not already completed 3000 hours of supervised experience by the end of your doctoral program.

Most students complete their hours of supervision through a combination of:

  • Practicum – at least 300 hours
  • Pre-internship – up to 1500 hours
  • Doctoral internship – at least 1500 hours
  • Doctoral residency – at least 750 hours (or one year)

However, if you have not earned at least 3000 hours of supervised experience by the end of your doctoral degree program, then you can earn up to 1500 hours of supervised post-doctoral experience to satisfy the requirements.


Step 4. Submit a Washington State Psychology License Application Packet

Next, you will submit your application for examination and licensure. This application serves as your application:

  • For approval to take the National Written Examination (EPPP)
  • For approval to take the Washington Jurisprudence Exam
  • For approval for a Washington Psychology License

To complete the application packet, you will submit:

You can send all initial application documents to the Washington Board at:

Department of Health
P.O. Box 1099
Olympia, WA 98507

For any additional documents not sent with the original application, mail them to:

Board of Psychology Credentialing
P.O. Box 47877
Olympia, WA 98504


Step 5. Pass the National Written Examination and the Washington Jurisprudence Examination

To receive your license, you will need to pass two exams: the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) and the Washington Jurisprudence Examination.

Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)

Once the Board approves your application, you will receive an application directly from the examination vendor – Professional Exam Services (PES).

Once you receive the application, you will fill it out and return it to PES along with the examination fee. PES will then send you information on scheduling the date, time, and place of your examination.

For further questions, consult the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards, which is responsible for the EPPP. The Association provides information regarding the exam, including:

Once you’ve passed the EPPP with a score of 500 or higher, make sure to send your scores directly to the Board.

Washington Jurisprudence Examination

The last step before becoming a Washington State licensed psychologist is passing the Washington Jurisprudence Examination. This is an open-book, multiple-choice exam that the Board administers each month.

Once the Board has received verification that you have passed the EPPP and completed 3300 hours of supervised experience, the Board will send you the examination electronically.

You will have 3 hours to complete the 25-question exam, but if you move on from an answer, you will not be able to go back and change it, so take your time finding the correct answers.

Topics on this exam will include Washington’s psychology laws, such as:

  • Psychology Law
  • Uniform Disciplinary Act
  • Health Care Information Act
  • Abuse of Children
  • Mental Illness Act
  • Abuse of Vulnerable Adults
  • Psychologists Rules
  • Whistleblower Complaints
  • Administrative Procedures and Requirements

You must score a 90% or higher on this open-book exam to pass.

If you fail the exam, simply contact the Board to have another exam re-sent. If you pas the exam, you will be issued a Washington psychology license.


Step 6. Begin your Career as a Forensic Psychologist in Washington

As a forensic psychologist, you can choose to establish your own private practice and work as a forensic psychology consultant, or you can look to enter jobs in law enforcement, government, education, or nonprofits, such as:

  • Expert witness
  • Inpatient/outpatient therapist
  • Juvenile delinquent therapist
  • Juvenile probation officer
  • Rape victim therapist
  • Forensic clinician

Washington organizations and agencies that may look to hire forensic psychologists include, but are not limited to:

  • Washington Corrections Center – Shelton
  • Washington State Penitentiary – Walla Walla
  • Monroe Correctional Complex – Monroe
  • Washington State Supreme Court – Olympia
  • Court of Appeals – Seattle, Tacoma, and Spokane
  • Support and Advocacy Resource Center – Benton County
  • Sexual Assault Program – Clark County
  • Beyond Survival – Aberdeen
  • Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress – Seattle


Step 7. Complete 60 Hours of Continuing Education Every Three Years

You will need to renew your license every year on or before your birthday in order to continue working as a licensed forensic psychologist in Washington State.

Along with this, you will need to verify that you’ve completed at least 60 hours of continuing education every three years, consisting of:

  • Ethics – 4 hours each renewal period
  • Suicide Assessment, Treatment, and Management – 6 hours every other renewal period

APA-approved continuing education providers in Washington include, but are not limited to:

  • At Health, Inc. – Snoqualmie
  • Behavioral Medicine Research and Training Foundation – Port Angeles
  • Washington State Psychological Association – Seattle


Forensic Psychologist Salary Information for Washington

Forensic psychologists earn high salaries for their combination of psychological and judicial expertise. Criminal profiling is one area that many of these professionals pursue, and legendary criminal profiler John E Douglas consulted with police in Washington to assist in identifying and apprehending the Green River Killer. Other forensic psychologists specialize in serving the court as expert witnesses in child custody cases or determining the competency of individuals to stand trial.

The Center for Forensic Services at Western State Hospital just outside of Tacoma has 500 patients that include defendants being evaluated for their mental state at the time of their offense and/or inpatient evaluation for competency to stand trial. Additionally, a number of forensic psychologists work with mentally ill inmates. Unfortunately, this is an issue in Washington as many of the people who were discharged from the state’s mental hospitals have subsequently ended up in jails.

More than 30% of the inmates of the Yakima County Jail are getting psychiatric treatment according to a joint 2014 report by the National Sheriff’s Association and the Treatment Advocacy Program. The jail in Pierce County has seen a recent increase in mentally ill inmates and has renovated part of the jail to accommodate them.

Salaries for Washington’s Forensic Psychologists

In 2015, the salary for forensic psychologists who worked for the Washington State Department of Corrections ranged from $73,744 to $99,024. The official job title for these professionals is psychologist – forensic evaluator.

The median salary for forensic psychologists in Washington was $66,685 in 2014 according to the state’s Employment Security Department. Professionals in the 75th percentile of this occupation earned an average of $77,542, while those in the 25th percentile earned an average of $56,784.

More than half of the forensic psychologists located in Washington in 2014 were in the state’s major cities:

  • Seattle-Bellevue-Everett: 8%
  • Tacoma: 7%
  • Spokane: 0%


Job Growth for Forensic Psychologists in Washington

The Washington Employment Security Department reported that the number of forensic psychologist jobs in the state is expected to increase by 1.7% annually between 2012 and 2022. This rate of increase is projected to be higher than at the national level. This agency expects that 131 forensic psychology positions will become available on average each year.

The rate of job growth for forensic psychologists is expected to be even higher in a number of counties in Washington:

  • Whatcom County: 3%
  • Skagit County: 3%
  • Island and San Juan Counties: 3%
  • Cowlitz and Wahklakum Counties: 2%
  • Clark County: 2%
  • Snohomish County: 0%
  • Chelan and Douglas Counties: 9%
  • Grant and Adams Counties: 9%
  • Okanogan County: 9%
  • King County: 8%
  • Spokane County: 8%


Forensic Psychologist Salaries Throughout Washington

Shown below is a full analysis of forensic psychology salaries throughout Washington’s major metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas as of 2014 (US Bureau of Labor Statistics):

Area name
Annual mean wage
Bellingham WA
Bremerton-Silverdale WA
Kennewick-Pasco-Richland WA
Olympia WA
Seattle-Bellevue-Everett WA Metropolitan Division
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue WA
Spokane WA
Tacoma WA Metropolitan Division
Yakima WA
Southwestern Washington nonmetropolitan area
Eastern Washington nonmetropolitan area

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