Forensic psychologists work to achieve a psychological understanding of motive and human behavior in the context of crime, providing psychological assessments and expert witness testimony to support the judicial process. A forensic psychologist’s expert opinion in civil or criminal court is often a strong factor in determining motive and intent.
West Virginia forensic psychologist, Dr. David Clayman of Clayman & Associates, was featured on the Investigation Discovery series “Evil Kin,” in the fall of 2013. His appearance included an analysis of family criminal cases, including the Charleston Mallo family case.
Clayman has testified in 200-300 cases throughout his career, including the Berkeley Springs murder that occurred in August of 2014. In this case, Wesley Aaron McCoy was accused of murdering Justin Buell; however, neuro-psychologist Dr. Salmaan Khawaja testified that McCoy was too intoxicated to have formed a premeditated plan.
In response to this, Clayman testified, saying that the capability of intent is proven from behavior that is purposeful, sequential, and goal-oriented—three things McCoy demonstrated. As of July 2015, the jury was still deliberating this case to determine whether or not they will find McCoy guilty of murder or unintentional manslaughter.
As a forensic psychologist, you will get to bring psychological expertise to the courtroom to help shed light on criminal motivation and behavior in cases just like this.
Steps to Become a Forensic Psychologist in West Virginia
If you’re ready to begin your career as a forensic psychologist, you’ll start by earning a license with the West Virginia Board of Examiners of Psychologists.
For a quick guide on how to become a licensed forensic psychologist in West Virginia, follow these steps:
Step 1. Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Psychology
Through earning a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology, you will learn the basics of how psychology applies to the legal system and gain a foundational understanding of forensic psychological theory:
- Probable cause
- Rules of evidence
- Criminal and civil issues
- Search and seizure
- Proper investigation techniques
- Courtroom procedures
Bachelor’s degrees in forensic psychology available through schools in West Virginia include degree titles, such as these:
- Bachelor of Arts or Science in Forensic Psychology
- Bachelor of Arts or Science in Applied Psychology – Forensic Psychology
- Bachelor of Arts or Science in Psychology – Forensic Psychology
- Bachelor of Arts or Science in Criminology – Forensic Psychology
- Bachelor of Arts or Science in Pre-Law & Psychology
Schools offering the forensic psychology major often construct degree programs to consist of the following:
- Core and Major Education – 73 credits
- Concentration Courses – 15 credits
- Electives – 6 credits
- Free Electives – 15 credits
Courses specific to a forensic psychology major will include, but are not limited to:
- Introduction to psychology
- Research methods in applied psychology
- Learning and motivation
- Social psychology
- Abnormal psychology
- Integrated theories of crime
- Courtroom psychology
- Principles of individual and community advocacy
- Law and psychology
Once you earn your bachelor’s degree, you’ll be prepared to apply for a graduate program.
Step 2. Advance to a Graduate Degree and Doctorate in Forensic Psychology
Graduate school will prepare you to be an expert concerning criminal risk and the potential for violence, competency to stand trial, mental status at the time crimes were committed, child custody issues, criminal psychology, and more.
West Virginia allows you to apply for a psychology license as either a master’s-level applicant or a doctoral-level applicant.
Both master’s and doctoral programs have similar admissions criteria, which often include:
- Obtain a bachelor’s degree
- Earn a high grade point average
- Earn high GRE scores
However, some doctoral programs that are more rigorous may have heightened standards, such as earning previous internship and research experience or taking the Psychology subject test.
Finally, to qualify for licensure in West Virginia, your graduate program should be accredited by one of the following accreditation agencies:
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges
- Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges
Earning a Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology
There are many master’s degrees to choose from in the field of forensic psychology available through schools in West Virginia:
- 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 Forensic Psychology & Counseling
- Master of Arts or Science in Forensic Mental Health
- Master of Arts or Science in Experimental Psychology
To qualify for licensure in West Virginia, your master’s program should include at least 50 credits of coursework.
Courses in forensic psychology master’s programs include, but are not limited to:
- Research design
- Quantitative methods
- Forensic psychology
- Psychology and the law
- Clinical assessments
- Ethics in professional psychology
- Assessment in criminal and civil law
- Developmental psychopathology
- Forensic report writing
- Methods of psychotherapy
- Advanced personality psychology
Along with this, you will complete a practicum and thesis; both of these projects will immerse you in the practice and theory of forensic psychology and allow you to develop unique, original perspectives on your topic of specialization.
Earning a Doctorate Degree in Forensic Psychology
For doctorate degrees, you can apply to colleges in West Virginia offering programs such as these:
- PhD or PsyD in Clinical Psychology – Forensic Psychology
- PsyD or PhD in Forensic Psychology
- Clinical PsyD in Forensic Psychology
- Dual PhD in Clinical Psychology & Law
Doctoral programs in West Virginia that are approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) include, but are not limited to those in the cities of:
Doctoral programs generally consist of:
- Core courses
- Specialization courses
- Internships and practicum
- Dissertation credits
Core courses for forensic psychology doctoral students will include, but are not limited to:
- Trauma and Family Violence
- Forensic Assessment
- Psychology and Criminal Law
- Psychology and Juvenile Justice
Once you complete your coursework, you should strive to complete your doctoral internship in a forensic setting.
APA-approved internship providers in West Virginia include, but are not limited to:
- West Virginia University Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center – Morgantown
- West Virginia University Health Sciences Center – Charleston
- West Virginia University Center for Psychiatric Services – Morgantown
- Huntington VAMC – Huntington
Finally, you will write and defend your dissertation. Upon the completion of your dissertation, you will be awarded your doctoral degree.
Step 3. Contact the West Virginia Board to Receive and Submit an Application
Once you’ve completed your graduate school, you will be able to contact the Board for an application. Along with your application, you will submit the Supervision Contract.
You can contact the Board through mail, phone, fax, email, or in-person through their contact information:
PO Box 3955
Charleston, WV 25339
1205 Quarrier Street, Room 200
Charleston, WV 25301
Once the Board approves of your application and supervisor contract, you will receive a “Gold Card” that will denote your status as an Approved Supervised-Psychologist.
This Gold Card does have an expiration date, and it will need to be renewed yearly until you receive your full license.
Step 4. Complete One to Five Years of Supervised Experience
Once you’re an Approved Supervised-Psychologist, you’ll be able to complete your supervised experience. To complete this, you’ll choose from the Board’s list of approved supervisors, which include, but are not limited to, those at:
- Panhandle Psychological Center – Berkeley County
- Alderman & Associates – Cabell County
- PSI-Med – Fayette County
- Bill Hagerty – Grant County
- Levin & Associates – Harrison County
- Holistic Psychology Assoc. – Jefferson County
- Fairmont State University – Marion County
Master’s-level applicants will complete five years of supervised practice. Doctoral-level applicants—if they completed a pre- or post-doctoral internship approved by the APA— will only be required to one year of supervised practice.
During your supervision, you will submit quarterly reports to the Board, which will be used to determine your license eligibility.
Step 5. Pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)
Upon your application approval, the Board will send you information regarding your eligibility to take the (EPPP).
Both for doctoral and masters-level applicants will need to take the (EPPP) at least once during their first year of your supervised experience.
To begin your registration and test-taking process, you can:
Once you’re registered, you’ll take the 225-question, multiple-choice examination, which consists of questions concerning, but not limited to:
- Treatment and analysis
- Cognitive bases of behavior
- Biological basis of behavior
You will need a score of 500 or higher to pass this exam and be eligible for a West Virginia license.
Step 6. Pass the West Virginia Oral Exam
After passing the EPPP and completing the 5 years of full time supervised work for masters-level applicants, or 1-2 years of supervised work for doctoral-level applicants, you will be eligible to sit for their oral examination.
To take the oral exam, first fill out the Oral Examination Form and send it to the Board at their address:
State of West Virginia
Board of Examiners of Psychologists
P.O. Bos 3955, Charleston, WV, 25339-3955
Oral exam guidelines indicate that you will submit a sample of your supervised experience work, such as therapy notes or case summaries, and the board will ask you questions concerning:
- Identifying problems/diagnosis
- Assessment and evaluation
- Treatment planning, implementation, and outcome assessment
- Crisis evaluation, treatment, and management
- Professional ethics and standards
- Legal and regulatory mandates
- Professional limitations
Once you pass this exam, you will be issued your West Virginia psychology license.
Step 7. Begin Your Career as a Forensic Psychologist in West Virginia
As a licensed forensic psychologist, you can apply for jobs such as:
- Mental Health & Forensic Services Program Director
- Case Manager
- Service Coordinator
- Forensic Clinician
- Forensic Consultant
- Expert Witness
You’ll most likely work in a forensic setting, such as a corrections facility, victim rehabilitation center, juvenile parole center, or court. West Virginia’s organizations and agencies that may hire forensic psychologists include, but are not limited to:
- Beckley Correctional Center – Beckley
- West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority – Charleston
- Corrections Department – Charleston
- Denmar Correctional Center – Hillsboro
- State of West Virginia Division of Justice and Community Services
- West Virginia University Department of Forensic & Investigative Services
- Intensive Trauma Therapy – Morgantown
- West Virginia Division of Juvenile Services
- Charleston Police Department – Charleston
Step 8. Complete 20 Hours of Continuing Education Every Two Years to Renew Your License
If you are a masters-level supervised psychologist, you will only need to complete 10 hours of continuing education to renew your Gold Card yearly.
However, once you are a fully licensed psychologist, you will need to complete 20 credits of continuing education to renew your license yearly, with at least 3 hours of your continuing education credits being in ethics.
You can earn continuing education credits through:
- Post-graduate courses
- Professional presentations
- Publication in peer-reviewed journals
Make sure to fill out the CEU audit form throughout your licensing cycle to document your hours.
All forms of programs approved by APA, CPA, WVPA, WVSPA, WVAPP, NASP, State or Regional Boards or Associations of Psychology are approved; however, at least 10 hours must be from APA or NASP-approved providers.
For reference, APA-approved continuing education providers in West Virginia include, but are not limited to:
- West Virginia Psychological Association – Charleston
Forensic Psychologist Salary Information for West Virginia
Forensic psychologists are well compensated for their expertise in psycholegal matters. One of their most common roles is serving as expert witnesses. West Virginia was the historic site of the first published case in which a psychologist was an expert witness in a criminal case. In 1921, a trial court in the state qualified a psychologist as an expert on juvenile delinquency in the State v. Driver case. Unfortunately, the court subsequently rejected his testimony. Since then, forensic psychology has become a well-established field.
Unfortunately, as in the US as a whole, West Virginia has a critical shortage of beds at its state psychiatric hospitals. As funding for mental health has been cut, an increasing number of mentally ill individuals have ended up in jail. According to the Charleston Gazette, the number of mentally ill people in West Virginia’s regional jails almost doubled between 2000 and 2005.
West Virginia has fairly strict laws about psychologists performing forensic evaluations. It precludes a qualified forensic evaluator from evaluating an individual if the psychologist has treated the person within a year of the evaluation order.
As the field of forensic psychology grows, the West Virginia Department of Commerce expects an increase of 0.94% in the number of positions for forensic psychologists in the state between 2012 and 2022. This level of growth should result in an average of 32 jobs a year becoming available in this field.
Salaries for West Virginia’s Forensic Psychologists by Location
In 2015, the state of West Virginia paid salaries to its forensic psychologists that fell within these ranges:
- Level 2: $39,272 – $72,840
- Level 1: $35,028 – $64,812
Overall, the average salary for experienced forensic psychologists in West Virginia was $62,365 a year as of 2014 according to the state’s Department of Commerce. Professionals just starting out earned an average of $30,388, while the average salary for a forensic psychologist in West Virginia was $48,826.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a full analysis of salaries for forensic psychologists in West Virginia’s major cities and rural areas (2014):