Forensic psychologists work to apply psychological theory, research, and psychological assessments to the criminal justice process. They work with federal, state, and local criminal investigators to determine criminal motivation and competency to stand trial, and also provide expert witness testimony during court hearings.
One example of forensic psychology at work in Wisconsin was demonstrated in the 2015 “Slender Man” case in which Waukesha County prosecutors wanted to charge a 12-year-old girl with first-degree attempted homicide after she stabbed a classmate 19 times.
However, forensic psychologist Deborah Collins was able to prove that the girl does not belong in adult court due to her mental health issues—namely, early onset schizophrenia, which may have a genetic basis. A diagnosis of schizophrenia explains why the young girl believed that Slender Man was with her, threatening to kill her family if she did not kill her classmate. As of June 2015, the court considered moving the case to the juvenile system in light of Collins’ expert witness testimony.
After earning her bachelor’s degree form St. Norbert College, her master’s degree from Boston College, and her doctorate degree from the University of Hartford, Collins became the President and co-owner of Behavioral Consultants, Inc. Collins is also Director of the Wisconsin Forensic Unit, a division of BCI. She was awarded a forensic certification through the American Board of Professional Psychology, and she maintains membership status in various professional organizations, such as the WPA Interest Section of Forensic and Correctional Psychologists.
Becoming a forensic psychologist in Wisconsin would mean dealing with similar criminal cases and providing other services to law enforcement and the local court system, which could include:
- Determining competency to stand trial
- Finding a defendant not guilty by reason of mental disease
- Violence risk assessment
- Sentencing/dispositional issues
- Sex offender risk assessment
- Pre-employment screening
Steps to Become a Forensic Psychologist in Wisconsin
If you’re ready to begin your career as a forensic psychologist in Wisconsin, you will start by earning a psychology license from the Wisconsin Psychology Examining Board.
For a simple guide on how to become a forensic psychologist in Wisconsin, follow these steps:
Step 1. Earn Your Forensic Psychology Baccalaureate Degree
You’ll start your journey toward a Wisconsin psychology license by earning an undergraduate degree in forensic psychology. Schools in Wisconsin offer these options both online and through campus-based programs:
- Bachelor of Arts or Science (BA/BS) in Forensic Psychology
- BA or BS in Psychology with an emphasis in Forensic Psychology
- BA or BS in Applied Psychology with an emphasis in Forensic Psychology
- BA or BS in Criminology with an emphasis in Forensic Psychology
Undergraduate degrees generally consist of 120 credits distributed among:
- General courses
- Major courses
- Elective courses
- Internship credits
Major courses include, but are not limited to:
- Survey of Forensic Psychology
- Psychology Research Methods and Statistics
- Integrated Theories of Crime
- Psychology Bases
- Juvenile Delinquency
- Individual and Community Advocacy
After you complete your bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology, you’ll be prepared to apply to graduate school.
Step 2. Advance to Your Master’s and Doctoral Degree in Forensic Psychology
The Wisconsin Psychology Examining Board requires you to hold a doctoral degree in order to apply for a license. After earning your bachelor’s degree, you can either enroll directly into a doctoral program, or you can enroll first in a terminal master’s degree that will prepare you further for a doctoral program.
Although requirements differ depending on your school, most graduate programs in forensic psychology have minimum admissions requirements that include:
- Hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university
- Have a minimum of 12-18 psychology credits
- Have a high GPA (minimum 3.0-3.5)
- Pass the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
Doctoral programs may be more demanding, and they may look for applicants who have already conducted original research, obtained unique internship experiences, or have proven high levels of excellence.
Earning a Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology
If you choose to earn a terminal master’s degree, you will have a wide variety of degree options to choose from in Wisconsin:
- Master of Arts or Science (MA/MS) in Forensic Psychology
- MA or MS in Forensic Mental Health
- MA or MS in Legal Studies – Forensic Psychology
- MA or MS in Experimental Psychology – Forensics
- MA or MS in Criminology – Forensics
- MA or MS in Psychology – Forensics
- MA or MS in Forensic Psychology / Juris Doctor in Law
- MA or MS in Forensic Psychology & Counseling
- MA or MS in Experimental Psychology
Master’s degrees generally include between 30-60 credit hours, consisting of:
- Supervised Research/Internship Hours
- Empirical Thesis
Graduate level courses generally include, but are not limited to:
- Cognitive Psychology
- Research Methods
- Psychological Assessment
- Substance Abuse
- Criminal Behavior
- Abnormal Behavior
- Mental Health Law
- Policy Psychology
Once you complete your master’s degree, you will be ready to apply to colleges in Wisconsin offering doctoral programs in forensic psychology.
Earning a Doctorate Degree in Forensic Psychology
Doctorate degrees in forensic psychology include, but are not limited to;
- PhD or PsyD in Clinical Psychology – Forensic Psychology
- Clinical PsyD or PhD in Forensic Psychology
- PsyD or PhD in Forensic Psychology
The Wisconsin Board requires that you graduate from a regionally accredited institution. Wisconsin is home to nine APA-accredited doctoral programs in psychology and clinical psychology, mainly in the state’s two major cities:
Depending on the school you choose, forensic psychology doctoral degrees may consist of:
- Doctoral Examinations
- Dissertation Defense
Forensic psychology doctoral courses include, but are not limited to:
- Forensic Assessment
- Law and Mental Health
- Expert Witness
- Principles of Neuropsychology
- Neuropsychological Assessment
- Neuropsychological Assessment of Children
- Child Psychopathology
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Neuropsychological Case Analysis
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Pediatric Psychology
- Substance Use
The internship you choose will define your doctoral experience, so it is vital to find an internship focused on forensic topics in a forensic setting.
APA-accredited internship programs in Wisconsin include, but are not limited to:
- Mendota Mental Health Institute – Psychology Department in Madison
- Milwaukee VA Medical Center – Mental Health Division in Milwaukee
- State of Wisconsin Department of Corrections in Madison
- Aurora Behavioral Health Services in Wauwatosa
Step 3. Complete 3000 Hours of Supervised Psychology Experience
To fulfill this requirement, the Wisconsin Board allows you to complete:
- Up to 1500 hours of pre-doctoral experience
- A minimum of 1500 hours of post-doctoral experience
This means that if you earned up to 1500 hours of supervised experience before you completed your doctoral degree, then you will only need to finish the final 1500 hours in this step.
You can choose to complete your hours at an American Psychological Association (APA)-approved internship or residency provider, or you can choose a provider listed by the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral Internship Centers (APPIC).
Post-doctoral residencies listed by these organizations include, but are not limited to:
- University of Wisconsin – Department of Psychiatry in Madison
- University of Wisconsin – Madison Counseling & Mental Health in Madison
- University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison
- Milwaukee VA Medical Center – Mental Health Division in Milwaukee
- Medical College of Wisconsin – Department of Neurology in Milwaukee
Because you are aspiring to work in a forensic setting, you should strive to complete your internship and residency requirements in an accredited forensic setting, such as a corrections facility, prison, court, or rehabilitation center.
One of Wisconsin’s top forensic settings for forensic psychology interns is:
- Wisconsin Department of Corrections – Psychological Services in Madison
Step 4. Pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)
The Wisconsin Board states that you are eligible to take the EPPP after the completion of your doctoral degree and before, during, or after the completion of your supervised experience hours.
For information regarding the EPPP, consult the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. On their website, you can find resources to:
- Register for the EPPP
- Find EPPP Contact Information
- Read the Candidate Handbook
- Take Practice Exams
- Study the EPPP Content
- Read EPPP FAQs
Content for this exam includes questions concerning eight different domains of psychology, such as:
- Biological Bases of Behavior (12%)
- Cognitive-Affective Bases of Behavior (13%)
- Social and Cultural Bases of Behavior (12%)
- Growth and Lifespan Development (12%)
- Assessment and Diagnosis (14%)
- Treatment, Intervention, Prevention, and Supervision (14%)
- Research Methods and Statistics (8%)
- Ethical/Legal/Professional Issues (15%)
Step 5. Submit the Application for License to Practice Psychology in Wisconsin
Once you complete your supervised experience and passed the EPPP, you’re ready to submit your application for examination and licensure. Doing this makes you eligible to take the license examinations, and upon passing them, to receive your Wisconsin license.
To complete this application in full, submit each of the following documents:
- Application for License to Practice Psychology
- Convictions and Pending Charges Form
- Verification of Supervised Psychological Experience
- Official transcripts of doctorate degree
- Official EPPP Score Report
Along with your application materials, you will submit your examination and license application fees, which consist of:
- $ 75.00 Initial Credential Fee
- $ 75.00 State Law Exam
- $ 15.00 Contract Exam Fee
Thus, the total application fee is $165.00.
You can mail your application documents and application fees to the Board’s address:
Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services
P.O. Box 8935
Madison, WI 53708
Step 6. Pass the Wisconsin Ethics Exam and Oral Interview
Once all of your application materials are on file, the Board will review your application. If the Board approves of your application, you will be approved to sit for the ethics exam and appear for an oral interview.
To take the Wisconsin State Psychology Exam, follow the Board’s instructions, including:
- Get a non-Mac computer
- Go to http://eptol.drl.wi.gov/
- Select “test launching”
- Complete the un-timed exam over a period of 3 months
Do not click “done” until you are ready to submit the exam. Make sure to print a copy of your score and retain it for your records.
- PSY 1 – 10.53%
- PSY 2 – 1.32%
- PSY 4 – 18.42%
- PSY 5 – 68.32%
- Statute Chapter 51 – 1.32%
Upon the completion of this exam and your oral interview, you will be issued a Wisconsin psychology license.
Step 7. Start Your Career as a Forensic Psychologist in Wisconsin
With a Wisconsin psychology license, you can enter fast-paced investigative jobs in forensic psychology, such as:
- Forensic Services Department Director
- Forensic Case Manager
- Forensic Consultant
- Jury Consultant
- Victim assistance worker
- Forensic Clinician
- Correctional counselor
- Juvenile corrections officer
- Expert Witness
Many forensic psychologists are hired by prosecuting or defense lawyers, police departments, correctional facilities, and more. In Wisconsin, some agencies that may look to hire forensic psychologists include:
- Wisconsin Department of Corrections – Madison
- Croix Correctional Center – New Richmond
- The Healing Center – Milwaukee
- Madison Police Department
- Milwaukee Police Department
- Whitewater Police Department
- UW-Madison Police Department
- Wisconsin State Patrol – Wausau, Hazel Green, Tomah, etc.
Step 8. Earn 40 Credits of Continuing Education to Renew Your License Every Two Years
Your license will expire on September 30th of odd-numbered years. To renew it, you will complete 40 hours of Board-approved continuing education through:
- Completing graduate-level courses
- Attending workshops or seminars
- Authoring professional papers or books
- Teaching courses or workshops
You can earn your continuing education credits through APA-accredited continuing education providers in Wisconsin, which include, but are not limited to:
- AEP Connections, LLC- Appleton
- Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC)- Madison
- Aurora Behavioral Health Services- Aurora Health Care- Wauwatosa
- Center for Telepsychology- Madison
- Mendota Mental Health Institute- Madison
- Wisconsin Department of Corrections Psychology CE Committee- Madison
- Wisconsin Psychological Association- Madison
- International Forgiveness Institute- Madison
Forensic Psychologist Salary Information for Wisconsin
Forensic psychologists are an elite group of psychologists that combine their knowledge of psychology with legal expertise. This multifaceted expertise commands high salaries.
These professionals often specialize as expert witnesses in custody cases or by helping to determine whether or not defendants are competent to stand trial. High-profile cases in Wisconsin involving forensic evaluations of this sort have included the Jeffrey Dahmer murders and the brutal attacks in the Slender Man case.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections 2019-21 budget request, nearly 90 percent of all inmates in the Taycheedah Correctional Institution have mental health needs and nearly 35 percent of the inmate population has “serious” mental health illnesses.
The DOC budget request found that overall 41 percent of all state inmates have mental health issues. In settings like the Wisconsin Resource Center, which serves inmates with special mental health issues, this number stands at 98 percent. Among prisons housing men, the Green Bay Correctional Institution stood out as having the largest population – 55 percent – of inmates with mental health needs.
Salaries for Forensic Psychologists in Wisconsin
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for forensic psychologists in Wisconsin was $86,000 as of May 2021. Early-career professionals here earned about $50,100 during this time, while those at the top of the pay scale earned more than $124,690.
Forensic Psychologist Salaries in Wisconsin’s Cities and Rural Areas
Forensic psychologists in the Milwaukee metro area enjoyed salaries that inched ahead of their colleagues in the Madison metro area as of May 2021, according to the BLS.
2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures for psychologists, all other. Job growth projections from the US Department of Labor-sponsored resource, Projections Central. Figures are based on state data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed May 2022.