Looking for a graduate program in forensic psychology?
1. Pick potential supervisors in your area of interest
First, it is highly recommended that you decide on an area within forensic/legal psychology (e.g. eyewitness testimony, deception detection, interrogations, clinical intervention, risk assessment….) that most interests you. You can find information on some of the major areas in forensic psychology here (note the list of topics in the left menu under “What is Psych-Law”).Then I recommend looking at the literature in that area (on PsycInfo, PubMed, or google scholar), and finding out who a renown expert in the field is. If you can compose a short list of people you are most interested in working with, you can then look up which schools they teach at! Ultimately it really is about WHO you work with more than WHERE once you get into the field. It is recommended that you email the professors you are interested in working with to a) establish rapport, and b) ask whether they are accepting students.
2. Decide on the type of work you want to do when you are finished
Assuming that you don’t want to go to school forever, you probably have some vague idea about what you want to do when you are finished. Do you want to do research? Do you want to teach? Do you want to do therapy? Consulting? Expert testimony? The type of job you hope to do should influence your decision regarding which graduate schools to apply to.
The distinction between clinical and research degrees is particularly important, as in most countries you cannot do clinical work (therapy) without a clinical degree. The length of program you apply for also matters for your future career. You need to decide between a terminal masters program, a combined masters/PhD or just a PhD program. While you can teach and do many occupational and government jobs with a masters, you typically need a PhD to do clinical work or become a tenure-track professor and researcher. To sum it up, if possible, pick a program that is the appropriate type and length for what you hope to do when you are finished.
3. Decide on a country
While It is often a good idea to obtain your degree in the country you hope to work in (or hope to do a PhD in), because it can be difficult to transition between international systems, many institutions also value international experience. Whether you decide to go international or not, it is a good idea to at least look at the degrees typically accepted in the country you ultimately hope to work in.
It is also often very expensive to be an international student. For example, in the US, tuition for out-of-state residents is typically between $15,000 and $30,000 a year, and in the UK fees for non-EU students are between £11,000 and £15,000, not including living costs. This is something you need to take into account when applying for programs. Most masters programs are not funded, unless you are eligible for a scholarship or grant. Many PhD programs determine the number of students they accept based on the funding available to the department, but because you are more expensive as an international student, the funding may not cover all your costs. Depending on your financial situation, it may be best to predominantly apply to domestic and/or fully funded programs. You can find a fairly comprehensive list of universities offering degrees in forensic/legal psychology here.
4. Get your applications ready early
Most grad school applications are available about a year before the program actually starts. Make sure you know exactly what the requirements are for the schools you have chosen, since they will likely be quite different – with some needing 2 OR 3 references, some wanting thesis proposals, and others asking for general and/or subject GRE scores (“General record exam” – applies to schools in North America). Each will have a unique package for you to complete, but either way you should be prepared to spend time on these. This is the only chance you get to impress the admissions committee, so your packages should be as amazing as possible. Since many schools have a very limited number of graduate spots available, it is highly advisable that you apply to a number of programs to maximize your chances of being accepted by at least one school.
Want help with the process?
Once you have figured out:
- What area in psyc-law you want to go into
- A short list of potential supervisors
- Whether you are interested in a clinical or research degree
- Whether you want to do a terminal masters, a masters/PhD or a PhD degree
- What country you want to study in
- What your source of funding will be
You can email us and we will help you contact your potential supervisors or put you in contact with one of our international mentors to help you maximize your chances of being accepted into a program.
Can’t decide on a supervisor? If you can’t decide on a supervisor at the moment, we can put you in touch with a mentor that is doing work in an area of your interest, and you can directly ask them questions about the field and appropriate graduate schools/programs for that ares.
Need anything else? If you have any questions about this process, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org