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Forensic Psychology Programs in California

California is the most populous state with over 38 million people. Aerospace, education, manufacturing, and high-tech industry are some of the most prominent economic drivers of the  state’s economy. Students who are interested in higher education can find suitable academic programs, including programs in forensic psychology, at the colleges and universities in the state.

Forensic Psychology Programs in California

Forensic psychologists use psychological principles in the legal and criminal justice system to help legal experts such as lawyers and judges understand the psychological aspects of a particular case. Forensic psychologists need to meet the educational and licensure requirements. Ranging from the bachelor’s degree programs to doctoral programs, the forensic psychology programs in California offer a variety of learning opportunities for students interested in the field.  While a forensic psychologist may possibly find work opportunities in research with a bachelor's degree, a master’s or PhD in psychology is essential for licensing or certification. All psychologists need to hold a license. To obtain a license, students are required to take examinations through the California Board of Psychology.

Forensic Psychology Undergraduate Degree Programs

Providing students with a comprehensive background in principles of psychology, applied to the legal system exploring scientific methodologies and research standards, a bachelor’s degree in forensic science can be completed in 4 years.  Some programs may also include internships. Curriculum may include instruction in areas such as abnormal psychology, personality theories, quantitative analysis and developmental psychology.

Forensic Psychology Graduate Degree Programs

Forensic psychology masters programs in California may take 1-2 years to complete, allowing students to build on the knowledge they have acquired previously. Doctoral programs generally take 5-6 years of full-time study but the duration of forensic psychology degree programs may vary by the enrollment status of the students. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most clinical, counseling, and research psychologists require a doctoral degree. They may complete a PhD in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree. A PhD in psychology is a research degree that includes an exam and dissertation based on original research, while the Psy.D. is a clinical degree based on practical work and examinations instead of a dissertation.

PhD candidates gain hands-on experience with the application of acquired knowledge in forensic environment settings. They may work with children and adults in community settings and develop skills in areas such as conducting psychological applications and interventions and case studies, research and evaluation. At the end of the program, candidates may be asked to submit a thesis based on their original research.

Online Forensic Psychology Degree Programs

Some forensic psychology programs are also offered online, allowing students to study from the comfort of home.  Such programs are especially suitable for self-starters who can stay motivated and organized on their own since managing online education, while convenient, remains  challenging. Those who have already earned undergraduate degrees and are working can enroll in the online forensic psychology graduate programs in California and earn advanced qualifications alongside their work.


To enroll in the forensic psychology programs students need to hold at least a high school diploma or its equivalent.  They may also have to submit SAT or ACT scores. Students who wish to enroll in the doctoral programs need to hold a master’s degree in psychology; some programs may accept candidates with a bachelor’s degree and a major in psychology. In addition, students may have to provide letters of recommendation.  

Forensic Psychology California Career Information

Forensic psychologists are mainly responsible for the treatment and assessment of criminal behavior. They interact with offenders and prisoners and also assist legal professionals.

According to O*NET OnLine, the state of California had 24,900 psychologists in 2012 including those who specialize in forensics. The state is likely to need more of these professionals between 2012 and 2022.


The median annual income for clinical psychologists in California was $81,400 (2013), according to the data published by O*NET OnLine. Factors such as location, experience and area of expertise may determine the exact pay.

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