American Psychology-Law Society Mentorship
Committee Frequently Asked Questions
American Psychology-Law Society (AP-LS) Mentorship
Committee has created this “FAQ” page in an effort
to answer questions often asked by those who plan to
enter a career in psychology and law and by
the early stages of their psychology and law
careers. Graduate students and new professionals
who do not find answers to their questions here may
choose to e-mail one of the AP-LS mentors (http://www.ap-ls.org/about/mentorshipcommittee.html).
Undergraduates with additional questions should feel
free to contact the Chair of the Mentorship
Committee, Tara Mitchell
Where can I find out about graduate programs in
psychology and law?
AP-LS provides links to programs in
psychology and law. To learn more about clinical
Ph.D./Psy.D. programs that have a psychology and law
To learn about non-clinical Ph.D. programs that have
a psychology and law focus, visit
To learn about masters programs in psychology and
Students can also access a list of Graduate programs
by accessing the Student Section Website
There is also a web site for the
European Association of
Psychology and Law's Student Society.
Where can I find out about internships in psychology
website has a document entitled “Resource Directory
of Forensic Psychology Pre-Doctoral Internship
Training Programs” available for download from
How useful is a
law degree for someone wanting a career in
psychology and law?
There are varying
opinions regarding this question in the field. For
example, as a psychologist with a job that includes
regular contact with the court system (i.e., expert
testimony) it is important to understand the legal
issues that are involved in each case. However this
does not mean that a law degree is necessary to
carry out these duties. Certainly, if a psychologist
wishes to engage in law related practices then it is
incumbent upon that individual to somehow obtain an
understanding of the law, which can be accomplished
by attending a doctoral program with a specialized
focus, reading some of the many well written texts
on psychology and law and seeking continuing
education in law related material. On another note
some argue that having a dual degree may make
someone more marketable, but it should be kept in
mind that many of the accomplished forensic
psychologists do not have a dual degree. In a
nutshell it may help and certainly won’t hurt, but
it may not be necessary
Where can I find out about careers in psychology and
website includes information about a variety of
different careers in psychology and law. For
details download the document “Careers in Psychology and
Law: A Guide for Prospective Students” that has been
prepared by the AP-LS Careers and Training
Committee. Included in this comprehensive document
is an overview of psychology and law as well as a
list of subspecialties in psychology and law
(including typical activities within each
subspecialty and the education and training required
for each subspecialty). A wonderful selection of
biographies of selected professionals is also
available in this document. Note that the multiple
sections included in the “Careers” document is also
available to be read on-line (i.e., not downloaded)
with the biographies available as a separate pdf
can I locate job openings in psychology and law?
The main sources of openings in psychology
and law (and psychology in general) are the job
listings maintained by the American Psychological
and the American Psychological Society (http://www.psychologicalscience.org/jobs/).
Job opportunities in psychology and law are also
occasionally listed in the AP-LS newsletter (http://www.ap-ls.org/publications/newsletterIndex.html),
the PSYLAW-L e-mail discussion list (see
for information on joining this list), and The
Chronicle of Higher Education (http://www.chronicle.com).
Also note that that some psychology conferences
(e.g., American Psychological Association, Eastern
Psychological Association, Midwestern Psychological
Association) conduct placement activities (e.g., job
applicants can submit their curricula vitae for
perusal of those seeking applicants; employers can
interview applicants for open positions).
Finally, there are a variety of websites
that list non-psychology opportunities that may be
of interest to those with training in psychology and
law. A sample of these websites follow:
state police departments
Association of Chiefs of Police (sometimes lists
both teaching and non-teaching jobs)
for State Courts
should I expect on a job interview for a tenure
track position at a college or university?
types of institutions (e.g., institutions with Ph.D.
programs versus undergraduate institutions) will
potentially look for different things in prospective
faculty members, thus the “fit” between institution
and prospective faculty member is important to
consider. The information below is intended to be
general, relevant to almost all college/university
Make sure that you become familiar with the college
or university you are visiting. Visit the
institution’s website—familiarize yourself with the
names and research interests of the faculty
members. Prepare some questions ahead of time to
ask of your interviewers.
prospective college or university employers will
want to learn about your research. This often comes
in the form of a “job talk,” a presentation that
allows you to describe your research in detail. It
is important that you establish ahead of time how
much time to allow for your presentation (leave time
for questions too!). Also establish ahead of time
who your audience will be. A talk addressed to
students will potentially be different in content
than a talk addressed solely to faculty members.
Make sure your talk is clear (visual aides are
typically a good idea!) and well organized. (Some
general presentation tips can be found in the
article on conference presentations available in the
Summer, 2005 AP-LS newsletter—go to
Your interviewers may also want evidence that your
work is programmatic (i.e., do you have a research
plan that will carry you into the future?), and is
your own (i.e., not just your mentor’s work).
Institutions are also typically interested
in your teaching ability. Some institutions may ask
you to prepare a class and “teach” it during your
visit (the “students” may be other faculty
members). Again, be clear and concise, using visual
aides when appropriate. Having teaching experience
certainly can be an advantage; come prepared with
copies of your sample syllabi, handouts, etc. to
provide as illustrations of your teaching.
I’ve been offered
an adjunct appointment. Should I take it or will it
damage my chances for obtaining a tenure track
Approximately 3 out of every 10 college and
university faculty worked as an adjunct faculty
member (i.e., part-time) in 2002 (The Bureau of
Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook,
adjunct appointments can be “stepping stones” to
more permanent positions (often at other
institutions), as they give you experience teaching
(this is especially worthwhile if you did not obtain
teaching experience during graduate school). Adjunct
instructors may also be given opportunities to
participate in the activities of the department. If
you are interested in pursuing full-time work in
academia, be sure to take advantage, as best you
can, of these opportunities, as they can later be
provided as evidence of your willingness to be a
good department citizen.
What types of
non-academic jobs are there for legal psychologists
and how do you get them?
There are several areas of non-academic work for
those interested in a career in psychology and law.
Clinical psychologists can perform assessments for
the criminal and family courts, and/or conduct
treatment or provide assessment with forensic
populations (e.g., working with the incarcerated
mentally ill in correctional institutions).
Non-forensic also have a variety of opportunities
available to them. For example, they can obtain
employment with trial consulting firms that conduct
jury consulting services in criminal and civil
litigation. Trial consultants work with attorneys on
a variety of tasks (e.g., evaluating jurors,
phrasing case arguments, working on visuals for the
jury, preparing the witnesses for questions).
possibilities include working as a researcher with
the Federal Court system. Researchers in this type
of position are responsible for planning and
conducting research on issues relevant to the courts
(e.g., judge decision-making, instruction wording).
There is also the possibility of conducting policy
research for other state agencies.
can I decide whether to go into academia or not with
my clinical degree?
Whether or not
you go into academia or not depends on your
interests (i.e., do you want to do mostly clinical
work or teaching and research) and opportunities.
There are ways to combine these interests, however.
Positions at medical schools, for example, often
include a faculty appointment with opportunities for
supervising, teaching and publishing. Many
clinical/forensic psychologists’ first jobs are
clinical in nature. This does not preclude one from
remaining competitive for academic jobs in the
future. Some advice for a clinician who has an eye
as much as possible. Work with colleagues on
empirical studies, grants, and theoretical
presentations at national conferences such
as APA and AP-LS.
undergraduate or graduate level courses
(i.e., part-time) at a local college or
How much does one
beginning their professional career in psychology
and law typically get paid?
Salaries for psychologists will vary widely
according to the setting and type of work.
Generally, those with a doctoral degree will make
more than those with a masters degree. See the
section on “Salaries and Compensation” in the
“Overview of Psychology and Law” document available
from the student section
of the AP-LS website for more specific information.
In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is
typically a good, up-to-date source for this type of
information (search the Occupational Outlook
Handbook at the Bureau of Labor Statistics website (http://stats.bls.gov/)
using the desired occupation (e.g., “psychologist,”
“professor”) as a search term).
you are pursuing an academic position, The Chronicle
of Higher Education (http://www.chronicle.com)
has salary information for most academic
institutions (also check out the following website
to figure out if you can live on what you are being
can I find out about grant opportunities in
psychology and law?
opportunities for both graduate students and
professionals. Also see The National Science
for information on grants for “Law and Social
Now that I’m a
new faculty member, I am expected to provide service
to my profession. How can I do this?
The following are some possible ideas for
ways to provide service to the profession of
psychology and law. You can review conference
submissions, review journal articles, serve on a
journal’s editorial board, serve on your
association’s (e.g., AP-LS!) committees, and/or run
for an office in your association. While these
activities can certainly be rewarding, be sure not
to overextend yourself in service to the degree that
you neglect your other obligations. Familiarize
yourself with the particular demands of your
can I get involved in AP-LS?
a variety of AP-LS Committees and some have both
student and professional members. Descriptions of
each committee are available at
If you are interested in joining a particular
committee, write to the committee chair (see
for a list of committees and their current chairs)
to express your interest and determine if any
openings are available.
How can I find
opportunities to review conference submissions?
Each time the
chair(s) of a conference issue(s) a “call for
papers” they typically issue a request for reviewers
of proposal submissions. This is one way to serve
your profession. If you cannot locate the “request
for reviewers” on the “call for papers” website,
contact a conference chairperson to ask about
can I find opportunities to review journal articles?
a student, you may be able to find opportunities to
review journal articles through your advisor. This
can be a stepping stone, improving your chances to
later serve as a reviewer for a journal.
How do you build
a forensic practice (e.g., how do you obtain
Here are some tips: First, you should be a really
well-trained psychologist. Make sure you learn
about a wide range of things in psychology, even
things you disagree with. (You will be asked to
defend your opinions with data.)
Second, arrange to get supervised forensic
experience, preferably in a forensic fellowship. If
not, find a very experienced and well-respected
forensic psychologist to supervise you carefully
(this will usually cost you money).
Third, write articles in professional
journals, especially about the kinds of cases you
would like to attract to your new practice.
Fourth, be pretty good at everything in
forensic psychology, but try to be really, really
good at some particular thing. It will help to get
Fifth, give away advice and consultation to
other psychologists every chance you get. (Make sure
the advice is asked for.) Only do so, however, in
areas that you know really well.
Sixth, be available to speak for free to your local
Seventh, get in the habit of turning down cases that
are not within your field of expertise. Make sure
that you tell them why you are turning them down,
and what your field of expertise is. Say to people
something like, "You deserve to get the best expert
there is. In this case, I could do an OK job, but
to be honest with you, Dr. X is much stronger on
this issue. Now if he can't help you or you get a
case dealing with (my issue) or (my other issue),
then give me a call back." This will keep you from
ruining your young career by botching up a case you
never should have taken, and clearly announce you in
the legal community as a person with ethics and high
standards of excellence. The attorney in question
will look for a case to use you on, and the forensic
psychologist you complimented with the referral will
probably be very grateful.
Eighth, most importantly of all, do every case well,
as if it were your dissertation. Work harder than
they pay you to work. Leave no stone unturned.
Don't take shortcuts. If your initial opinion
doesn't help the side that hired you, tell them
before you use up lots of their money. Even though
being ethical costs you money in the short run, it
will make you lots of money over the course of
What does it mean
to be a board certified forensic psychologist by the
ABFP (American Board of Forensic Psychology)? How
does a psychologist become board certified?
For a complete
answer to questions about ABFP certification, go to
their website (http://www.abfp.com).
The rationale for Board certification in psychology
is to ensure the competence of Diploma holders.
Although there are other organizations that offer
“Diplomates” or “board certification” they do not
require the rigorous standards required by the ABFP.
Consequently, they are not as highly regarded or as
useful in clinical practice. (Lawyers and judges are
becoming increasingly educated to the differences
and may be skeptical of clinicians with these ersatz
diplomas.) The ABFP Diplomate process involves four
Submission of proof of sufficient
specialized experience and training in
Forensic Psychology. Specifically a
candidate must have 1000 hours of
post-doctoral forensic experience over a
minimum of four post-doctoral years
(although there are waivers for
post-doctoral programs, law degrees, etc.)
and a minimum of 100 hours of specialized
- Written examination – 200 multiple choice
questions covering 8 areas of forensic
- Two Work samples
- Oral examination
Diplomate (like all
American Board of Professional Psychology
Diplomates) is extremely useful if one is looking to
move to another state. In most jurisdictions, it
allows for reciprocity of licensure.
How likely is a
graduate student to get a job in forensic work if
they do not have specific focus on this area in
graduate school? Is outside experience sufficient,
and if so, how much is necessary?
forensic job without specific graduate school
training appears to be getting more difficult. There
are ways to increase one’s chances. Obviously,
getting forensic experience and training in a
pre-doc internship is one way to do so. There are
more and more APA-accredited internships with at
least a forensic component. Completing one of these
internships can lead to a post-doctoral fellowship.
Even if one does not have pre-doctoral forensic
experience, however, there are ways to pursue
forensic experience and training. Some states (for
example, Massachusetts) offer post-doctoral
training, experience, and certification to clinical
psychologists who work in the public sector.
Another thing you can try to do is to obtain
relevant experience with similar populations. For
example, if you want to obtain employment in a
correctional/forensic treatment or assessment
setting, you might seek to work in psychiatric
hospital with patients who have serious mental
As for how much
experience is necessary, the more you get the better
off you will be.
What are the
various job titles that forensic psychologists can
hold? What are the strengths and weaknesses of these
different positions (i.e., working at a jail/prison,
juvenile detention center, private practice, expert
psychology is a broad field encompassing many
clinical and research areas. For example, you may
conduct criminal evaluations (competency, criminal
responsibility, etc.), forensic treatment program
evaluations, civil (disability) evaluations, and/or
court clinic evaluations. You may become an
administrator in a forensic inpatient unit. You may
evaluate sexually dangerous individuals or provide
treatment to psychiatric inpatients. Clinical
opportunities can be broken down into two broad
categories: treatment and assessment. The “strengths
and weaknesses” of each will, of course, depend upon
what one enjoys doing. It may depend on how much one
wants to provide therapy, how much one would rather
work in a consulting role, how much one enjoys
assessing criminals, how much one relishes
testifying in court, etc. One way to find out what
you will enjoy doing is to garner as much different
kind of experience as possible. Internships and
post-docs can be a good way of doing so.