forensic psychology major california

Forensic psychology is an intriguing field that combines the principles of psychology and the law to delve into the criminal justice system. If you are considering a career in forensic psychology in California, it’s essential to understand the educational requirements, the best majors, the duration of training, and potential salary prospects. In this article, we will address these questions and help you navigate your path to becoming a forensic psychologist in the Golden State.

What Schools Offer Forensic Psychology in California?

Choosing the right educational institution is a crucial step in becoming a forensic psychologist in California. Fortunately, the state boasts several reputable schools that offer programs in forensic psychology. Here are a few notable options:

1. University of California, Irvine

  • UC Irvine provides a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Social Behavior, which serves as a strong foundation for future forensic psychologists.
  • The university also offers a Master’s in Legal and Forensic Psychology, preparing students for more specialized work in the field.

2. California State University, Los Angeles

  • CSULA offers a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, which allows students to pursue further graduate studies in forensic psychology.
  • They also have a Master of Science in Forensic Psychology program to provide more advanced training.

3. Alliant International University

  • Alliant International University, with campuses throughout California, offers a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) in Forensic Psychology, focusing on clinical and practical aspects of the field.

4. John Jay College of Criminal Justice

  • While not in California, this New York-based institution offers an online Master’s in Forensic Psychology, allowing students in California to access high-quality education remotely.

Before choosing a school, it’s essential to research their programs, faculty expertise, and available resources to determine which one aligns best with your career goals.

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Forensic Psychologist in California?

To become a forensic psychologist in California, you’ll need to follow a structured educational path. Here’s a breakdown of the necessary degrees:

Bachelor’s Degree:

  • Your journey typically begins with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology or a closely related field. This provides you with foundational knowledge in psychology.

Master’s Degree:

  • A Master’s degree in Forensic Psychology is the next step. This program offers more specialized courses, often covering topics like criminal behavior, psychopathology, and the legal system.

Doctoral Degree:

  • To become a licensed forensic psychologist, you must complete a Doctoral degree. There are two primary options:
    • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.): Focuses on research and academic work.
    • Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.): Emphasizes clinical practice and often includes internships or clinical rotations.

After earning a doctorate, you’ll need to complete supervised postdoctoral experience and pass the California state licensing exam to practice as a forensic psychologist.

What Is the Best Major for Forensic Psychology?

Choosing the best major for your undergraduate studies is a critical decision in your path to becoming a forensic psychologist. While Psychology is the most common choice, it’s not the only option. Here are some suitable majors:

1. Psychology:

  • A Bachelor’s degree in Psychology provides a strong foundation for understanding human behavior, which is essential in forensic psychology.

2. Criminology:

  • A degree in Criminology can also be valuable, as it focuses on the study of criminal behavior and the criminal justice system.

3. Social Work:

  • Social Work programs offer a broader perspective on human services and can be beneficial in working with diverse populations within the legal system.

4. Sociology:

  • Sociology programs explore how societies and institutions function, which can be insightful when dealing with individuals within the criminal justice system.

The best major depends on your specific interests and career goals within the field of forensic psychology. It’s essential to consult with academic advisors to make an informed decision.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Forensic Psychologist in California?

Becoming a forensic psychologist is not a quick process, given the extensive education and training required. Here’s a rough timeline:

Bachelor’s Degree:

  • Typically, a Bachelor’s degree takes four years to complete.

Master’s Degree:

  • A Master’s program generally takes an additional two years.

Doctoral Degree:

  • Earning a Ph.D. or Psy.D. typically takes an additional 4-6 years.

Postdoctoral Experience:

  • After earning your doctorate, you’ll need to complete a period of supervised postdoctoral experience, which can take 1-2 years.


  • To practice as a forensic psychologist in California, you’ll need to pass the state licensing exam, which can vary in preparation time.

In total, it can take around 10-12 years of education and training to become a licensed forensic psychologist in California. However, this duration can vary based on individual circumstances and the specific educational path you choose.

How Much Does a Forensic Psychologist Make in California?

Salaries for forensic psychologists in California can vary based on factors such as location, experience, and specialization. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of my last knowledge update in January 2022, the median annual wage for psychologists in California was around $100,850.

However, forensic psychologists may earn more due to their specialized training and work in the legal system. Experienced forensic psychologists in California can earn significantly higher salaries, sometimes exceeding $150,000 annually. Salaries may also vary in different regions within the state, with major metropolitan areas offering higher pay.

Keep in mind that these figures are approximate, and salary ranges can change over time due to economic factors and demand for forensic psychology services.

In conclusion, pursuing a career in forensic psychology in California involves rigorous education, but it can be a rewarding and fulfilling profession. The path includes obtaining a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and a doctoral degree, followed by postdoctoral experience and licensure. The salary prospects are promising, particularly for experienced forensic psychologists, making it a viable and worthwhile career choice for those interested in the intersection of psychology and the legal system.

The M.S. in Forensic Psychology option is designed for students whose primary interest is in working or studying in areas of psychology that intersect with the criminal justice system. A key feature of the program is a close mentoring relationship with a faculty member who oversees the student’s progress toward his or her individual career goals. All students begin their program in the fall semester and take several core courses together. The program offers an M.S. degree and consists of 33-34 units of course work, which includes a 9 month practicum where students receive hands on training and on site supervision in a forensic setting related to their individual interests and career goals (e.g., rape crisis center, Department of Children and Family Services counseling center, the Dependency Courts, the Sheriff’s Department, prisons, probation).


The program emphasizes theory and research while providing practical training in the areas of assessment and treatment that will prepare them for their entry to the marketplace after graduation. The course of study is designed to accommodate both students who plan to progress on to doctoral study as well as students who wish to enter the field as Masters level practitioners.

Admission to the Program and Deadlines

Acceptance into the department’s graduate programs involves an electronic application via Cal State Apply:

  • The following should be completed before February 15, 2024:
    • Go to the Cal State Apply application website:
    • Submit your application by uploading the following documents using the ‘Documents’ tab:
      • Statement of purpose – 400 to 500 words (maximum of two pages, double-spaced) indicating your reasons for wishing to pursue this research-oriented program, your particular areas of interest, and any experience relevant to your goals and interests. If you have identified a particular faculty member as a possible mentor, indicate this in your statement (note that this does not guarantee working with this faculty member).
      • Unofficial transcripts – Unofficial transcripts from all colleges/universities attended.
    • List your references using the ‘Recommendations’ tab:
    • List the names of three (3) people who have agreed to write letters of recommendation for you. At least two of these letters must come from academic sources (faculty members or others) who are familiar with your academic capabilities. Your application will not be reviewed until all three letters are received, so ensure that you request your recommendation letters well in time for the application deadline or earlier.
  • After submitting this application, you will be required to submit the following:
    • Official transcripts – Submit official academic records/transcripts and other requested information to the Admissions Office.  For information on submitting documents, please click here.
    • International applicants – Submit official TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE test scores, if you do not possess a Bachelor’s (or advanced) degree from a postsecondary college/university where English is the only language of instruction.


Interested applicants should review our Frequently Asked Questions page. If your specific question isn’t listed or if you need clarification on any aspect of the application process for the Forensic Psychology program, you can contact the Department of Psychology via e-mail at [email protected] or at (323) 343-2250 or contact the program Director, Dr. Mitchell Eisen at (323) 343-5006. Dr. Eisen can also be reached via e-mail at [email protected].

Current Students




Applicants are required to have a Baccalaureate degree with a major in Psychology and a grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 to be eligible for the Forensic Psychology program. Non-majors in Psychology should see below. Applicants with a GPA of 2.75 to 3.0 must present evidence that they are committed to and qualified for graduate work. This evidence could include (but is not limited to) relevant experience, or GRE scores with an Advanced Psychology Score of 550 or higher. Applicants with a GPA below 2.75 will not be considered.


Students who do not have a bachelor’s degree in Psychology are also encouraged to submit the University application and required materials. In such instances, admission may be granted on a conditional basis. Students admitted conditionally will be required to complete 31-36 units of Psychology coursework with a GPA of 3.0 or higher before beginning the Masters program. Whenever possible, credit will be given for equivalent coursework taken elsewhere. Click here for a list of Prerequisite Coursework.

Please note: coursework taken at a community college does not apply to upper-division psychology requirements.




Students must complete the following with a grade of B or higher:



Select 6 units from the following:


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