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April O'Neil

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(This is a rather long post I'm afraid, sorry. I'm just nervous and would really appreciate any advice.)

Hello everyone,

First, a bit of background. I completed my bachelor's in Journalism, Psychology, and English Literature from 2007-2010 at an Indian university. I then completed a Master's in Journalism (specializing in investigative journalism) from Monash University in Australia. Returned home in 2012 and have been working as a correspondent for a reputed daily, covering ONLY crime, ever since.

I've always wanted a career related to analyzing crime/forensics/criminal justice, and I am now set on pursuing forensic psychology. While I do not have the typical experience expected of a psychology graduate, I have closely inspected several crime scenes including murder, rape, terror attacks, shoot-outs, suicides, and assault. My job also requires me to interact with police officers, detectives, morticians, forensic science experts, victims and their families, and suspects themselves on a regular basis. What I'm trying to say is that I'm confident I can handle the challenge of changing track from journalism to psychology, but I only hope the schools I'm applying to will see that as well.

This brings me to my queries: I'm interested in pursuing an MA in forensic psychology (Fall 2016, so the clock is ticking!) and hopefully, if my finances permit, a doctoral degree as well. One of my main preferences is the master's program at John Jay College in New York (deadline is April 1). Their website isn't very clear about whether or not the program is APA accredited (the school itself isn't either, right?), so I was wondering if anyone knows the status. I've read mainly good things about John Jay's program, but I want to know what the prospects of getting a job in NY afterwards are.

Also, the other schools I've chosen to apply to are University of Denver (submitted the application on Jan 4) and Marymount University in Virginia (deadline is on Feb 16). I found these two programs to be interesting, and while I'm aware that DU is APA accredited, does anyone know if Marymount is worth applying to? Marymount claims they can get their students internships at the FBI and DEA!

Any feedback/suggestions to apply elsewhere would be really appreciated. Thanks in advance.
 

erg923

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Apa accredites doctoral programs only.
 

WhatMightThisBe

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Yes, erg923 is correct; APA only accredits doctoral programs. I am a graduate of the JJ MA program and a soon-to-be graduate of the doctoral program (which is APA accredited, by the way). The MA program is, indeed, a good one, and the faculty is really stellar. If you plan on going on to a doctoral program, getting involved in research is an absolute must, so I would recommend trying to do so as soon as possible. Also, in terms of your interests (analyzing crime), I would also think of exploring criminal justice programs as well. What you are describing (and please feel free to correct me) sounds almost more like profiling, which is not what we are trained to do as forensic psychologists. The doctoral program is actually very much focused on generalist clinical training (so a lot of therapy and assessment with non-forensic populations) with a forensic specialization. There is one faculty member who seems to do what you are suggesting, but again, that would just be one aspect of your research while in the program; the majority of clinical activities would be "conventional" (i.e., non-forensic therapy and assessment). This one faculty member also teaches two classes in the MA program that sounds like they would appeal to you (i.e., Crime Scene Analysis), but otherwise, the majority of classes do not focus on that at all. Another possibility would be JJ's non-clinical doctoral program (Law & Psychology). In any case, just thought I'd throw in my two cents. Most forensic psych programs are not geared towards crime scene analysis, so I would be careful to research just how much of that you will get in each program if that is your primary interest.
 

April O'Neil

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Ahh. Thank you, erg923 and WhatMightThisBe. That explains a lot!

And WMTB, I'm glad to have received such a detailed reply from a current JJ student. Thank you. :) How hard is it to get in, though? The cut-offs must be crazy because they must be swamped with applications. And is the administration student-friendly? A couple of terrible online reviews (on Yelp though, so I wouldn't exactly call them credible) about the staff's 'rude behaviour' and 'nonchalance' got me worried.

And what's your take on DU and Marymount? Are their programs good/decent, do you know?

As for the crime analysis bit, I only mentioned it to indicate my interest in terms of my (limited) experience thus far. While criminal profiling has its own allure, I'm definitely more keen on other kinds of work. My long-term goals revolve around clinical-based work like becoming a licensed full-time forensic psychologist to assess and counsel offenders at say, a state or federal prison. I would have loved to study criminal justice and law too, but my focus is a bit more on the psychology part.

Here's where I'm confused though: I've read PsyDs are supposed to be more clinical-based and PhDs more about research, but at the end of the day, how much of a difference would having a PhD make if I were to take up clinical work? And why do so many experts scoff at PsyDs? Does it matter a whole lot while applying for an internship or job?
 

WisNeuro

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Here's where I'm confused though: I've read PsyDs are supposed to be more clinical-based and PhDs more about research, but at the end of the day, how much of a difference would having a PhD make if I were to take up clinical work? And why do so many experts scoff at PsyDs? Does it matter a whole lot while applying for an internship or job?

This is a myth that just won't die. Most Clinical PhD graduates go on to primarily clinical careers. Many PhD programs are fairly balanced in terms of clinical and research training, with many favoring clinical training moreso than research.
 
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April O'Neil

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This is a myth that just won't die. Most Clinical PhD graduates go on to primarily clinical careers. Many PhD programs are fairly balanced in terms of clinical and research training, with many favoring clinical training moreso than research.

Sigh. So what is the actual difference between a PsyD and a PhD?! Apart from the extra year or two spent pursuing the latter, I mean.
 

WisNeuro

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Sigh. So what is the actual difference between a PsyD and a PhD?! Apart from the extra year or two spent pursuing the latter, I mean.

In many cases, what will vary is six figures of debt and the level of training you will get in evaluating and conducting research. There are dozens of threads here on SDN, if you do a quick search, you'll find a few. I'd go that route instead of re-hashing this topic here, as many posters will get exasperated with the discussion as it comes up very frequently.
 
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April O'Neil

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In many cases, what will vary is six figures of debt and the level of training you will get in evaluating and conducting research. There are dozens of threads here on SDN, if you do a quick search, you'll find a few. I'd go that route instead of re-hashing this topic here, as many posters will get exasperated with the discussion as it comes up very frequently.


Alright, WisNeuro, I'll check them out. If you happen to have any advice or suggestions regarding programs/colleges, please let me know. Thank you.
 

WisNeuro

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Alright, WisNeuro, I'll check them out. If you happen to have any advice or suggestions regarding programs/colleges, please let me know. Thank you.

I'd go with WMTB's advice. Your career interests seem more associated with criminal justice careers than what a forensic psychologist typically does. Shows like Criminal Minds give a false view of what forensic psychology is, for the most part. There are some of those jobs, but they are far from plentiful, and the route you take to get there is long and uncertain.
 

April O'Neil

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I'd go with WMTB's advice. Your career interests seem more associated with criminal justice careers than what a forensic psychologist typically does. Shows like Criminal Minds give a false view of what forensic psychology is, for the most part. There are some of those jobs, but they are far from plentiful, and the route you take to get there is long and uncertain.

Why does everyone I speak to about my interest in forensic psychology (which, btw, began way before the silly show premiered) try to relate it to some or the other pop-culture reference? I found the show itself to be heavily exaggerated and glamourized, and really didn't like it. Please read my second response to WMTB; wrt my career, I would want to focus on assessing/counselling offenders, being able to determine their mental state, the likelihood of their resorting to violence etc.

And I am definitely keen on getting a doctoral degree to do it. Not in law, not in criminal justice, but in forensic psychology. Baby steps though, so a master's and (hopefully) a solid internship or two first.
 

erg923

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Why does everyone I speak to about my interest in forensic psychology (which, btw, began way before the silly show premiered) try to relate it to some or the other pop-culture reference? I found the show itself to be heavily exaggerated and glamourized, and really didn't like it. Please read my second response to WMTB; wrt my career, I would want to focus on assessing/counselling offenders, being able to determine their mental state, the likelihood of their resorting to violence etc.

And I am definitely keen on getting a doctoral degree to do it. Not in law, not in criminal justice, but in forensic psychology. Baby steps though, so a master's and (hopefully) a solid internship or two first.

This really does not require any "forensic" specialty training, at least not in grad school. You are describing a clinical psychologist (doctoral level) who works in either: a state hospital, a jail, a prison, most drug rehabs facilities, community mental health centers, felony diversion programs, or probation office, etc.

Forensic psychologists are no better at determining "the likelihood of their resorting to violence" more than any other mental healthcare provider, because we don't know how to do that...and the variables/data we used to try to do that have extremely poor sensitivity AND extremely poor specificity.
 

April O'Neil

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This really does not require any "forensic" specialty training, at least not in grad school. You are describing a clinical psychologist (doctoral level) who works in either: a state hospital, a jail, a prison, most drug rehabs facilities, community mental health centers, felony diversion programs, or probation office, etc.

Forensic psychologists are no better at determining "the likelihood of their resorting to violence" more than any other mental healthcare provider, because we don't know how to do that...and the variables/data we used to try to do that have extremely poor sensitivity AND extremely poor specificity.


Great. So I guess I'll just have to work like crazy, earn whatever degrees I want to, and end up opening a bookstore. Sounds like a plan.
 

erg923

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Great. So I guess I'll just have to work like crazy, earn whatever degrees I want to, and end up opening a bookstore. Sounds like a plan.

Or, you could none of those things. Its a free country.
 

April O'Neil

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Or, you could none of those things. Its a free country.

'Free' is a subjective term, really.

Seriously though, if my idea of clinical work isn't related to forensics according to you, what is? (Not at all trying to be rude, please don't get me wrong. I'm genuinely asking.) I understand of course that there will be research involved while pursuing a PhD, but what about after? There has to be an array of clinical work a licensed FP does or is capable of doing. Other than becoming an independent consultant, I mean.
 

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Why does everyone I speak to about my interest in forensic psychology (which, btw, began way before the silly show premiered) try to relate it to some or the other pop-culture reference? I found the show itself to be heavily exaggerated and glamourized, and really didn't like it. Please read my second response to WMTB; wrt my career, I would want to focus on assessing/counselling offenders, being able to determine their mental state, the likelihood of their resorting to violence etc.

And I am definitely keen on getting a doctoral degree to do it. Not in law, not in criminal justice, but in forensic psychology. Baby steps though, so a master's and (hopefully) a solid internship or two first.

I was referring to your comment about wanting "analyze crime" in your first comment. And, I imagine that people use the pop culture reference because that is what a majority of early students who are thinking about forensic psych think that they do. It's a myth that we regularly have to dispel. And, erg has valid points, much of what you describe is just clinical psychology in a forensic setting. You don't necessarily need a forensic "track" as long as you have practica opportunities available in those settings. And yes, psychologists (and any other health professional for that matter) are terrible at predicting low base rate behaviors (i.e., suicide and violence).
 

eremitestar

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Great. So I guess I'll just have to work like crazy, earn whatever degrees I want to, and end up opening a bookstore. Sounds like a plan.
It's not that you don't need specialized training, it's just that you don't necessarily need a program that offers a forensic track. You could go to a solid program in clinical or counseling psychology, work with a prof doing forensic research, and choose practicum placements at local forensic-heavy settings (e.g., jails, prisons, community reentry programs, substance use disorders treatment, what have you). This would make you competitive for BoP internships and postdocs, which is the level at which you really get your specialized training. I've worked with 3 forensic psychologists, and none went to a program with a forensic track.
 
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erg923

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'Free' is a subjective term, really.

Seriously though, if my idea of clinical work isn't related to forensics according to you, what is?

That's not what I said. I said "This really does not require any "forensic" specialty training, at least not in grad school."

I would label the job duties you described as wanting to do as basically just being a psychologist who works in forensic setting, with a criminal population. Some clinical-forensic specialty training is in order, of course. None of it has do with crime scenes, jurys, police matters/criminal investigation, crimes, profiling, etc. Very little of it has do with predicting violence.
 
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Harry3990

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It's not that you don't need specialized training, it's just that you don't necessarily need a program that offers a forensic track. You could go to a solid program in clinical or counseling psychology, work with a prof doing forensic research, and choose practicum placements at local forensic-heavy settings (e.g., jails, prisons, community reentry programs, substance use disorders treatment, what have you). This would make you competitive for BoP internships and postdocs, which is the level at which you really get your specialized training. I've worked with 3 forensic psychologists, and none went to a program with a forensic track.

I would agree with everything that eremitestar is saying here. Also, in terms of licensure, people are not typically licensed (in states that I'm familiar with at least) with forensic specialities. They will be licensed clinical psychologists, clinical neuropsychologists, or counseling psychologists who also specialize (through experience/training, not their license though) in forensic services or forensic settings (corrections, expert witness testimony, etc.). Just wanted to add that brief bit of info. I'd encourage you to read up more on licensure if you're interested in those distinctions. But this is why (I believe) erg is pointing out that your interests seem to be more clinical in nature, and regardless, you will likely need basic clinical training (in grad school) prior to specializing in a forensic capacity.

There has to be an array of clinical work a licensed FP does or is capable of doing. Other than becoming an independent consultant, I mean.

check out Wikipedia for a list of some common things forensic psychologists do. Most of these came to mind for me as being good examples most commonly associated with forensic services that psychologists provide (so it's not just me blindly sending you to Wikipedia).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forensic_psychology
 

WhatMightThisBe

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Ahh. Thank you, erg923 and WhatMightThisBe. That explains a lot!

And WMTB, I'm glad to have received such a detailed reply from a current JJ student. Thank you. :) How hard is it to get in, though? The cut-offs must be crazy because they must be swamped with applications. And is the administration student-friendly? A couple of terrible online reviews (on Yelp though, so I wouldn't exactly call them credible) about the staff's 'rude behaviour' and 'nonchalance' got me worried.

And what's your take on DU and Marymount? Are their programs good/decent, do you know?

As for the crime analysis bit, I only mentioned it to indicate my interest in terms of my (limited) experience thus far. While criminal profiling has its own allure, I'm definitely more keen on other kinds of work. My long-term goals revolve around clinical-based work like becoming a licensed full-time forensic psychologist to assess and counsel offenders at say, a state or federal prison. I would have loved to study criminal justice and law too, but my focus is a bit more on the psychology part.

Here's where I'm confused though: I've read PsyDs are supposed to be more clinical-based and PhDs more about research, but at the end of the day, how much of a difference would having a PhD make if I were to take up clinical work? And why do so many experts scoff at PsyDs? Does it matter a whole lot while applying for an internship or job?


Hi April, sorry for the delay. My understanding is that it is not difficult to get into the MA program. I think it is getting increasingly more competitive, but as long as you have decent GRE scores (and by decent, I think something over 1000 is sufficient) and did well in college, you should be fine. I'm not sure how to respond to the administration question. I did all of my post-high school schooling in NYC and in my experience, every single administration was just fairly disorganized and slow-moving. I never experienced a problem at JJ in terms of administration being non-student-friendly. In fact, the administration has been a HUGE help in the doctoral finally gaining APA accreditation. I'm sure every student has different experiences, but I certainly never heard anything overly negative at either the MA or PhD level. In general, graduate school requires a certain level of independence. If you feel you want a faculty member or someone from the administration helping you at every step, that probably won't happen (anywhere really).

Sorry, I don't know anything about DU or Marymount.

I better understand your interests. Should you end up applying to the JJ doctoral program at some point, I would be VERY clear about those interests. I think the other poster here who brought up the Criminal Minds/CSI phenomenon did so because it is really VERY pervasive in the forensic field. You would be shocked to know how many people tell our faculty on interviews that they want to go into forensic psychology because they love watching Law & Order: SVU. It's ridiculous. So as long as you have very clear interests other than crime scene analysis, you should be fine. I think the others' comments on possible jobs with a forensic degree are spot-on as are the comments that you can really go to any clinical psychology program. JJ's doctoral program, in fact, is actually a general clinical program with a forensic specialization. The specialization part means that there is usually a portion of our classes that cover how the topic relates to the legal system if at all, students usually (but definitely not always) involve themselves in some way in research that looks at something forensic, and that some students (but again, not everyone) works with a forensic population at some time during their practicum training. But all doctoral programs, whether PhD or PsD require several years of practicum training throughout your education, so you would have plenty of opportunities to work with forensic populations at local state hospitals, jails, etc. Based on your clarification, I do think that you have an interest that is appropriate for clinical psychology, but I have to agree with my fellow posters, that while you could benefit from a program like JJ or Fordham that has a forensic specialization, you don't necessarily need to seek that out to accomplish your goals.

I, too, am going to resist the PhD/PsyD debate since it has been discussed in a lot of detail. Both degrees require a lot of clinical work and depending on what program you are in, you could be involved in as much research as you want to (or don't want to). Bottom line, if you want to do primarily clinical work, then either degree would be just fine. Good luck with your choices/applications!
 
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Sigh. So what is the actual difference between a PsyD and a PhD?! Apart from the extra year or two spent pursuing the latter, I mean.
This has been asked and answered ad nauseum in this forum over the years, but it boils down to this: Both degrees will yield the same license (as long as one passes the EPPP; review the data for any school that is of interest), but, frankly, the PhD will actually provide one with MORE, in terms of MORE clinical training hours (review previous posts and literature), and most definitely MORE in terms of research training that would be meaningful if you choose to pursue that route, or if that route presents itself down the road. Yes, there are exceptions to everything. That is why they are called "exceptions," meaning that you should not expect them to occur (think "lottery ticket winner"). But, if one wants to maximize options and flexibility, prepare accordingly and choose carefully.
 
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