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Program Information

Our doctoral program provides students with a solid foundation in the traditional, current and emerging trends in the field. Students complete a series of courses designed to provide a thorough understanding of psychological theory and methodology as well as applied and basic research.

  • Introduction

    PhD in Legal Psychology

    The Legal Psychology doctoral program is designed to teach students how to conduct research on psycholegal issues. Therefore, students are expected to participate in research throughout their graduate studies. Students will conduct this research under the supervision of one or more faculty members. Students are involved in all aspects of the research enterprise, including the development of hypotheses, preparation of research materials, data collection, data analysis, interpretation of results, presentation of the results at professional conferences, and preparation of manuscripts for publication. Students work closely with faculty and other students to achieve these goals. Students also have access to a variety of research facilities including academic computer facilities, two libraries, psychology laboratories, and video equipment. A full-time commitment to the program requires that students be actively engaged in research during both the academic year and the summer.

  • Program Requirements

    University, departmental, and program degree requirements are listed in the Graduate Catalog. Requirements include 75 semester hours beyond the Bachelors degree. The program of studies, approved by the Legal Psychology Graduate Program Committee (LPGPC), includes: 9 hours of common core courses in Statistics/Methodology; 18 hours of basic psychology, applied legal psychology, or integration of psychology and law; 6 hours of electives (as approved by the student’s graduate advisor); 18 hours of supervised research credits; completion of a Master’s Project; successful completion of the Qualifying Exam; 24 hours of Doctoral Dissertation and completion of the dissertation project. The LPGPC will try to accommodate individual needs within reason, which means there is some flexibility within the system. Please be advised that the courses below are not offered every semester and new courses may also be added to this list.

    1. Statistics & Methodology Courses (9 Credits)

      • PSY 5939 Special Topics: Quantitative Methods 1

      • PSY 5939 Special Topics: Quantitative Methods 2

      • PSY 5246C Multivariate Statistics 

    2. 6 courses (total of 18 credits) on basic psychology, applied legal psychology, or integration of psychology and law (approved by the program director). The most commonly-taken courses that fulfill this requirement are:

      • EXP 5099 Proseminar in Experimental Psychology

      • EXP 5508 Applied Cognitive Psychology

      • SOP 5058 Proseminar in Social Psychology

      • PSY 5939 Eyewitness Psychology

      • PSY 5939 Investigative Interviewing

      • PSY 5939 Child Witnesses

      • PSY 5939 Wrongful Convictions

      • PSY 5939 Interrogation and Deception

    3. Electives (6 credits approved by the student’s graduate advisor. Common electives include additional legal psychology courses, additional statistics courses, and/or Supervised Research credits)

    4. Supervised research (18 credits)

    5. Master’s Project (Note that this project is done completely in-house; students should NOT sign up for Master’s thesis credits; students will usually sign up for Supervised Research credits while working on their project)

    6. Qualifying Exam consisting of three separate exams covering legal psychology, methods/statistics, and a minor area (social or cognitive)

    7. Dissertation (24 Credits)

    Students enroll in Dissertation Credits (PSY 7980) after meeting the pre-candidacy requirements and while working on their dissertation. Passing the Qualifying Exam is a prerequisite to registering for Doctoral Dissertation credits. Once a student registers for dissertation credits, the student must continue to register for at least three credits of dissertation each term until the dissertation is completed.

  • Applying to the Program

    To apply to the PhD in Legal Psychology program, follow the instructions listed on the Graduate Resources page.

  • Admissions FAQ

    When is the deadline for applying to the legal psychology program?

    December 1 for admission for the following Fall semester.

    Can I apply for January admission?

    No, admission decisions are made once a year and students are only admitted for the Fall term.

    My undergraduate major was not psychology. Can I still apply?

    You may apply to the program without a psychology major. However, you must have completed a statistics and a research methods course, at a minimum, in order to be admitted.

    What is legal psychology? How is it different from forensic psychology?

    Legal psychology is the application of non-clinical areas of psychology (e.g., social, cognitive, developmental) to the study of legal issues. Our program in particular concerns topics such as eyewitness memory, investigative interviewing, handling vulnerable witnesses, interrogations, etc. Forensic psychology is the application of clinical psychology to the study of legal issues (e.g., competence, insanity, risk assessments).

    Will my legal psychology Ph.D. from FIU allow me to practice clinical psychology?

    No. Florida International University has a clinical science graduate program, but that is distinct from the legal psychology Ph.D. Therefore, we can not offer training that will enable you to become a licensed clinician.

    Is the legal psychology program accredited by the American Psychological Association?

    No. APA only accredits clinical and counseling Ph.D. programs. Our program is based on applications of social, cognitive, and developmental psychology to legal issues.

    What can you do with a Ph.D. in Legal Psychology?

    A Ph.D. in Legal Psychology will allow you to oversee and conduct research in academic, professional, and government settings. Some of our students have become practicing trial consultants. Other students serve as consultants to government organizations concerned with public policy issues. Some students pursue academic careers and are professors at various colleges and universities across the country.

    I noticed that the application requires that I apply for a particular campus. Which campus contains the Legal Psychology program?

    Legal Psychology faculty are located at both the University Park campus (Charman, Schreiber Compo, Malloy, and Evans) and the Biscayne Bay campus (Fisher). You may choose either campus on your application. In practice, you may take courses at both and be involved in research at both. The university has a bus service that connects the two campuses.

    How many years does it take to complete the program?

    Most full-time students entering with a bachelor’s degree complete the program in 4-5 years. Students entering with a master’s degree typically complete the program in 3-4 years.

    Can I take classes part-time? At night?

    No. Students are required to maintain full-time enrollment in classes (9 credits) and to maintain an active research program. Most classes meet during regular business hours.

    Can I get a terminal master's degree?

    There is no terminal master's degree for psychology-only students. Students who do not have a master’s when they are admitted to the program will earn a master’s degree during the course of their doctoral studies.

    I have taken graduate courses elsewhere. How many transfer credits will I receive?

    It depends. A review of each student’s transcripts is done on a case-by-case basis. This review will determine whether previously completed coursework or master’s thesis fulfills the FIU Department of Psychology requirements. A maximum of 36 credits may be transferred.

    Are there any faculty who are not accepting students for next year?

    We make admissions decisions as a committee. Students are not admitted to work with a particular faculty member but are admitted into the program. Many students work with more than one faculty member, although they must choose a primary faculty member to serve as their advisor. That choice is made during the first year. However, it is possible to change faculty advisors during the course of your studies.

  • Graduate Funding

    The Department of Psychology at Florida International University currently provides a number of graduate students in our program with scholarships, graduate student instructorships, or research assistantships worth $18,800 or more per year. This support allows out-of-state students to qualify for in-state tuition.

    Visit the Graduate Resources page for more funding opportunities.