Clinical psychology is a compilation of theory and clinical knowledge for the improvement of behavioral and emotional problems. Their research into gerontology, sports, and the criminal mind has improved the assessment and treatment of mental disorders. Approximately, 50% of clinical psychologists in the U.S. have a doctoral degree.

Forensic psychology involves an understanding of the legal and criminal justice system. These psychologists can be court-appointed to assess the competency of a defendant to stand trial. Components of this area may also involve child custody and visitation, or employment discrimination, as well as other matters pertaining to the legal system. These professionals will also be called as an expert witness to testify in a court of law.

clinical v forensic psych smart


Both specialties can begin with a bachelor’s degree in psychology before advancing to a master’s program. There are distinct programs offering a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in psychology. The latter concentrates more on mathematics and the natural sciences. The B.A. programs are for students interested in studying human behavior in preparation for work in the field of applied psychology.

The Bachelor of Science may be more advantageous for students considering a graduate degree. The B.S. degree provides areas of concentration, such as Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience, Developmental, Social, or Clinical and Behavioral Health. You will benefit from a program where you can take heavy doses of coursework related to counseling, human behavior, and mental health issues.

There are undergraduate programs specific to the study of forensic psychology. The intent of your studies in a B.A. program is to enhance the understanding of individual behavior, in terms of its biological, cognitive, social, and emotional components. The curriculum in a B.S. degree prepares students for careers in psychological, legal policy, and clinical research.

There is no benefit of one degree over the other with respect to one being terminal. In other words, you should not consider a bachelor’s degree in clinical or forensic psychology as the end of your college education. There may be some entry-level jobs available but, to advance your career prospects, you need a master’s degree.

Job Description

To understand which degree might be more beneficial, you need to examine the roles of each. One degree may suit your personality more than the other may. For example, if you have no interest in the legal system, then forensic psychology may not be the degree for you. Why opt for the degree whose employment prospects are of no or little interest? However, if you want to sit with clients/patients and listen to their problems, then clinical psychology may be the better degree.

Your role as a forensic psychologist does not negate the possibility of interviewing and assessing people. These psychologists are involved with child services in custodial matters, cases pertaining to the elderly, assessing the state of mind of criminals, and acting as a counselor for victims of traumatic events, particularly crimes. They also work with law enforcement with issues post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). All of these require the same communication skills as those required by clinical psychologists.


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the median salary of Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists at $81,330 as of May 2017. The employment and data site, Glassdoor, reports the average pay for this profession at $79,743. The figure is the result of 316 employees submitting their salary. Another respected source is Sokanu that reports the average salary at $78,690.

The BLS does not have a category for forensic psychologists. ZipRecruiter reports the average pay for a forensic psychologist at $102,064. The salary ranges from $28,500 to $133,000 nationally.

Based upon this salary data, the forensic psychology degree is more beneficial. Keep in mind that salary figures vary significantly geographically, professionally, and by experience levels. In addition, you require a doctorate before you can work as a practicing psychologist. Either of the captioned degrees makes you eligible to work in the field of psychology.

Additional Resources:

What is the Benefit of a Ph.D. in Psychology vs. a Psy.D?

What are the differences in an Online vs Campus Master’s Degree in Psychology?

What Are the Different Kinds of Psychology Degrees?

What is a degree in Psychology?

How fast can I complete my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology Online?

What Government Jobs are there with a Degree in Psychology?

Where are the Careers in Forensic Psychology?