In the broadest sense possible, forensic psychology refers to the application of psychology in a court of law. Also, the term might get often tossed when referring to investigative or criminal psychology, like in the case of applying psychological theory to criminal investigation, understanding psychological problems associated with criminal behaviour and the treatment of criminals.
What does a forensic psychologist do?
Simply put, a forensic psychologist is a licensed psychologist, first of all, who voices an expert psychological opinion in a court of law impacting one of the two sides. A general assumption we commonly encounter is that the forensic psychologists only deal in criminal matters, which is more often than not far from being the truth.
You’ll most likely won’t encounter nightmares likes Hannibal Lecter, still a forensic psychologist will deal with a lot of criminals as part of the job.
A forensic psychologist can and will often be called to court as an expert witness in civil matters as well, primarily in issues where emotional stress or suffering is part of the claim, the competency of an aged or ill individual needs to psychologically discerned, whether a death was an accident or a suicide for a insurance claim case, or loads of other agendas.
Some professionals work in family courts and offer psychotherapy services, perform child custody evaluations, investigate reports of child abuse and conduct visitation risk assessments.
Another great pillar in a forensic psychologists’ job description is that of research, by presenting evidence in court and advising parole boards and mental health tribunals.
Key tasks undertaken by forensic psychologists may include:
- piloting and implementing treatment programmes
- modifying offender behaviour
- responding to the changing needs of staff and prisoners
- reducing stress for staff and prisoners
- providing hard research evidence to support practice
- undertaking statistical analysis for prisoner profiling
- giving evidence in court
- advising parole boards and mental health tribunals
- crime analysis
How to become a forensic psychologist?
To become a forensic psychologist – though we will discuss the technical requirements for the job in broader detail onwards – you first need to be a psychologist. This is very important to note first of all, since it means so much, but maybe so little at the same time.
This is why you’ll have to ask yourself some very important questions: do you enjoy working with others? Do you enjoy being around people and helping them? Are you emphatic and can usually tell what a person is really thinking? Do you enjoying challenging problems? During your work as a potential forensic psychologist, you’ll be faced with a slew of challenges, far from being easily resolved. I by no means wish to discourage or detract you from this career, but it’s well worth thinking these things out.
Forensic psychology requires patience, hard work, commitment and creativity. The sheer amount to time in school is enough to drive some people insane, let alone the time spent in the company, in some cases, of hardened criminals.
If you find these hurdles acceptable and enjoy both psychology and law, then this career might be ideal for you.
Forensic Psychologist training and school
First of all you’ll need a licence is psychology which entails a graduate degree. Then you’ll need to enroll in a master degree for forensic psychology, followed by a doctoral degree, at least in the United States. So far this amounts to between 10 and 12 years of school. An online list of institutions offering various types of Ph.D./Psy.D. programs in forensic psychology is available .
Then you’ll need to attend seminars in forensic psychology or take additional courses in psychology and criminology at an accredited college or university. Some people who have become forensic psychologists had pursued a dual degree in psychology and law which helped them quite a lot in setting their career path.
Like a forensic medical examiner, or like many other forensic expert career, you’ll need some proven work experience assisting a chartered forensic psychologist for a minimum of two years. Some states require only year of supervised work experience, however, so check with your local regulators.
The final and ultimate step in becoming a forensic psychologist is to obtain a certification from the . This entails going through the educational requirements listed above and passing an examination.
Forensic Psychologist salary and jobs
The salary for forensic psychologist varies from state to state. Forensic psychologists make an average of $34,457 to $140,323 a year, according to PayScale.com. That reflects average base salary levels of $34,886 to $104,960, plus $197 to $39,453 in annual bonus money.Most likely when you first start off, you’ll be compensated on the lower end of the scale, but expect your salary to double even triple in some cases in as little as a few years of practice.
Forensic psychologist jobs can be found advertised:
- In , which is part of , the Society’s monthly magazine.
- In national newspapers (e.g. The Times, The Guardian, The Independent)
- In specialist publications from the