A Forensic Psychologist, also known to some as a Criminal Profiler, works with law enforcement agencies to develop a brief profile of criminals, based on common psychological traits. Their work involves studying the behavior of criminals and addressing a range of things, from psychological theories to legal issues. Other than forensics, clinical psychology and criminal justice are main studies of interest for a Forensic Psychologist.
The Duties of a Forensic Psychologist
As many would expect, a Forensic Psychologist works very closely with the justice system. Some of the responsibilities they have are to conduct screenings or assessments of prisoners, investigate psychological disorders among criminal and civil court defendants, and to examine the mental state of criminals to determine if they are able to stand trial. Forensic Psychologists work among law enforcement agencies and are frequently called to testify in court on behalf of the defendant or in favor of a theory police or prosecutors have about the mind of a criminal defendant.
Forensic Psychologists also develop a relationship with their clients by providing one-on-one therapy, especially in an instance where police have been involved or there is a court order situation. These sessions are not only for research and study purposes but for therapeutic reasons to the patient as well. It may require the psychologists to perform activities that are occasionally unpleasant. Prison life is stressful for people who are incarcerated, and they may experience or discover mental health issues while in the care of the prison psychologist. In some cases, the Forensic Psychologist may recommend group sessions. One primary objective that a Forensic Psychologist has is to protect the rights of each client they see. One of the job perks is that positions in Forensic Psychology often offer a nine to five schedule.
Employment Outlook and Education for a Forensic Psychologist
The field of Forensic Psychology is becoming more popular among graduates with relevant coursework in psychology and criminal justice. The employment rate of the Forensic Psychologist in the U.S. has also grown. In general, the position of a psychologist is projected to continue to grow by about 11% from 2016 to 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For seasoned psychologists interested in forensics, there are even more opportunities for employment. The average salary is $62,000 annually. However, experienced psychologists with 20 or more years in the field can make over $100,000 annually.
To become a Forensic Psychologist, a Bachelor's degree in psychology is required. Undergraduates with coursework in law and criminal justice, human behavior, or abnormal psychology would be poised to begin a career in Forensic Psychology. Some employers require at least a Master's Degree before hiring someone in this field. Graduate studies include criminal psychopathology, profiling, and clinical psychology. It may take about two to three years and 30-40 credit hours to complete relevant graduate coursework. For most occupations in this field, it is recommended students complete a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, with a focus on criminality, criminal psychology, or criminal justice. Psychology doctoral programs take up to five years to complete and 1-3 years of postdoctoral training before working on their own. All this training and education may seem overwhelming but it will provide a Forensic Psychologist with the best job opportunities and the highest salary opportunities. Entry-level positions are available to graduates without a doctorate, but job prospects increase with education and experience.
Where does a Forensic Psychologist find work?
Prisons are common places of employment for these professionals, and many Forensic Psychologists can be found at rehabilitation centers, law firms, and government agencies. Some may have a private practice or work in a small group of psychologists. Where one lives can impact the salary a Forensic Psychologist can expect. For instance, if you live within the city limits, and are employed by the government, as in a police department, you can expect to earn a comfortable salary. However, a Forensic Psychologist working in rural areas or employed by a non-governmental firm, may not make as much as someone in an urban area.