Forensic Psychology Careers

Forensic Psychology Careers

What is a Forensic Psychologist?

Forensic Psychologists are licensed psychologists interested in psychology as it pertains to the law. These mental-health professionals utilize their knowledge of psychology to help solve legal concerns in a variety of settings. Along with general psychology training, Forensic Psychologists have extensive knowledge of the legal system, as well as ethics and professionalism. These psychologists are committed to lifelong learning, especially when it comes to the connection between psychology and law. Forensic Psychologists are adaptive problem solvers who work independently and as part of a team to study, understand, and solve often-complicated legal matters.


What is a Forensic Psychologist Responsible For?

The field of Forensic Psychology is broad and psychologists specializing in forensics have an equally diverse range of responsibilities. They may conduct mental-health screenings and psychological assessments, facilitate individual and group therapy sessions, and collaborate with colleagues, lawyers, and the court system as needed.

Forensic Psychologists often testify in court and assess the credibility and reliability of multiple sources to gather helpful information. Their scope of work might include evaluations for competency and crisis management, mediation, and jury selection.

Those Forensic Psychologists who choose to work in corrections or law enforcement may provide counseling services to officers and staff. Because their role is often not clearly defined, their job duties are ever-changing.

Due to popular television programs and movies with a focus on crime, Forensic Psychology has gained more popularity in recent years. Very few Forensic Psychologists facilitate criminal profiling. This investigative tool is often assigned to highly-trained professionals in the law enforcement field.  


Where Does a Forensic Psychologist Work?

Forensic Psychologists work in a variety of settings. Many work in corrections facilities, police departments, outpatient care centers, or hospitals. Some dedicate their working hours to forensic psychology research or teaching others about the field in colleges and universities. Government agencies also employ Forensic Psychologists.


What Other Career Options are Available to a Forensic Psychologist?

Additional avenues for Forensic Psychologists include designing programs for correctional facilities or working as independent consultants. Some may prefer working in forensics labs or medical examiners’ offices. Because the profession is so closely linked to other forensic careers, some Forensic Psychologist Jobs move into forensic social work or similar career paths.


What Degree is Required to Become a Forensic Psychologist? What Do They Study?

Individuals interested in becoming Forensic Psychologists must complete a doctoral degree in psychology. Some employers may consider individuals with a master’s level education, but earning a PhD or PsyD in psychology or Forensic Psychology is recommended. While some graduate schools are beginning to offer a Forensic Psychology specialization, students who graduate with a doctorate degree must complete post-doctorate education in forensics. Many undergraduates decide to major in psychology. Others, however, choose another area of study.

Those interested in Forensic Psychology should take classes dedicated to psychology, sociology, law, ethics, and professionalism. After completing a graduate program and the required on-the-job training, graduates take exams to obtain state licensure. Some individuals go on to earn a law degree.


 How Much Money Does a Forensic Psychologist Earn?

As with many fields, the salary range for Forensic Psychologists varies greatly. The median salary is $95,000 annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.) Experience, location, and setting are variables that greatly impact a Forensic Psychologist’s wage.


What Skills and Traits Are Important in the Forensic Psychology Field?

Forensic Psychologists must possess strong communication, listening, and critical thinking skills. Strong leadership skills and the capacity to express oneself verbally and through writing are key strengths of a Forensic Psychologist. It is important for them to fully understand social and cultural issues. As trained professionals, these psychologists may need to interact with offenders and witnesses.

Knowledge in mental-health, law, and courtroom practices is also important. These professionals must be quick on their feet, ready and willing to present to a group of people with very little time to prepare. It is necessary for them to have strong stress-management and coping skills. They must be self-starters and have an excellent work ethic, always motivated, and committed to their field.

Legal knowledge and the understanding of law as it pertains to psychology is a necessity. A desire to keep up-to-date on advances in the field and willingness to learn and teach new information and skills is very important in the field of Forensic Psychology.