How To Become A Forensic Psychologist

Medical Specialties

Forensic Psychologist

What is a Psychologist 

It is not rare to find people who ask, “What does a forensic psychologist do?". A forensic psychologist is a person who helps in solving criminal cases by:


  • Narrowing down a list of suspects involved in a crime.
  • Providing a motive for a crime.
  • Participating in the rehabilitation of criminals.
  • Influencing a criminal’s sentencing.  

A forensic psychologist is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle when a criminal case has to be solved. It is safe to say that it is not only the most important but without forensic psychologist, a crime remains a puzzle which means there will be too much guesswork in trying to solve a crime - which can be messy. They are able to narrow down the list of potential suspects, provide a motive for the crime and help to convict the criminal.


While the field isn't quite what is portrayed on the screen, it is still an interesting career option.


There are a number of exciting adventures and opportunities such as evaluating witnesses, offering testimony in court and more. If the combination of justice and psychology appeal to you, this might just be the ideal career option!


An average or professional forensic psychologist is a researcher as they are keen on studying and understanding criminals, the crimes that has been committed, the traits displayed and the behavioral patterns of a criminal. They also try to get more information by questioning the suspects in the interview mode. In simple terms, they try to read suspects, criminals and evidence of a crime scene like a book by drawing out facts and making interpretations of it in order to help convict a criminal and close a case.


Forensic psychologist plays a role in the prevention of crime too as they actively participate in the rehabilitation of criminals.

Duties of Psychologist


  • Study other researches in order to be able to analyze research from other 
  • professionals.
  • Conducts his/her own research.
  • Study criminals by examining and determining their personality traits and behavioral patterns.
  • Study crimes committed by the criminals and determine the type of crime that has been committed.
  • Provides a possible motive or motives for the crime that has been committed.
  • Interviewing criminals and their families.
  • Assist in interviewing victim (if not deceased) and the victim’s family.
  • Studies the crime scenes.
  • Provides substantial evidence that will be useful in developing a criminal profile.
  • Helps in narrowing down a list of suspects.
  • Act as an expert witnesses during criminal cases by giving a testimony about why a crime has been committed.
  • Influences the sentencing of a criminal.
  • Prevention of crimes.

It is true that forensic psychologists are, sometimes, involved in both criminal and civil matters. For professionals working in the civil courts, they don't only assess their competency by providing second opinions to crime victims, psychotherapy is made available too. For professionals working in the criminal courts, they evaluate mental competency, assess juvenile and adult offenders and work with sex offenders.


Bonuses and Benefits of Psychologist

For someone who has passion for investigating and revealing facts about crimes, forensic psychology might be the right path in choosing a career.  Apart from passion being a factor in making one's decision about being a forensic psychologist, the salary is another factor to be considered. Whether the job is rewarding in terms of money or not is determined by personal needs and expectations.


Forensic psychologist’s salaries can be different due to some factors such as the individual’s level of education and the responsibilities that comes with his or her job.


It can also range depending on the sector of employment he or she falls in forensics.


For those interested in the field, it can help to keep in mind that the average salary for forensic psychologists as of 2016 was around $75,230 annually.


It is true that most entry-level positions which is for those with a doctorate often begin between $60,000 and $70,000 on a yearly basis.


The forensic psychologist’s salary is sometimes less than what a doctor or a lawyer’s salary might be, but it is much better compared with salary earners in other fields.


If a forensic psychologist has a bachelor's or master's degree, he or she will hold the psychological associate or psychological assistant title. For the most part, yearly salaries for these jobs can begin in the range of $35,000 to $40,000 annually. However, those who are self-employed can potentially earn closer to $85,000 or $95,000 yearly for providing their services.


Work Environment of Psychologist

Forensic psychologists are involved in criminal and civil matters. For people who want to have forensic psychology careers, employment can be available in police stations, courthouses, and law firms. While some jails, prisons and juvenile detention centers hire forensic psychologists, some individuals might have opportunities to be self-employed.

Some forensic psychologists work as consultants or as expert witnesses with compensation as their reward. They can also work for a certain number of hours but depending upon their specialties and their individual positions.

The working conditions usually depends on the environment setting, which is why clinical and counseling psychologists prefer to have and work in private practice.

General Environment

1

Forensic psychologists usually work based on their specialties. These specialties range from running a private practice, being hired at correctional facilities, for court systems, mental health centers, universities and colleges. Forensic psychologists are able to find work within a number of different environments including correctional facilities, private practices, mental health centers, court systems, law enforcement, colleges and universities and more.

Office Environment

2

A psychologist’s area of specialization and place of work majorly influence the working conditions. Psychologists like clinical and counseling psychologists mostly, prefer to work in private practice because they have their own offices and can fix a flexible work schedule for themselves.


Depending on the path you take, you can spend the majority of your day in police stations, courthouses or even criminal detention centers as a forensic psychologist. Meanwhile, a clinical psychologist will be likely to find themselves in a mental health facility or hospital. It's also not uncommon for psychologists to run their own practices, including sometimes working weekends or evenings to better accommodate the needs of their clients.


Psychologists who work in a business, academic or government, will be more likely to have a regular schedule during standard daytime hours.

Social Environment

3

As a forensic psychologist, it's a good idea to expect that your work would involve law and legal systems in both civil and criminal capacities as they relate to social work. Often, there is a capacity for forensic psychologists to work in a wide variety of areas within the legal system including forensic mental health, victim programs, correctional facilities and law enforcement. There are also job settings that can be found within probation or residential environments as well as the juvenile justice system.


In forensic psychology, social workers work in different areas, including situations involving individuals, groups and families within the institutional and community systems. These forensic psychologists in such an environment as this are known as social workers.


It's important to understand the civil, criminal and juvenile justice systems if you want to be successful in the forensic psychology field. In addition, it helps a great deal to have knowledge of how things like religion, culture, economic and social situations can allow for access to legal services that may be useful.


Often times, these psychologists can work in situations involving divorce, separation and neglect in cases where child custody can become an issue. The work can also involve the termination of parental rights. Forensic psychologists can also be found working closely with both juvenile and adult corrections and justice services. They assist in handling the outcomes of child and spousal abuse and create effective systems of treatment as required by the court system.


Forensic psychologists also offer education, training and consultation to a variety of clients such as paralegals and lawmakers, law enforcement, attorneys as well as those who work within the criminal and juvenile justice systems. You can also find them taking part in treatment, diagnosis and solutions that protect children as well as their mental status, interest and whether or not they may be able to testify in court.


A forensic psychologist has the professional responsibility to endeavor to respect the boundaries of the profession usually. These boundaries can be challenging most especially when the employee becomes strongly involved in trial or casework.

Social work at a forensic level has been recognized to be a noble profession within the criminal justice community. Through their exposure to community causes and social issues, they can impact the outcome for people who are in the process of going through civil or criminal courts in a positive way.


Work Schedules Of Forensic Psychologists

A forensic psychologist’s work schedule is often decided by the employer they choose to work for:


For those working within a correctional institute, government office, police departments or rehabilitation facility, it is standard to work a full-time, daytime schedule.


Meanwhile, for the self-employed the hours can vary much more depending on the needs of various cases and clients.

Working Hours Of Forensic Psychologists

Usually psychologists working in private practice fix their own working hours even while many work as independent consultants part time. They might work in the evenings or during weekends in order to accommodate clients. For psychologists employed in hospitals or other healthcare facilities, evening or weekend shifts is less common but possible.


Important Qualities of Forensic Psychologist

Forensic psychology has to do with psychology and the law and to work in this field, you need more than just a doctorate in psychology.  A forensic psychologist should have important qualities in order to give effective and efficient counsel, analyze and communicate.

Qualities

Communicative skill

In forensic psychology, professionals depend on communicating effectively and efficiently every day. In a situation where by one works in the corrections, one has to communicate with the inmates, provide screenings and conduct therapy, crisis- and anger-management sessions and regular evaluations. These tasks deserves that the forensic psychologist is able to balance effective personal and group communications which includes active listening and speaking skills, the ability to clearly express abstract emotional issues and draw effective communication from others.


Communication skills is required from a forensic psychologist to convey information on paper, file personality assessments, court-ordered evaluations and recommendations and so on. To deliver their findings in professional, legal and academic environments, it is necessary to have strong writing and oral presentation skills.

Observation and Analysis

Forensic psychologists are expected to analyze the results of past sessions with patients, to collect current psychological research, critically interpret their findings and draw logical conclusions from them. In order to analyze their findings, observational skills will come to play.  These are skills that matter during sessions with patients as forensic psychologist seek to understand and interpret the body language of their patients. During https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22708616“>post-session research, they seek meaning in their findings

Inner Fortitude

A forensic psychologist will frequently visit correctional facilities, rehab centers and police departments no matter the kind of office and administrative settings he or she is. They will most likely witness violence, potentially traumatic events and might even be an object of aggression. This comes with the territory, if you must know. So, it is very important that forensic psychologists aim for personal emotional stability first, then develop a highly sufficient level of patience because some patients begin to erupt from behavioral and mental disorders if the treatment takes a long time, which is normal in a way. In psychology terms, professional forensic psychologists have to deal with the burden of trust which means that the problems of their patients is confidential.

A professional attachment and detachment phase

Psychology, in general puts professionals face to face with intense situations and so it is crucial to possess the ability to think on one’s feet. What do you do if emotions escalate during a one-on-one inmate evaluation?

 

A professional forensic psychologist must be able to quickly assess the situation and diffuse it. The job connects you to a large number of people from different cultures, different backgrounds, different morals and different mental health, so as the dramas range from jury selection to child custody resolution, a thorough understanding of current social and cultural issues is needed.

Objectivity

This is one of the important qualities of a forensic psychologist and it means that a professional should, among other things, resist the need to be an advocate for your own ideals but for the side that needs you. A forensic psychologist should be able to maintain objectivity in order not to look like a “https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/hiredgun“>hired gun”.

Critical thinking

A good forensic psychologist should be able to carry out the research needed to have answers for the majority of questions posed with regard to the case. This is also going to require them to read and evaluate professional and scientific readings using critical thinking.

 

Also, forensic psychologists benefit from the ability to work autonomously and from a deep-seated curiosity and drive to continue learning.


Similar Occupations

This is a list of occupations that is nearer to Forensic psychology:


  • Blood Spatter Analyst
  • Forensic Anthropologist
  • Computer Forensics Investigator
  • Crime Lab Analyst
  • Forensic Ballistics Expert
  • Forensic Science Technician
  • Crime Scene Investigator
  • Forensic Accountant
  • Forensic Psychiatrist
  • Forensic Nursing



Projected Future of a ​Forensic Psychologist

​Job Outlook


Forensic psychology has a positive outlook for those who are interested in partaking in the field. It's common for people in these positions to find rewarding, stable work within various areas in the legal system that can last for years. From helping in the creation of public policies to taking psychology into consideration for various criminal cases, it's hard for a forensic psychologist to not find a place to fit. Often, these psychologists are used to help in deciding whether or not a defendant is able to stand trial.

Career Options

In the last years, there has been consistent growth in forensic psychology and this can be due to a frequent need for this kind of expertise in the courts, most especially in areas that has to do with juvenile criminals. One of the more important duties for forensic psychologists involves handling the increasing number of young offenders.


How to Become a ​Forensic Psychologist


Basic steps on how to pursue forensic psychology career:


  • Education should be focused on psychology, criminology, and forensics.
  • A bachelor's degree in psychology with a focus on criminal justice or something similar is a great place to start.
  • Some helpful courses for those interested in forensic include courses on abnormal psychology,  forensics and the psychology of deviance.
  • A Master’s degree and doctorate degree in forensic psychology is necessary.

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