As a forensic psychologist, you may work in the court system as a jury consultant or as an expert witness testifying on the mental state of a defendant when a crime was committed. You may provide evidence regarding the competence of a person to stand trial.
As a forensic psychologist, you are combining psychology with law and may work with correctional facilities, psychiatric hospitals, or community agencies in performing risk assessment of future behavior of an individual. You may also provide psychotherapy or agency referrals to alleviate psychiatric symptoms that led to criminal behavior.
Forensic Psychologist Requirements
In addition to an undergraduate degree in psychology, you will need a Master’s Degree to qualify for a career position in forensic psychology. A Master’s in forensic psychology is becoming more available through colleges and universities nationwide. There are also satellite and online schools offering an M.A. in forensic psychology that allow flexible schedules that can fit well as you are obtaining work experience in psychology or psychotherapy while you pursue the forensic qualification level.
Your goal is an education that trains you as a psychologist first and merges that with knowledge of the criminal justice system, an understanding of the impact on victims and an understanding of the mental processes of the criminal mind.
At the forensic level, additional training is needed in such areas as evidence-based intervention, advocacy, and related general areas. Further education and experience may be required for more specialized careers such as that of a hostage negotiator or the study of de-escalation psychological techniques.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects career employment in this field to grow 15% through 2016. A PhD is not required to begin your forensics psychology career but will lead to higher income. Also the competition for available jobs is much lower for those with post-graduate degrees, like a PhD.
Forensic Psychologist Education and Training
If you have a Bachelor of Science degree you might choose to obtain graduate training at one of the schools dedicated to the practice of forensic psychology. These colleges and universities grant a degree in forensic psychology in about 2 to 4 years. You will receive not only classroom instruction but hands-on training will commence by working in prisons, clinical treatment facilities, and law enforcement.
The Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology opens the door to working in more advanced roles within law enforcement, courts, prisons and probation, as well as in academic pursuits.
Forensic Psychology – Salary
The median salary of a Forensic Psychologist listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is $59,440, with the highest paid forensic psychologists earning more than $103,000. Salary is commensurate with experience, as well as education, and may be supplemented by consulting work and court testimony.
The median salary range is approximately $45,000 at the lower end of the education and experience spectrum to as high as $77,000. Salaries vary widely depending on the type of workplace; with non-profit organizations paying the lower salaries and with state and local governments paying the highest annual amounts.
The same position in the non-profit area may pay as much as $15,000 less in salary than the same position offered by a law firm or state governments.
Forensic Psychologist Career Opportunities
Careers in forensic psychology are experiencing rapid growth in an expanding number of settings. Jobs are available with child welfare agencies, state forensic units, mental health facilities, and community mental health agencies. There is also the possibility of operating as a private practice – providing psychotherapy – or as a consultant.
Government agencies offer career opportunities as do jails, prisons, and even some family courts. The list of opportunities is broad and rapidly expanding and the areas of specialty are amazingly varied.
Take a look at other great Criminal Justice Careers.