The rapidly growing field of forensic psychology attracts individuals with an interest in the human mind and criminal behavior. Forensic psychologists are called upon as experts for legal decisions regarding defendant competency, violent criminal risk, discrimination and civil commitment. Below is the answer to the question, “How do I become a forensic psychologist?,” and more about this career.
What’s It Like to Be A Forensic Psychologist?
Forensic psychologists perform their work in a wide range of environments, including offices, courtrooms and correctional facilities. At times, this career requires dealing closely with potentially dangerous individuals. Besides criminal matters, forensic psychologists deal with custody battles, lawsuits and insurance disputes. Occasionally, forensic psychologists handle psychotherapy with victims of crimes.
Forensic psychologists must be comfortable working as part of a team and directly with clients and criminals. The career also involves ample amounts of commitment and patience in resolving cases. Because intense scrutiny is constantly applied to the forensic psychologist’s decisions, these professionals have to be confident in their skillsets on the job.
Forensic psychology first requires an undergraduate degree in psychology from an accredited college or university. Many individuals enter the field after earning their doctoral degree in either clinical or counselling psychology. Some aspiring forensic psychologists obtain a doctorate degree in forensic psychology, which is offered at an increasing number of modern schools. Some universities offer master’s degrees in forensic psychology, but the measure of success possible with this degree is not yet well-established.
In some cases, forensic psychologists obtain dual degrees in psychology and law. Some schools let students combine the two degrees in a joint program, and others offer a one-year program for individuals to obtain the Master of Legal Studies degree. Legal studies may not be necessary to become a forensic psychologist in most cases, but the dual degree track will certainly make candidates stand out in the job market. In addition, legal studies will make a more well-rounded forensic psychologist who may be prepared to work in a wider variety of fields within the legal system.
Salary and Certifications
Forensic psychologists earn anywhere from $35,000 to $118,000, depending on employer, location and experience, with the median earning about $80,000 per year. To become a forensic psychologist, individuals must obtain state or local licenses and certifications after their education is complete. Certain specializations or positions may require additional experience or endorsements as well. Most forensic psychologists are employed by agencies within the federal government, such as the FBI.
There is no lack of opportunity for the individual who decides to become a forensic psychologist. In clinical positions, these professionals provide criminals with psychological treatment or counselling. In law enforcement, forensic psychologists often work as criminal profilers, helping agents catch suspects. Some government positions entail helping recently-released convicts find work or counselling juvenile delinquents to keep them out of a life of crime. Forensic psychologists also advise politicians on criminal law issues, such as helping develop effective changes to laws and community outreach programs designed to reduce crime. Finally, it is also possible to become a forensic psychologist involved in teaching or research.