Forensic psychologists work in a variety of legal and criminal justice settings, including corrections facilities and courts. In prisons, they serve the mental health needs of inmates by providing therapy and education. In the courts, forensic psychologists are called upon to assist attorneys and judges to assess and provide testimony to the mental health of a defendant. They may also testify in family court. Only a small percentage of forensic psychologists actually do crime scene analysis and criminal profiling for law enforcement agencies. Some forensic psychologists teach in academia while researching criminal behavior. Some work in private practice as opposed to the public sector.
Job responsibilities of forensic psychologists include:
- Gathering information about an individual client, defendant, or wanted criminal through observations and face to face interviews
- Providing psychological findings related to criminal and family court cases to attorneys, judges, and other legal specialists
- Providing mental health services to inmates
- Researching existing and discovering new patterns that can help predict criminal behavior
The BLS reports that employment of "psychologists, all other," a category that includes forensic psychologists, is expected to increase by 18% from 2010 to 2020. Employment growth will vary by specialty, but faster than average job growth is predicted by the BLS for psychologists as a whole. Well-trained forensic psychologists with advanced degrees will enjoy more career opportunities this highly specialized and competitive field.Read More
Job Growth for
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Becoming a Forensic Psychologist
Forensic psychologists typically hold a doctorate in applied or clinical psychology. There are a small number of highly selective doctoral and postdoctoral specialization programs in forensic psychology. Some schools offer dual master's degree programs in psychology and law, but employment in the field of forensic psychology generally requires a doctorate. That said, social workers and licensed counselors with master's degrees can train to work in some capacities of a forensic mental health professional.
Psychology degree programs with a concentration on forensic psychology will require a clinical externship in a forensic facility. Graduates typically continue their education with post-doctoral fellowships and forensic internships. A sampling of classes you may take in a doctoral program in forensic psychology, drawn from course listings for Fordham University's Ph.D. in clinical psychology program with a forensic specialization, includes the following:
- Psychology and Criminal Law
- Psychology and Civil War
- Trauma and Family Violence
- Forensic Assessment
In most states, practicing psychologists must be state-licensed or certified. After completing a period of supervised forensic work, psychologists can apply for certification as a forensic psychologist from the American Board of Forensic Psychology. Requirements for certification include providing work samples and completing an examination.