There is a slew of TV programming about crime scene investigation and behavioral analysis, but what exactly is forensic psychology? The fictional scenarios imply that these professionals spend each day chasing elusive and dangerous criminals. The reality is that there are many specializations within this career.
What is a Forensic Psychologist
According to the American Board of Forensic Psychologists, Forensic Psychologists combine their psychology degrees with law enforcement, but not always in the way movies and television portray. They use psychology to help police investigate crime, but they also work behind the scenes dealing with business-centered activities. The website Career Profiles, lists many specialties within the field of Forensic Psychology, some of which are in administration and research. Some of these specialties include:
These forensic professionals are program directors, managers and clinical directors. They work in facilities like prisons and juvenile courts, overseeing training programs, doing quality assessment and budget control as well as other tasks to help the organization run smoothly.
Forensic psychologists in case management work with people, in areas like assisted living facilities, who are in the parole/probation system. They offer counseling and support services to people dealing with issues of substance abuse and monitor and support sexual offenders. Their goal is to help individuals cope with things such as relationship difficulties and issues of independent living so that they will not be repeat offenders.
These psychologists use their assessment and treatment skills in counseling offenders and their families. They also work with victims of sexual abuse. Their primary purpose is to identify or anticipate problems and offer solutions.
Court Liaisons coordinate issues between law enforcement and the court system. They inform officers when they are being subpoenaed to testify and supervise and instruct other witnesses.
This is the branch of Forensic Psychology with which we are the most familiar due to the media. These people act as consultants to the police in investigations, respond to major crises like hostage situations and train law enforcement agencies.
Besides these areas, the list of specialties includes:
• Corrections officers
• Forensic treatment
• Jury consultants
• Probation and Parole
• Juvenile offenders
Forensic psychologists are even found in research, investigating better interrogation techniques and ways to work with sexual offenders, among other tasks.
What kind of Education do I Need
According to the American Board of Forensic Psychology, there are few schools that actually offer a degree in Forensic Psychology. Undergraduate students are urged to add classes in clinical and abnormal psychology as well as law enforcement. Although there are some positions available to those with Master’s degrees, Forensic Psychologists all hold doctorates and most pursue post-doctoral education as well. Degree programs include externships at forensic facilities. An article on the Open Ed website, encourages students to follow an applied science rather than a clinical degree tack, because those in applied science can perform assessments, which makes them more marketable.
What do Forensic Psychologists Earn
The Bureau of Labor Statistics groups Forensic Psychologists with “Other Psychologists” in their listings. The median salary for a psychologist in this designation is $84,220. With experience, these professionals can earn well into six-figure incomes.
Forensic Psychology is a comparatively new field that has a better-than-average job growth expectancy. Depending upon the emphasis you add to your degree, your career can take many forms, from a human resources-like position to actual crime solving.