How to Begin a Professional Career as a Forensic Psychologist

How to Begin a Professional Career as a Forensic Psychologist

 

Forensic Psychologists: A Quick Look
Median Salary $69,280 per annum
Entry-level education Master’s degree
On-the-job training Residency/Internship
Primary employers Private Clinics
Number of positions (U.S.) 160,200 (All Psychologists)
Job Growth (2012-2022) 12% (On par with the national average)
New positions (2012-2022) 18,700 (All Psychologists)

How to Begin a Professional Career as a Forensic PsychologistWhat Does A Forensic Psychologist Do?

A forensic psychologist provides the link between the legal system and the field of psychology, offering their expertise in the area of human behavior in order to assist the judicial system. They may work with police departments, lawyers and law enforcement agencies. Read more.

Salary

The median salary for a forensic psychologist is $69,280 per year. Read more.

Becoming A Forensic Psychologist

To become a licensed forensic psychologist, an individual must be prepared to spend many years in school. After graduating from high school, the individual must obtain their bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field. They then must either complete a Master’s program or find a doctoral program that allows them to move directly from their bachelor’s degree into a doctorate program. The doctoral program will take approximately 4 years to complete, including 2 years of required supervised internships. An individual preparing to be licensed as a forensic psychologist must then work within the field before taking their licensing board exam.Read more.

Job Outlook

Employment within the general field of all of psychology is expected to only rise by 12% between 2012 and 2022. It is realistic to expect that judicial systems will continue to have a need for forensic psychologists to make assessments and offer expert opinions. Read more.

Forensic Psychologist Salary

How much do forensic psychologists make? The median salary for a forensic psychologist is $69,280. Half of the employed forensic psychologists earn less than that figure and half earn more. A forensic psychologist salary will depend upon the educational accomplishments of the individual, work experience and whether the individual is working independently or for a state or federal employer. Most forensic psychologists can expect to work on a full time basis. It is reasonable to expect that additional hours may be spend doing research, visiting crime scenes or judicial proceedings.

How To Become A Forensic Psychologist

An individual wishing to be a forensic psychologist must have their high school diploma or equivalent. They must then complete an undergraduate program in psychology. To become a licensed forensic psychologist the individual must pursue a graduate degree, either a Masters or a doctoral degree. Since the field of licensed forensic psychologists is so small, an individual may severely handicap their opportunities for employment by stopped short of a doctoral degree. How long to become a forensic psychologist? It generally takes 4 years to complete a bachelor’s program. Upon acceptance into a doctoral program, the individual can expect to spend another 4-7 years to achieve their doctoral degree. Some doctoral programs only allow prospective candidates into their program who have already obtained a Master’s degree, which will take 2 years to attain, although there are programs which allow a student to go directly from a bachelor’s degree program into a doctoral program. It is necessary to check with the individual school where one wants to go to school for requirements. During the last 2 years in the doctoral program, students will be required to do 2 years of supervised internship

Educational Requirements

An individual interested in becoming a forensic psychologist must have a high school diploma or equivalent. They must have a bachelor’s degree, typically in criminal psychology. It is advisable to pursue a doctoral degree due to the scarcity of jobs and the competition for employment within the occupation. While attending school, individual can expect to take classes in legal procedure, criminal behavior, criminal justice, abnormal psychology and child psychology. There are very few schools that offer a specialized doctoral degree in forensic psychology, so the competition for these positions is high. Most forensic psychologists must obtain their Ph.D. in clinical psychology and then specialize in the area of forensic psychology through classes, internship and research.

Certification

Certification through the American Board of Forensic Psychology is available for professionals. Board certification is based upon experience and expertise.

Licensing

Anyone with the title of psychologist must successfully take a psychological licensing exam. This cannot be taken until the individual has completed his or her 2 years of supervised internship and has adequate work experience. Typically a state will require that a forensic psychologist hold a doctoral degree, complete internship and work experience requirements and pass the state licensing examination.

Forensic Psychologist Job Description

What is a forensic psychologist? The advent of criminal law shows featuring the work of criminal profilers is the main way the public has become aware of the important job of forensic psychologists. A forensic psychologist is a psychologist who works within the legal system, using his or her training and expertise in human behavior. The job opportunities are varied: a forensic psychologist may help a judge with sentencing recommendations by providing an opinion regarding mitigating factors. They may create a criminal profile of a suspect for a police department and create an assessment of how likely it is that the suspect commit a future crime. Forensic psychologists may generally expect to work in an indoor setting and must be comfortable evaluating persons accused of committing a crime. They may need to visit crime scenes and consult with investigators, lawyers and other medical professionals. Some forensic psychologists work independently, available to offer their expertise to lawyers for the defense or for prosecutors for the State.

Duties

  • Assessment of mental status
  • Assessment of person’s competency to stand trial
  • Assessment of person’s risk of committing similar crime in the future
  • Recommendations regarding child custody
  • Interpret data from polygraph results
  • Personality assessment

Alternative Job Titles

A forensic psychologist may be called a criminal psychologist, although the technical term of ‘forensic psychologist’ is more accurate.

Job Outlook

The job outlook on forensic psychologists specifically is unclear, as forensic psychology is a specialized field of psychology. The Bureau of Labor Statistics gives the field of psychology in general a 12% expected rate of increase in employment during 2012-2022. While this figure indicates a positive increase in the number of psychologists entering the field, it's also on par with all other employment throughout the U.S. (11%). Since there are few forensic psychologists in the field, this field may become saturated, and competition for future jobs may be fierce.

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