How to Become a Forensic Psychology

Forensic Psychologists apply psychology to criminal justice. Although similar in some aspects, forensic psychology is different than forensic science. One major difference is that forensic psychologists look deep into the immense psychological perspectives associated with the crime and apply them to the case so that justice might be served. They frequently deal with legal issues such as news law, and public policies, and are asked to determine the mental state and competency of the defendant at the time of the crime, and throughout the legal proceedings. Each of these issues blends law topics and psychology together, and is essential to the field of Forensic Psychology. Forensic Psychologists also use their knowledge of psychology to analyze a criminal’s mind and intent, treat mentally ill offenders, practice within the civil arena, and consult with attorneys.

Very few academic institutions offer degrees specifically focused on Forensic Psychology. Therefore, individuals who are interested in pursuing a career in Forensic Psychology should take an academic course load centered on criminal justice and psychology classes. Other classes that help prepare students for the field of Forensic Psychology include: cognitive, clinical, criminal investigative, social, and developmental psychology.

Some forensic psychologists choose to focus their careers exclusively on research, which ranges anywhere from learning how to improve interrogation methods to the detailed assessment of eyewitness testimony. Public policy is another area of interest for forensic psychologists. In this line work forensic psychologists act as researchers helping to design prisons and other correctional facilities. Most often Forensic Psychology includes areas between the conventional options of criminal justice (i.e, law enforcement, academic training, and corrections).

Most positions within this specialized area require more than a bachelor’s degree to be successful. In fact, a doctoral degree is required in order to become a licensed psychologist. For those interested in perusing a career in Forensic Psychology, there are some important undergraduate classes that should be taken. These include: statistics, criminology, abnormal psychology, social psychology, and criminal law. One of the most valuable classes an undergraduate student could take would be motivational psychology. It’s helpful for students to understand the motivation behind why people chose to act and think in certain ways early on in their education. Another helpful piece of advice for students interested in the field of Forensic Psychology is to enroll in a bachelor’s of science program rather than earn a degree as a bachelor of the arts.

Persons who have earned M.A. degrees in clinical psychology typically work in institutions, with a Ph.D. holder supervising them. Because forensic psychologists with a master’s degree can be paid less than those who have obtained a doctorate, many are often employed at correctional facilities. Master’s degree graduates, who attended a college concentrating on cognitive, social, and developmental psychology, generally have more opportunities than those graduating with a clinical degree because they will not be evaluating patients. They can do research for non-profit organizations, or for the government, and may also involve themselves in policy making.

Over the last 20 years, the field of forensic psychology has maintained a steady growth rate. It is expected that over the next ten years, consultation, research work, and clinical practice in psychology and the law will continue to grow. Positions working with lawmakers, attorneys, and the courts are predicted to have the highest demand. It is also expected that jobs working in colleges and universities, teaching and doing research, will continue to increase. Changing laws and the development of new and innovative ways to deal with juvenile offenders has become popular subjects of exploration amongst forensic psychologists. Their expert advice can be vital to the decisions made regarding such delinquents. Those with doctorate degrees will have an edge over those with master’s degrees and will have many more opportunities for employment. Those with only a bachelor’s degree will find specializing in this field to be almost impossible.


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