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What Is Forensic Psychology?

What Is Forensic Psychology?

The field of forensic psychology is often thought of as crime scenes and TV shows about law enforcement. However, this sensationalizes what a forensic psychologist does. Forensic psychology is a highly skilled and highly trained job.

Applying psychology to forensics is a relatively recent science, only recognized by the American Psychological Association in 2001. Combining psychology with the legal system requires the ability to straddle two industries.

This article will cover the steps to becoming a forensic psychologist. We'll share the sort of work they do (e.g., psychological evaluations) and whether you need forensic psychology degrees.

What is forensic psychology

It is the application of clinical psychology to those within the legal system. The forensic assessment might be of a criminal, victim, or civilian. They might psychologically assess, discuss forensic psychological theories, and comment on legal issues.

Often working closely with the forensic sciences, it's one of the more versatile career paths. Some forensic psychologists might need to enroll in a graduate program before applying for the job.

What does a forensic psychologist do?

Forensic psychologists are involved within the legal system and issues relating to mental illness. They offer their professional skills to assist, usually by applying psychological assessment to understand human behaviors. 

During trials, psychologists are often asked to stand in as expert witnesses. They can provide a behavioral analysis and competency to stand trial (called competency evaluations) of suspects. 

For example, say a forensic psychologist was dealing with a case of child abuse. They might then have to conduct a child custody evaluation. Plus, they can develop a criminal profile based on the crime scene and evidence. 

However, forensic psychologists aren't only involved in dealing with those committing crimes and the victims of crimes. For instance, many spend their time conducting research that contributes to the field.

Common duties 

Some of the everyday job duties forensic psychologists include the following:

  • Observing and interviewing: They observe and interview people within the legal system. They analyze behavioral, emotional, and psychological disorders. 

  • Writing reports and articles: Strong communication skills are needed as forensic psychologists write many reports on their subject profiling. Plus, those involved in research often have to write papers and articles to share their findings. 

  • Providing expert testimony: Using their psychology expertise, forensic psychologists often provide testimony in the court system and recommend sentencing, treatment, competency, and risk of future criminal behavior. 

  • Counseling and treatment: Some forensic psychologists are involved in counseling victims. They also provide therapy and treatment programs for criminals to rehabilitate them.

  • Supervising: They can supervise interns or recently qualified forensic psychologists to do the job correctly. 

What is the workplace like?

Depending on what role you take up as a forensic psychologist, the workplace might vary considerably. Some examples of where you could find yourself working include: 

  • Clinical settings.

  • Private practice.

  • Correctional facilities.

  • Police departments.

If you focus your career options on the legal arenas, more likely you will work in a variety of places. On the other hand, if you work as a researcher, you will mostly spend your time in labs with other clinical psychologists.

What type of positions can a forensic psychologist hold?

There are many different careers in forensic psychology. Job opportunities range from forensic psychology research to custody evaluator. Typically, you are hired directly by a company or agency if you don't go down the research route. 

You will either work in a legal role or with clientele. Career prospects are broad. Criminal behavioral psychology isn't the only path. Beyond the courtroom, you might also find yourself working with:

The type of training and degree you attain will also impact which career paths are open to you. Get ahead and take a training course in forensic psychology to add to your resume.

What will you learn in forensic psychology?

In a forensic psychology training program or degree, you will learn everything you need to know to kickstart your career in the field. 

Typically, you would start with an introduction to the science, learning about definitions, history, and critical concepts. Then, the program moves on to research methods, theories of offending, criminal behaviors, and offender profiling. 

You might also study forensic psychology in the courtroom and in practice. If you enroll in a degree in forensic psychology, you will go into more detailed clinical psychology studies. 

However, as this is quite specialized, you might begin with a cognitive psychology degree and take a training course in forensic psychology, making you a more versatile psychologist.

Are criminal psychology and forensic psychology the same?

Criminal psychology tends to focus specifically on the criminal mind and criminal profiling. In contrast, forensic psychologists' work includes criminal investigations and the criminal justice systems. 

While forensic psychologists study criminal psychology, their role is far broader than just being a criminal profiler. They work more closely with the justice systems and law enforcement. For example, they might also do expert testimony in the courtroom. 

What is the difference between forensic psychology and forensic psychiatry?

Unlike psychology, forensic psychiatry does not deal with human behavior concerning legal matters. Instead, they deal with diagnoses, prescriptions, investigation, and managing mental illness in situations relating to the law. Psychiatrists are far more science-focused.

Day to day work of a forensic psychiatrist tends to include clinical work, governance, training, and teaching. They might be responsible for up to 15 patients. However, this varies from practice to practice. It can be a challenging and draining role, but ultimately, rewarding. 

How much does a forensic psychologist make? 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual salary of a career in forensic psychology could earn you $82,180. The top wages tend to come from working in government, state, private, or public hospitals. The job outlook is as fast as average, growing at 8%. 

How long can it take to become a forensic psychologist? 

Depending on your route, it can take quite a few years to become a professional forensic psychologist. As it is two disciplines, many have to train themselves in psychology and criminology. 

You might begin with a training course, taking 150 hours to learn the basics. Then an associate degree or bachelor's degree in psychology can take another four years. Consider looking at doctoral programs to launch yourself into higher roles. 

Most forensic psychology careers or psychologist requirements include the need for psychologist licensing. The American Psychology Association suggests that you continue educating and training yourself throughout your career.

How to be a successful forensic psychologist? 

To be a successful forensic psychologist, start educating yourself on psychology and the law earlier rather than later. Begin with a training course to learn the basics and prepare for future doctorate degrees.

Consider joining the Academy of Forensic Psychology and the American Board of Forensic Psychology. The former is a non-profit organization for professional psychological workers. They provide educational workshops, network, exchange information, and offer awards to outstanding practitioners.

The American Board of Forensic Psychology conducts certification and training of forensic psychologists. They maintain a commitment to forensic psychology's study, research, and practice. 

What skills do I need to become a forensic psychologist?

Beyond the educational path, there are specific skills you should acquire and enhance to begin the professional practice of psychology. 

Psychology degree programs can only teach you so much about psychology careers. There are some skills and attributes that you can only learn yourself that include the following:

  • Communication skills, both written and oral.

  • Willingness to continue learning.

  • Strong work ethic.

  • Ability to stay objective.

  • Critical thinking skills.

  • Collaborative teamwork skills. 

How to become a forensic psychologist?

To begin your journey to become a forensic psychologist, start by joining the American Board of Professional Psychology and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. You will need accreditation or board certification by one of these organizations in the future. 

You should check their licensing requirements and education requirements as early as possible.

Try getting some professional experiences in psychology research or clinical settings. Real-world experience is invaluable and will look impressive on a resume.

Take an online psychology program to begin learning all you need to know about forensic psychology. Online programs typically have few requirements for forensic training. Therefore, it's an excellent place to start. 

Or, if you've already begun your journey towards becoming a forensic psychologist, it's always recommended to partake in continuing education.

At Courses for Success, we offer a Forensic Psychology program. This certificate program begins with an introduction to the field and comprehensively covers most aspects of forensic psychology.

Why Courses for Success?

Courses for Success offers over 10,000 online courses, all of which aim to help you in your personal development and career progression. Not only that, but you can also study them anywhere and at any time, and take them at your own pace, too.

You don't need career diplomas or specific experience to get started. From our coding courses and trading courses to design courses and developer courses, every course we offer will help boost your prospects, no matter who you are.

Beyond just the education itself, students will be issued a certificate online after completing each of the learning courses they do. Our online forensic psychology courses are no exception and are recognized by industry leaders. You could make a name for yourself by signing up for a Courses for Success short course today.

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