What is Forensic Psychology?
Forensic psychology is the marriage of the clinical practice of psychology with the law. It is the application of clinical skills such as assessment, treatment, and evaluation as they relate to forensic settings. The forensic settings involve those who encounter the law, legal institutions, and law enforcement. Thus, the practice of forensic psychology most frequently entails dealing with individuals who are criminals or victims of crime.
The profession requires knowledge of the criminal justice system, as well as the skills of a clinical psychologist. The practicing forensic psychologist plays a variety of roles that include criminal investigations consultation, research studies, implementation of methods of treatment, and act as an expert witness in a court of law. The profession involves relying upon circumstance, police reports, witness testimony and other information obtained second-hand.
A bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology will be, in most cases, insufficient for a career in this field. However, this is a place to start your formal education with a Bachelor of Science or Arts. There are several different degree names depending on the particular institution. The list includes:
- Bachelor of Science in Psychology-Criminal Psychology
- Bachelor of Science in Psychology-Concentration in Forensic Psychology
- Bachelor of Arts in Psychology-Forensic Psychology
- Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice degree with a concentration in Forensic Psychology
The typical curriculum exposes students to the criminal aspect, in addition to the psychological issues. Subjects cover assessment, criminal behavior theories, and mental health law. Students learn about criminal profiling methodology, motives behind criminal activity, and the role of these psychologists play as expert witnesses during trials.
Court Liaison Officer: They perform administrative tasks for the courts and act as a liaison for criminal courts and the local police department.
Law Enforcement Officer: You do not need a degree to apply for work as an office at most police academies. However, having one, even an Associate’s degree, may increase oyur chances of being hired. It will become more apparent when you want to move up the ranks, such as detective.
Probation Officer: Knowledge of criminal justice and psychology is beneficial for this job.
Graduates with a master’s degree have not attained the educational level to be a licensed psychologist. Therefore, they are not able to treat patients in a clinical setting. However, those with the goal of working as a licensed psychologist will need this degree as they progress toward a doctorate.
A master’s degree is available as either a Master of Science (M.S.) or a Master of Arts (M.A.) in general psychology studies or in a specialty area of psychology, namely forensic psychology. In general, M.A. degrees concentrate on statistical analysis and research trends. An M.S. degree often focuses more on counseling and the behavioral sciences. The M.S. option may have classes in psychopathology (study of mental and behavioral disorders), communication skills for expert testimony, and patient/client assessment means.
A master’s program prepares graduates for a variety of positions in law enforcement, corrections, mental health administration, crime analysis, policy analysis, and with additional training clinical/forensic psychology practice.
Some of the specific careers are:
Jury Consultant: Forensic psychologists help select desirable jurors for either defense or plaintiff attorneys through their knowledge of criminal justice and human behavior.
Research Assistant: For students who opted for a research-oriented master’s program may have the opportunity to assist in psychological research and experiments.
Victim Advocacy: This profession provides crime survivors/victims, as well as their friends and family with support.
Juvenile Offenders: This role involves working with juvenile residents of live-in crime rehabilitation programs. You conduct the diagnosis, assessment, and treatment plans. They may also be required by counsel to testify at trials.
At the pinnacle is the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree. Both allow graduates to become licensed psychologists. PsyD programs focus more on clinical treatment while Ph.D. programs focus more on research and teaching. Either degree creates an expansion in professional opportunities. Some of these are:
Forensic Psychologist: While a forensic psychologist can fill a number of roles, they often work as consultants for law enforcement agencies. These contract consulting positions include working with federal agencies, such as the FBI.
Psychology Researcher: This may appeal to those who want concentrate their research on the criminal minds. This career path will lead to field studies in criminal behavior, performing clinical studies, and writing papers based on your research for publication in professional journals.
Behavioral Analyst: The best example is the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Units (3 BAUs) within their National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime. The three units are Counter-Terrorism, Crimes Against Adults, and Crimes Against Children. These units employ or contract with forensic psychologists to understand the behavior of individuals who commit crimes and/or threaten national security and/or public safety.