With the rise in popularity of shows like CSI, there has been a growing interest in any sort of career that is related to forensics.
For people interested in careers in psychology, becoming a forensic psychologist often strikes a chord, without the person really having an understanding of exactly what it is that forensic psychologists do.
So before we talk about how to become a forensic psychologist, it’s probably a good idea to discuss forensic psychology, the role forensic psychologists play and exactly what it is they’re required to do.
What Does A Forensic Psychologist Do?
There tends to be a bit of a misconception that the main role of the forensic psychologist is in the study of crime scenes and potentially connected crimes to help create profiles of the perpetrator to help police identify the culprit and make an arrest.
And while this is one possible role of certain forensic psychologists, it is not necessarily the job you’ll find yourself doing if you decide to pursue a career in forensic psychology.
Much of the work of the forensic psychologist lies in the courts – civil, criminal and family – to help in the assessment of various factors so that the court can come to a more informed decision with regards to the case at hand.
The most well known example is the insanity plea.
This is where a defendant is attempting to be found innocent of a crime by way of pleading that they were not in possession of their full mental faculties at the time of the crime.
It is the job of the forensic psychologist to evaluate the defendant and the crime committed, and make their recommendation as to the mental state of the defendant when the crime took place .
This will then be factored in to any decisions made with regards to the verdict handed down.
Other areas where the expertise of a forensic psychologists will be called upon in a court setting include:
- Making an assessment of a defendant in terms of their capability to stand trial and comprehend the process and the charges being brought against them
- Provide an evaluation of the possibility that a person will commit a crime again.
- Work with lawyers during the jury selection process
- Provide recommendations regarding child custody and who is potentially the more stable and appropriate parent.
- Providing a psychological profile of someone who has been charged with a crime.
Along with matters related to legal proceeding, some forensic psychologists also work in a clinical capacity, providing counseling and therapy to both criminals and victims of crime.
How To Become A Forensic Psychologist
The first step towards a career in psychology is always an undergraduate degree, with a major in psychology or possibly some other related area.
After the undergraduate degree has been completed you will then need to start thinking about which field of psychology you see yourself entering.
If you still think you’d like to work as a forensic psychologist then you will need to continue on with your studies and look at courses that further your knowledge in both psychology and criminology.
Because forensic psychology is a relatively new career option, there are not many dedicated courses, but they can be found at certain institutions.
If you can’t find a specific forensic psychology related Masters or Doctorate program close to where you want to live and study, then you’ll need to talk with people at your college and get their advice about what courses you should enroll in.
Basically you’ll be looking to continue your education by combining aspects of criminology and psychology, potentially all the way through to earning your Doctorate in one of these fields.
Building Your Career As A Forensic Psychologist.
Once you have finished with your studies you’ll need to get yourself out there in the real world and start building your experience.
This may involve doing some sort of internship with a private practitioner, or working within a correctional institution under the guidance of experienced professionals.
The aim here is to build up the necessary experience to get licensed by your State authority. You’ll need to get in touch with them directly to work out the exact requirements for this.
Once you’ve built up some experience and received your license, you may have the opportunity to go into business for yourself which is something that many people aspire to when they begin a career in psychology.
While working as a forensic psychologist is probably not as glamorous as you may think, the work is interesting and varied and offers unique job and career opportunities to someone committed to this career.