Forensic Psychology Jobs
You're earning your degree in forensic psychology. Now learn what you can do once you complete the program.
By Jennifer Wegerer
As the intellectual heroes of an abundance of crime novels and films, fictional forensic psychologists have brought many a ghastly mystery to its knees. But what's the job like in real life?
Like any profession, forensic psychology has its exciting days and its routine ones. In the end, however, the research, analysis and informed opinions that forensic psychologists produce have a powerful impact on the criminal justice system and the public at large.
Different Job Categories
Research is central to the job of forensic psychologists, whether they work for the FBI or teach at a university. In addition to research, forensic psychologists apply their expertise and training to a wide range of professional roles. Consider these examples of common forensic psychology career paths:
- Forensic Psychology Counseling: Forensic psychology counseling is responsible for reducing recidivism rates among adult and juvenile criminals and helping victims recover. Areas where forensic psychology counseling plays a key role include sexual abuse, substance abuse, and anger and conflict management. Transitioning inmates from a correctional facility back into society is another crucial duty for forensic psychology counselors.
- Forensic Psychology in Education: At colleges and universities, forensic psychologists often divide their time between teaching and research. Academic research may involve examining legal testimony from eyewitnesses to improve interrogation methods, studying specialized tests for their efficacy in assessing a criminal's mental health, and investigating risk factors associated with criminal behavior.
- Law Enforcement and Forensic Psychology: As members of law enforcement, forensic psychologists might work for the police department or another law enforcement agency, or as independent consultants. Typical job duties for these forensic psychology professionals include helping select other law enforcement professionals, developing programs to train police officers, creating specialized treatment and counseling programs for officers as needed, and assisting in crisis intervention.
- Legal Investigations and Trials: From studying legal documents and testimony to interviewing potential jurors for a criminal trial, forensic psychologists who assist in legal investigations stand as vital members of the legal process. They play a wide range of roles, often serving as expert witnesses at trial, assessing the mental competency of criminals expected to stand trial, and working with child witnesses who will testify in a case.
Forensic Psychology Job Outlook and Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2012-13 Occupational Outlook Handbook, psychology jobs will grow at an overall rate of 22 percent through 2020. Forensic psychologists are part of the larger field of psychologists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2012-13 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for psychologists is $68,640. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors.