Careers in Forensic Psychology: Overview of Options

Degrees in forensic psychology typically cover topics such as clinical, health, family and criminal psychology. Find out about the requirements of this program, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for forensic psychology graduates.

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A career in forensic psychology can require significant training and education. Once can work as a forensic science technician with only a bachelor's or master's degree; however, a doctoral degree and state licensure is required to become a forensic psychologist. A number of different career options are available in this field, including court psychologist or researcher.

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Essential Information

Forensic psychology pairs the study of the human mind with the workings of the legal system. Some jobs only require a bachelor's or master's degree; however, to become a licensed forensic psychologist, a doctoral degree is required. Additionally, forensic psychologists can pursue voluntary board certification through the American Board of Forensic Psychology (www.abfp.com).

Career Title Forensic Science Technician Forensic Psychologists
Education Requirements Bachelor's or master's degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
Other Requirements Crime scene investigators may need fulfill educational requirements that would get one into a police academy State Licensure is required for all psychologists; board certification is voluntary
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 27% for all forensic science technicians 19% for all psychologists
Median Salary Range $56,320 for all forensic science technicians (2015)* $61,489 (2016)**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

Career Options

Careers in forensic psychology could encompass research, observation, legal testimony and behavioral evaluation. Forensic psychologists lend their knowledge and expertise throughout the criminal justice system especially in family, civil and criminal court. Depending on their position, forensic psychologists may perform competency evaluations, provide psychotherapy and counseling sessions, evaluate witnesses and assist with investigations. Their findings and expertise are crucial in helping investigators, attorneys and judges interpret the psychological aspects of their cases.

Family Court Psychologist

Forensic psychologists who work within the civil family court system counsel families who need help working through issues. In this capacity, a forensic psychologist provides psychotherapy and counseling services to parents and children who have been referred by the court - either for evaluation purposes or for rehabilitation. Family court forensic psychologists perform assessments in child custody and visitation cases as well as child abuse investigations. They could also supervise family visitation when necessary.

Civil Court Psychologist

In some civil court cases, a forensic psychologist is hired to assess the victim and determine whether they suffer from psychological ailments brought on by matters related to the case. This type of assessment is commonly relevant in sexual harassment, discrimination, personal injury and worker's compensation cases as well as instances where the plaintiff's psychological state is in question. Civil court forensic psychologists might also provide psychotherapy and counseling services related to these types of cases.

Criminal Court Psychologist

In some criminal investigations, forensic psychologists are called on to provide information about potential perpetrators through the practice of profiling. A forensic psychologist provides a detailed description of the mental and behavioral traits of a person capable of committing a particular type of crime. This could help investigators narrow down potential suspects. Forensic psychologists generally work before and during criminal trials to analyze the accused, evaluate his or her competency to stand trial and assess the credibility of witnesses. Criminal forensic psychologists could also provide therapeutic services to offenders.

Salary and Employment Outlook

Forensic psychologists are employed by local, state and federal court systems. They could also provide services to private individuals, advocacy organizations or be hired by attorneys to work on individual cases. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that the growth rate for psychologists in all fields would be about 19% between 2014 and 2024. The BLS does not provide data specifically for forensic psychologists but reported the median annual salary of clinical, counseling and school psychologists as $70,580 of May 2015 (www.bls.gov). In January 2016, PayScale.com listed the salary range for most forensic psychologists as $38,833 to $107,764.

If you are interested in a career in forensic psychology, you may want to consider the projected job growth over the next decade for specific jobs. According to the BLS, forensic science technicians can expect an increased growth of 27% between 2014 and 2024, while the growth for all psychologists could be somewhat lower, at 19%.

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