Careers Involving Psychology & Criminal Justice

Because human psychology is very important to understanding why crimes occur and how they could have happened, there are a number of different careers that combine the fields of psychology and criminal justice.

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Career Options Involving Psychology & Criminal Justice

With the popularity of crime scene and detective television series, it is not surprising that many individuals are interested in careers that involve criminal justice and psychology. Luckily, there are a number of different avenues you can pursue in order to enter this field. What you choose will depend on your interests, how long you wish to be in school, and what you want your career lifestyle to be like when you are working. Below, we will discuss several possible careers that involve both psychology and criminal justice.

Job Title Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
College Professor $59,590
(for criminal justice and law enforcement professors)
21%
(for criminal justice and law enforcement professors)
Criminal Investigator $78,120
(for all detectives and criminal investigators)
-1%
(for all detectives and criminal investigators)
Forensic Psychiatrist $245,673
(for all psychiatrists)
15%
(for all psychiatrists)
Forensic Psychologist $75,230
(for all psychologists)
19%
(for all psychologists)
Police Officer $59,680
(for all police and sheriff's patrol officers)
5%
(for all police and sheriff's patrol officers)
Crime Scene Photographer $34,070
(for all photographers)
3%
(for all photographers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information for Jobs Involving Psychology & Criminal Justice

College Professor

For students who are interested in pursuing a career in the fields of psychology and criminal justice, they will likely have to complete some sort of degree or certificate program at a post-secondary institution. You may be interested in working as a professor who teaches course in psychology, criminal justice, crime scene investigation, or other related topics. Professors may have worked in the field themselves before transitioning into teaching or they may have spent their careers in research. To become a college-level professor, you generally need to achieve at least a master's degree in your desired field of study, though many individuals also have a doctoral degree.

Criminal Investigator

Criminal investigators are a type of law enforcement. They have a number of different responsibilities, though they mainly work by gathering evidence from crime scenes to solve open cases. They also interview suspects, create crime timelines, and work with other law enforcement professionals. While obviously within the criminal justice field, a criminal investigator also must have an understanding of human psychology, as many of the crimes they deal with may involve psychologically disturbed individuals. To become a criminal investigator, you generally will need to complete a four-year degree in a field like criminal justice or forensic science. You then must apply through whatever law enforcement agency you are interested in working with. The requirements will likely vary by agency.

Forensic Psychiatrist

Psychiatry is a branch of medicine that focuses on mental health. Psychiatrists are able to diagnose various mental illnesses through counseling patients and psychoanalysis. They also have the power to prescribe medication. While forensic psychiatrists can do all of these duties, they also analyze criminals and suspects to see if they have any mental illnesses that could help explain their actions. They may be called to testify before a judge and jury to testify on the mental condition of an individual, as this can play a large role in the result of the case. To become a forensic psychiatrist, an individual must complete medical school and choose the psychiatry specialization. They would then complete additional special training in forensic psychiatry.

Forensic Psychologist

Much like a psychiatrist, psychologists are mental health professionals. While they can assess patients and diagnose various mental disorders, they do not have the power to write prescriptions. Forensic psychologists specialize in using their knowledge of mental health and applying it to criminal and civil court cases. They often work with police departments, the court system, and lawyers to assess various cases. These may include testifying to the mental state of a defendant, explaining a psychological concept or phenomenon to a jury, and helping select a jury. Forensic psychologists typically have obtained a doctoral degree in psychology and have become licensed to practice in their state.

Police Officer

Police officers are often the front lines of the criminal justice system. They are often the first to arrive on the scene of an accident or crime and the first to speak to victims and suspects. These individuals must be quick-thinking, as they have to be able to assess a scene within minutes to determine if a threat is present and whether anyone is in danger. Police officers often question suspects and witnesses, which may require a certain understanding on human psychology in order to assess if they are being told the truth or not. Police officers must complete specialized training in the police academy.

Crime Scene Photographer

After a crime has occurred, there are many important professionals on scene that are trying to understand what happened. One of these individuals is the crime scene photographer. They play a key role in an investigation, as they preserve evidence through photos of the crime scene. These photos are very important, as they show key details that may have not been noticed while on scene. Crime scene photographers may be employed by government law enforcement agencies and work on a team of other investigators and police officers. While their main role is to document photos of the crime scene, they may also play a role in helping others understand how a crime may have occurred, which could require an understanding of psychology. To become a crime scene photographer, individuals often pursue a degree photography or criminal justice.

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