There are many career options and branches for forensic psychologists. Once they have finished their degree programs, students are able to work as forensic psychologists in courtrooms as expert witnesses or jury consultants. They may also work in law enforcement or with juvenile offenders.
Forensic psychology merges the career fields of psychology and law. Forensic psychologists are primarily tasked with objectively testifying in court to assess the mental state of criminals and victims. They may work with criminal and juvenile offenders, trial lawyers, crime victims and law enforcement agencies. A minimum of a master's degree in psychology or a related discipline is required for the following positions.
|Career Title||Forensic psychologists|
|Education Requirements||Master's degree in forensic psychology|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||10% (Psychologists, all other)|
|Median Annual Salary (Jan. 2016)**||$61,489|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **PayScale.com
Although some employers may prefer those with a doctorate in the field, there are several career options for those with a Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology.
Graduates of a master's degree program in forensic psychology may qualify for positions within the criminal justice system where they testify in court and assess the mental state of criminals and victims. PayScale.com estimates that the annual salary for forensic psychologists ranges from approximately $38,833 - $107,764, with a median annual salary of $61,489 as of January 2016. In May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that the median yearly salary for all other psychologists (a group that includes forensic psychologists) was $94,590.
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Other Forensic Psychologist Career Options
Forensic psychologists are used by prosecuting or defense lawyers to testify at trial. They testify about the competency or sanity of a defendant, the emotional state of parents or children in custody cases, and the accuracy of eye-witness testimonies.
Lawyers may hire forensic psychologists to participate in a jury selection process. Some jury consultant duties include setting up mock juries, analyzing focus groups, researching case materials and completing other strategic psychological research.
Forensic psychologists with careers in law enforcement may be hired full-time by a police department or work as an independent consultant. Responsibilities may include suicide intervention, post-trauma counseling and stress management. Those with a master's degree in forensic psychology are also qualified to provide counseling referrals to officers and their families. Additionally, they may be involved with developing officer training programs or hiring processes.
Forensic psychologists working as victim advocates provide crime survivors and their friends and family with support and legal advocacy. They provide recommendations for shelter and safety, crisis intervention, education options and preventative strategies. They may also provide ongoing support throughout court procedures.
Those with a master's degree in forensic psychology who wish to work with juvenile offenders may choose from several career paths. Counselors may work with juvenile residents of live-in crime rehabilitation programs by assessing, diagnosing and planning treatments. They may also provide counseling to juvenile offenders and their families directly in their home or in a local community setting. Services include victim counseling, substance abuse treatment, life skills training, conflict resolution and anger management counseling.
Forensic psychologists need to have a minimum of a master's degree in forensic psychology or a related field in order to practice. Forensic psychologists may provide counsel in crimes and in trials, or they may work with supporting and counseling families and victims.