Forensic psychologists are highly sought-after professionals with the important role of bridging two complex worlds — psychology and the judicial system. Forensic psychologists work with both adults and children, assessing individuals’ mental states and providing guidance on competence to stand trial, as well as sentencing and parole decisions. They also perform vital research, analysis and consultation.
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not track data for forensic psychologists in particular, there is no doubt that psychology in general is a fast-growing field. Employment of psychologists is expected to grow 19 percent, much faster than the 7 percent average for all occupations, from 2014 to 2024. The median salary in 2015 for a psychologist was $72,580. Forensic psychologists can be paid more or less than this median, depending on position and level of education.
Forensic psychologists are often glamorized on TV on shows such as Criminal Minds. The actual work may not be as colorful as it is portrayed, but it can be very rewarding.
Pursuing Forensic Psychology
Many people begin their career in this field with a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology. Students need to be hard workers, eager to study and able to do advanced research. They must know how to make decisions based on facts, evidence and statistics. It is possible to continue on to a master’s degree of even a doctor of philosophy (PhD) or doctor of psychology (PsyD, which is less common). Some may also pursue a law degree.
Coursework typically covers domestic violence, mental health policy, criminal assessment, and psychological treatment for children and adults.
A forensic psychologist must have the following skills:
- Active listening
- Critical thinking
- Understanding of court processes and procedures
Forensic psychologists should be prepared to deal with compassion fatigue, a situation where those providing care become overly stressed because of the emotions they experience with on a regular basis. This can lead to disengagement, which can affect job performance.
Check out this slideshow of careers with a bachelor’s degree and with an advanced degree in the forensic psychology field.