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How to Become a Forensic Psychologist

If you'd like to learn how to become a forensic psychologist, this article will guide you through the requirements as well as career pathways and salary information.

What Do Forensic Psychologists Do?

Forensic Psychology is closely related to a Criminalist or the study of Criminology. You may want to read our article on How to Become a Criminalist or Study Criminology for more information.

Forensic Psychology is not only a branch of Forensic Science, but it is where psychology and criminal justice meet. A Forensic Psychologist must be able to understand and relate to legal language and understand how the judiciary system works in order to have credibility in the court of law. Often your evaluations, reports, evaluation of whether a criminal is mentally fit for trial, your sentencing recommendations, assessing whether the suspect would carry out another offense once released, or even your testimony as an expert witness may be needed in a court of law. You may also work with child witnesses, evlauate abuse, and other legal proceedings dealing with custody following cases of abuse or a divorce.

A Forensic Psychologist can be trained in clinical, social, organizational or any other branch of psychology, and once the knowledge is applied in legal preceedings, it becomes forensic psychology.

According to American Board of Forensic Psychology: "Forensic Psychologyis the application of the science and profession of psychology to questions and issues relating to law and the legal system. The word 'forensic' comes from the Latin word 'forensis,' meaning 'of the forum,' where the law courts of ancient Rome were held. Today forensic refers to the application of scientific principles and practices to the adversary process where specially knowledgeable scientists play a role."

Steps to Becoming a Forensic Psychologist

Here are the steps to becoming a forensic psychologist:

  • Attain your bachelors degree in psychology, criminal justice, or a related field
  • Attain your Ph.D. in psychology (some programs will allow you to attain a masters as part of your doctorate program. For others, you may need a masters before you may apply for your Ph.D.)
  • Determine your field of specialty
  • Complete required internships to attain counseling license, preferrably related to your specialty field
  • Gain relevant work experience in your specialty field, and including crisis intervention, individual and group therapy, and forensic assessment. This could be done while you are working toward your degree(s)
  • Apply for forensic psychologist positions

Forensic Psychologist Education Requirements

To practice psychology you will need a doctorate degree in pyschology. Having taken courses in or an undergraduate degree in criminal justice, or other law related fields will expose you to a career that closely works with the judiciary system, giving you a chance to determine if this field is right for you.

Experience Requirements

The field of Psychology is growing faster than other professions at the moment, nearly 22% (the national average is 13% of growth), so many employers seems to be lienient on how much experience you have. Many jobs require less than one year experience in the field.

Forensic Psychologist Salary Information

Many sources indicate that entry level earning for forensic psychologists is anywhere from $33,000-$40,000 a year (or more if you practice privately), However according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, and in 2010 Forensic Psychologists made an average of $68,640 per year and $33.00 per hour. This field is growing faster than the national average, at 22% and is in high demand right now.

Forensic Psychology Jobs

Forensic Psychologists may contract with individuals and agencies, may work for juvenile detention centers, provide psychotherapy to crime victims, work for Federal or State prisions, law enforcement agencies, rehabilitation centers, and more. Take a look at some of the Forensic Psychologist Job Openings from SimplyHired.

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