Do you have a passion for the workings of the human mind and an interest in the criminal justice system? Forensic psychology is an interesting career that combines both the criminal justice and psychology fields. Working in this industry can be extremely rewarding because it allows you to help make individual’s lives better as well as contributes to improving and protecting communities. However, it can also be extremely demanding. If you think you’re up to the challenge of deciphering the minds of a criminals and testifying in court, forensic psychology is the career for you!
Forensic Psychology Duties
Forensic psychologists usually work in the criminal justice system, at a local, state, or federal law enforcement facility. One of their main duties, and the reason why they must have a medical degree, is so that they can act as an expert witnesses. This means they will testify before a judge and jury regarding the mental capacity and stability of persons involved in a criminal case. Forensic psychologists also work specifically with judges and attorneys to help them understand psychological aspects of court cases. For this reason, forensic psychologists must be well-versed in legal jargon and understand the legal implications that mental disorders can have. One good source to learn these things is the Crime Classification Manual.
In order to testify in court, forensic psychologists are first asked to perform a mental health evaluation for both the witnesses and the accused. Doing this is important in an investigation because competency evaluations, sanity evaluations, and ethical analysis can play an important role in uncovering the truth. Many cases have been won, justice served, and individuals’ lives made better, with the help of forensic psychologists.
In order to become a forensic psychologist, you must be prepared to endure several years of school, followed by a few more to gain further experience. The first step will be to earn your bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field. There are many accredited online schools that can help you earn this degree through a distance education program. The second step will be to undergo the rigorous process of taking the MCAT and applying for medical school.
Psychologists must have a doctorate degree, especially if they wish to work in the criminal justice field. Once you’ve been accepted and made it through the next three to four years, you are ready to start your forensic psychology training. This will entail one to two years of internship time actually working in the field.
One important thing to understand about forensic psychologists is that they have to view things differently than clinical psychologists. Clinical psychologists must learn to empathize with clients in order to understand their point of view and find a way to help them. Clinical therapists may choose to do certain psychological tests to understand the thinking patterns of a client. They aren’t looking for a right or a wrong, just an understanding. This same perspective is not applicable in a forensic psychology setting, nor is there a need for empathy from the forensic psychologist. Forensic psychologists are looking for inconsistencies in factual information and to find the true source for any data already presented. Mental evaluations can be court ordered and done without permission from the person receiving the evaluation. The person being evaluated will also have no control over how the information and facts gathered by the psychologist are used in the trial.
Another difficult task required of the forensic psychologist is learning to distinguish when people are putting on fake or exaggerated symptoms in hopes of receiving an insanity plea. This attempt to feign a mental illness is called malingering. It is one of the most common issues forensic psychologists will deal with when performing a competency evaluation. If a psychologist testifies in court that a defendant was malingering, there may be an additional charge of “obstruction of justice”. You can see why it takes a great deal of talent and experience to be successful at this career. It also means a heavy load of responsibility for those who attempt it.
Types of Forensic Psychology Jobs
There are three main areas of criminal justice that require the assistance of a forensic psychology expert: family court, civil court, or criminal court. Forensic psychologists who work in the family court realm will be called upon to offer psychotherapy help to victims, perform custody evaluations, and investigate reports of child abuse. Civic court forensic psychologists assess the competency of witnesses and accused criminals, give second opinions about said competency, and also provide psychotherapy for victims. Those who work in a criminal court will also conduct competency evaluations, work with child witnesses, and assess juvenile and adult offenders.
This is an interesting career due to the fact that forensic psychologists must not only understand the psychology and how it effects peoples’ behaviors and actions, but they must also understand the law. They may even have to rebut the efforts of attorneys who try to weaken the psychological testimonies and evidences in all types of cases. Lawyers have become deft at undermining the authority of forensic psychologist. Thus, the more knowledge of the legal system that an expert witness has, the greater their credibility in court. The more credible a psychologist is, the more work they will receive. Essentially, credibility is extremely important for a successful career.
Forensic Psychology Duties
People with forensic psychology jobs are essential to a court as they are involved in things like competency evaluations, sanity evaluations, ethical analysis, and so much more. Many cases have been won, justice served, and individuals’ lives made better, with the help of forensic psychologists.
The average forensic psychology salary is between $54,000 and $115,720 a year. Some popular areas of employment include police agencies, prisons, and psychiatric hospitals. These jobs are also available at local, state or federal levels. Job growth is expanding about as fast as average for those seeking careers in this field.
If forensic psychology is a career you wish to pursue, get started as soon as possible on your education. The sooner you earn a degree, the sooner you will be out there analyzing criminal minds and helping victims.