What is the Job Description of a Forensic Psychologist in Criminal Justice?

The Role of Forensic Psychology in Criminal Justice

In the world of film and television entertainment, some occupational fields tend to be more represented than others. When it comes to forensic psychologists, Hollywood producers and scriptwriters will often portray them as “criminal profilers” in hit television series such as “Criminal Minds” and “Mindhunter.”

The reality of forensic psychology in the 21st century is different than what Hollywood portrays. While they are certainly busy, their job descriptions are not limited to tracking down serial killers who leave puzzling clues behind.

As the name of the occupation implies, forensic psychologists are behavioral and mental health professionals whose findings are often used to make judicial determinations. These professionals may handle cases, conduct research, provide therapeutic services, or give advice.

Forensic Psychology Definition

Forensic psychology brings behavioral research into the courtroom, but it also plays a larger and crucial role in the world of criminal justice. In the movies, forensic psychology professionals are always working with investigators; in real life, their expertise is often required by judges, attorneys, police officers, city planners, school administrators, mental health facilities, correctional institutions, military units, and the private sector.

Forensic psychology often plays a role in punishing and preventing crimes. The word forensic is defined as “the scientific method for investigation of crime”. Therefore, forensic psychology is often described as the merger of law and psychology.

This field of psychology is often focused on the criminals themselves. Professionals in this field are often given the sinister responsibilities of trying to figure out why certain types of people commit crimes; what type of person commits a crime; and how to prevent people from committing crimes.

Roles And Responsibilities

The responsibilities and duties of forensic psychologists place them in various settings ranging from the court system to law enforcement agencies and from correctional institutions to medical treatment facilities.

A Forensic Psychologist, sometimes referred to as a Criminal Profiler, works with law enforcement agencies to develop a brief profile of criminals, based on common psychological traits. In their line of work they study the behavior of criminals and address anything from psychological theories to legal issues. Other than forensics, a Forensic Psychologist will study clinical psychology and criminal justice.

As you might expect, a Forensic Psychologist works very closely with the justice system. Some of the responsibilities they have are to conduct screenings or assessments of prisoners, investigate psychological disorders among criminal and civil court defendants, and to examine the mental state of criminals to deem if they are able to stand trial. Forensic Psychologists work with law enforcement agencies and are often called to testify in court on behalf of the defendant to support a theory the police or prosecutors have about the criminal defendant’s intent.

Forensic Psychologists also develop a relationship with their clients by providing one-on-one therapy sessions, such as when the police have been involved or there is a court order. These sessions are not only for research and study purposes but for therapeutic reasons to the patient as well. It may require the psychologists to perform activities that are occasionally unpleasant. Prison life is stressful for people who are incarcerated, and they could experience mental health issues while in the care of the prison psychologist. In some cases, the Forensic Psychologist may recommend group sessions. One primary objective that a Forensic Psychologist has is to protect the rights of each client they see.

Job Outlook for Forensic Psychologists

According to the American Psychological Association, the job prospects for forensic psychologists look good for various reasons. First of all, this is a relatively young field of practice; the APA itself did not recognize it as a specialty until the year 2001 despite the existence of quite a few landmark cases that have involved the valuable input of behavioral observations.

As a private practice, the APA estimates that forensic psychologists can earn median salaries of $200,000 per year, but this is mostly in the purview of professionals who have pursued doctoral degrees. It is more reasonable to look at the figures compiled by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics for psychologists, who are estimated to experience a growth in demand in excess of 14% over the next 10 years.

In 2019, the median pay for American psychologists was $79,010 per year, which works out to almost $40 per hour. The chances for a forensic psychologist to earn higher salaries are greater because of their specialized training. As previously mentioned, forensic psychologists who earn doctoral degrees and establish their own practice will likely be retained by top law firms and research institutes, but those who earn a master’s degree will find it easier to obtain more lucrative positions in the court systems, law enforcement departments, and government agencies.

How to Become a Forensic Psychologist

Educational Requirements

The American Psychological Association recognizes forensic psychology as a professional field requiring completion of a graduate research program plus an accredited internship. A master’s degree would be the prelude to a doctorate program, and the best stepping stone in this regard would be a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

Florida National University offers a Bachelor of Science program in Criminal Justice, and this is a course of study that can be completed online; this degree can be followed by employment in law enforcement, legal or clinical setting that can serve as a solid base of experience while pursuing graduate courses. FNU is an accredited degree-granting institution that offers financial aid and flexible schedules for working adults; for more information about our criminal justice program, contact one of our admissions counselors.

Study Forensic Psychology at FNU

As American society continues to grow and become more diverse, so will criminal activity. Thankfully, violent crimes of opportunity have decreased in terms of incidence, but crime tends to increase parallel to population growth. a criminal justice career can be a smart move for individuals looking for job security; in addition to forensic psychology, a criminal justice degree can lead to careers in law enforcement, corrections, at criminal defense law firms, or in the court system.

FNU’s Forensic Psychology Masters Program

What is important to remember is that a Master of Science degree in Forensic Psychology presents a higher career potential than a bachelor’s degree in psychology or criminal justice. At Florida National University, prospective students who wish to pursue this expanding career field now have the chance to complete a 36-credit program that features a flexible and comprehensive curriculum.

As a private university serving the needs of the South Florida community, FNU is duly accredited to grant degrees by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; we offer scholarships and financial assistance to qualified students, and many of our courses can be completed online or at our campus locations in Miami and Hialeah. Learn more about FNU by getting in touch with our admissions counselors today.