Forensic Psychology Careers

Exploring the Criminal Mind & the Law

Forensic Psychologist meeting with juvenile

Forensic psychology careers are one of the fastest growing segments within the field of psychology. Being able to apply psychological principles to legal issues has become an integral part of the judicial and correctional systems.

Most forensic psychologists work directly with the legal system. The traditional role is to conduct evaluations and assessments of alleged criminals to determine whether they are legally able to stand trial. It is also their responsibility to assess the state of mind of criminals at the time the crime was committed. Forensic psychologists are often asked to testify in court to provide expert opinions and recommendations on cases from arson, homicide, to sexual crimes or acts of terrorism.

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Collaborating with law enforcement authorities is another potential role in a forensic psychology career. Forensic psychologists are often utilized to assist the authorities in catching criminals, profiling behaviors and forms of psychosis in order to pinpoint their whereabouts or how they will strike next. They do this through expert analysis of patterns of behavior and providing psychological profiles.

What Do Forensic Psychologists Do?

The following are some of the common tasks forensic psychologists perform:

  • Criminal Profiling & Investigation Assistance
  • Assess competency to stand trial
  • Act as Expert Witness
  • Assist with Child Custody Disputes
  • Work with Insurance Claim Issues
  • Assess liklihood of repeat offenses
  • Assist with Internet predator behaviors
  • Assess individuals claiming hardship damages in lawsuits
  • Honesty & Polygraph Assessment


Is a Career in Forensic Psychology Right For Me?

Forensic Psychology

Becoming a forensic psychologists that is certified requires a great deal of time and effort. To be an actual licensed psychologist, you must obtain your PhD. While there are many roles to be played for those who have a bachelors or masters degree, the ultimate goal is usually to obtain a doctorate.

Forensic psychology is not a job, but is truly a career for those interested in both criminal psychology and the law. For an in-depth look at the mind of all types of criminals, their motives, and case studies, check out our criminal minds article series. The following are some factors to consider if you are thinking of this career path:

  • Often work with a team of professionals including law enforcement, the court system, and the correction system.
  • Must enjoy learning about psychology and the law
  • Ok with disturbing scenarios, sometimes brutal crimes
  • Ability to work with clients and offenders
  • Must be intrigued by the behaviors and thoughts of the criminal mind
  • Ability to interpret psychological findings within the language and limits of the law


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Working with Juveniles & Divorce Cases

A popular specialization among forensic psychology careers is to specialize as a juvenile forensic psychologist. Those specializing on juveniles typically focus on two different groups of young people.

  • Individuals who are in the juvenile segment of the criminal justice system.
  • Minors who are involved with the legal system for non-criminal reasons. These are usually children who are involved in a contentious divorce. The involvement of the psychologist is due to the resulting child custody issues. Juvenile forensic psychologists also handle issues surrounding possible child abuse or various other family issues.

Specialization as a juvenile forensic psychologist is necessary because the psyche of a juvenile is much different from adults. Special skills and knowledge are needed by the forensic psychologist to recognize those differences and factor them into their final legal opinion. You may also want to learn more about becoming a juvenile probation officer, if you are interested in working with troubled youth.

Some choose to open a clinical practice and take on patients in a rehabilitative role. The goal in a clinical setting is usually to help the patient understand what drives their criminal motivations, and to assist them in overcoming forces of anger, societal resentments, and traumatic past events.

If you are fascinated with the psychological elements of criminal behavior and have a natural disposition for human behavior analysis, a career in forensic psychology could be a highly rewarding and fascinating option.