Skip to main content
2 answers
Updated 440 views

Best way to become a Forensic Psychologist?

I am wondering what undergraduate, masters, and doctorate degrees are best for becoming a Forensic Psychologist? I have heard for an undergraduate degree you can do Psychology with a minor in criminal justice or criminology but I am not sure.
#ForensicPsychology #Degrees

+25 Karma if successful
From: You
To: Friend
Subject: Career question for you


2 answers

Share a link to this answer
Share a link to this answer

Madiha’s Answer

Complete a Degree. Students who want to enter this field must earn a bachelor's and master's degree before pursuing a doctorate.
Earn State Licensure. Each state requires forensic psychologists to earn a license.
Find a Forensic Psychologist Position.
Maintain Licensure.
I hope it helps
Good luck
Share a link to this answer
Share a link to this answer

Chuck’s Answer

Hello Clifta:

Forensic psychology is an exciting and compelling career path where no two days will be the same. Becoming a forensic psychologist is not quick or easy but the field is open to students from any background, and it is never too late for a career change if you are interested in solving crime and learning how the mind works.

This guide is full of all the information you will need on the role of the forensic psychologist to help you decide if this is the career for you. The guide also outlines the qualifications you need and the entry-level requirements for the study of forensic psychology. If you are thinking of this field as a potential career path, then this guide is a must-read.

What is a Forensic Psychologist?
Forensic psychology refers to the practice or study of psychology being applied to crime and the law. Psychological study and theory are applied to a criminal investigation to help better understand the actions of a criminal in order to help determine motives, find suspects, and even help to prove or disprove guilt. Forensic psychology can also be used to help understand the problems that cause criminal behaviors, and it is also used in the treatment and rehabilitation of those who partake in criminal activity.

Forensic psychologists can find work in a variety of settings ranging from police stations and government agencies to jails and schools. Other job opportunities can be found training law enforcement officers and also working closely with the police and other agencies to provide criminal profiles to aid in criminal investigations. Other areas forensic psychologists may find work include law firms, rehabilitation centers and in private practice.
What are the different types of forensic psychology?
There are two main divisions of forensic psychology; clinical forensic psychology and social/experimental forensic psychology. Clinical forensic psychology tends to focus on applying psychological theories and methods to understand the mental processes and the behaviors exhibited in civil court and criminal justice arenas. Clinical psychologists primarily work with individuals and meet clients and patients face to face in order to help assess, treat, or advise police or courts about the person they are working with.

Social/experimental forensic psychology tends to be more researched-based as theories are applied to conduct research to help better understand the phenomenon which often occurs in the criminal justice system and which also occurs during criminal acts. Social and experiments forensic psychologists rarely work with patients. Instead, they focus on research and academia in order to further a general understanding of why people commit crimes as well as how discrepancies in the investigation and trial of those crimes can affect the outcome.

What do forensic psychologists do?
Clinical forensic psychologists work closely with individuals in order to better understand why people commit crimes. Areas of popular interest in this field include the study of psychopathology and the likelihood of future violent behaviors, the role of mental illness in criminal behavior and competency to stand trial, the study and treatment of sexual offenders, and how mental illness affects the ability to understand right from wrong. Practitioners of clinical forensic psychology often become licensed practitioners who use their skills and knowledge in criminal or civil court cases or rehabilitation programs.

Social/experimental forensic psychologists spend less time working with individual people but focus on furthering research and study into their chosen areas of criminal proceedings. Popular areas of study and research include eyewitness accuracy and false memories, line-up procedures, false confessions, and police interrogation tactics. Other popular areas to focus on also include jury decision-making and the psychology of deception and lying as well as deception detection.

What are the responsibilities of a forensic psychologist?
Forensic psychologists are often called as expert witnesses in criminal court proceedings, and so it is their responsibility to ensure that they fully understand the individual that they are testifying about. It is their responsibility to evaluate whether or not they are mentally fit to stand trial and also determine whether or not they understood their actions when the crime was committed.

Forensic psychologists may also be asked to give their professional opinion on sentencing, and so it is their responsibility to ensure that they omit no personal bias about the defendant or the crime and give an honest recommendation based upon the crime and the mental stability of the defendant.

It is also the responsibility of a forensic psychologist to understand the legal and justice system in the area in which they work. For example, in some states of the USA, the term "insanity" has different definitions. In order to interact appropriately with judges, lawyers, victims and defendants, and in order to be a credible witness, a forensic psychologist has a responsibility to study the law as well as their own profession.

How did forensic psychology start?
Some of what could be deemed the first forensic psychological study was conducted by James McKeen Cattell in 1893. He asked students from Columbia University to answer a series of questions and also rate their confidence levels at each answer. He found that confidence didn’t always mean the answer would be correct and similarly, some people were insecure about all of their answers, even when they were correct. His initial research inspired many more studies in this area.

William Stern, in 1901, asked students to give oral and written accounts of an argument, unbeknown to the student to be faked, that they had witnessed in their law class. The faked argument resulted in one student producing a replica revolver before the teacher stepped in to break it up. He found that every statement included between 4 and 12 errors. The results also showed that more mistakes were made surrounding the end of the argument when tension was highest, resulting in Cattell cautiously concluding that eye-witness statements became less reliable when high emotions were present.

The earliest example of a psychologist appearing as a witness in court proceedings was in 1896 when Albert von Schrenck-Notzing provided expert testimony in the case of a man being tried for the murder of three women where he outlined how witness testimony could be affected by suggestibility in the media coverage of the trial.

Following World War II, the field of forensic psychology began to blossom, and the courts ruled in 1940 that an expert witness could be called based upon their knowledge of their subject rather than whether or not they had a medical degree. In 1954, judges gave their support to psychologists serving as experts in mental illness during the case of Jenkins vs The United States.

What is forensic psychology used for?
Forensic psychology has many applications with the most well-known being in criminal court cases. Forensic psychologists may be called to testify to a defendant’s mental wellbeing and whether or not they have the capacity to stand trial or whether they knew right from wrong at the time that the crime was committed. Forensic psychology is also used to better understand the actions of criminals in order to help with any treatment and rehabilitation in an attempt to reduce the likelihood of reoffense.

Forensic psychology is also often used to help train police in methods of interrogation and also in investigative methods. Many forensic psychologists will also work as an advisor to the police in order to give expert advice and criminal profiles during live investigations to help police forces narrow down suspect pools or to determine where a criminal may offend next. Forensic psychologists may also help police in matters of hostage negotiations or in tactical operations. They may also offer counseling services to serving police officers and their families.

What skills are required to become a forensic psychologist?
One of the most critical skills for a forensic psychologist is the ability to communicate effectively with a range of people. You will be expected to build relationships with the police force, the courts, and offenders so it is vital that you can communicate well and build rapport in short spaces of time. Forensic psychologists also need a team working and leadership skills in order to be able to perform to the level required of them.

Other essential skills required include the ability to problem solve and make decisions. You must also be able to react quickly and think on your feet. A systematic approach to work and the ability to analyze and present statistical information are also necessary for this field of work. A forensic psychologist should also have a high level of self-awareness and a non-judgemental, non-discriminatory attitude. You will also have to have security awareness and be prepared to accept an element of personal risk when working with offenders, some of whom may be violent.

What are the working hours?
Most forensic psychologists can expect to work a full-time week of 37-40 hours. This is usually between the hours of 8.30 am until 5.30 pm. However, there may be some evening or weekend work if you are facilitating groups or working within rehabilitation.

If you progress your career to work on a freelance basis or run your own private firm, then there is more scope for flexibility with your working hours. Some placements may also offer part-time or job share opportunities, but as with many roles, it all depends on the employer or the facility in which you work.

Where does a forensic psychologist work?
There is a range of job opportunities for forensic psychologists in different job sectors. Most forensic psychologists will find employment in HM Prison Service where you may be based within the prison itself in order to work with offenders on a daily basis either evaluating their mental health, studying their behavior, or working with them towards their rehabilitation.

Forensic psychologists may also find work in other areas such as within the criminal justice system. You will be based in your own office and appear in court when summoned. You may also be working within the police service and probation services and so be based within their offices. Other job opportunities for forensic psychologists can be found within social services, so you would be based within their offices, or within NHS or private hospitals.

Forensic psychologists, especially those focused on social and experimental psychology, can find employment in higher education institutions, either as a research role or as a teacher or lecturer.

What qualifications do you need to become a forensic psychologist?
In order to become a forensic psychologist, you will need certain basic qualifications and degrees, as well as membership to the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and either further study or practical experience.

Chuck recommends the following next steps:

Study this answer
Contact HCPC for further information.
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much! This is very helpful and all the info I needed! Clifta
Thank you comment icon Glad to help you, Clifta. I wish you well. Chuck Intrieri