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What is Forensic Psychology?
Forensic psychologists are responsible for applying psychological techniques to understanding and identifying underlying causes of criminal behavior in a given case, based primarily on the review of available evidence and materials and interviews with the criminal. Forensic psychologists are often called in to discern patterns, methods and other actions necessary for the capture and condemnation of a given criminal, providing testimony and expertise win court when called upon to verify findings obtained through other means. Often forensic psychologists will provide cause and motivation for such behavior, which is necessary in many cases for conviction.
Forensic psychology is the application of psychological principles in a criminal justice setting. A bachelor's degree can be pursued, but most jobs will only consider those with at least master's degree and prefer PhD holders. For those who wish to work within the criminal justice system, the high level of education required to obtain work is based on the fact that a forensic psychologist will testify in court, and the testimony given must be reliable, otherwise the lack of credibility can negatively impact the legal process. There are few professionals operating in this field due to the high standard and necessary education level required to be recognized as a qualified witness.
A forensic psychologist will, along with a regular course load for psychology, take classes in criminal justice. Classes that will be of benefit include:
- Criminal Law
- Abnormal Psychology
- Motivational Psychology
A forensic psychologist must have familiarity with the legal system, understand court procedure, and to be able to relay information in a language the court understands. A forensic psychologist can specialize in family court, civil court or criminal court, and will choose a psychology subfield which will be his or her focus. Forensic psychologists may also choose to focus on research, can work to affect public policy, implement programs in correctional institutions, or work in institutions either with victims or perpetrators.
Job Growth, Salary, and Related Fields
Forensic psychology is a growing field, but educational opportunities have only recently begun to expand. Most forensic psychologists will pursue a degree in psychology and then specialize in forensics through additional classes and licensing or certification. The average salary for a forensic psychologist is approximately $59,500 per year with an average starting salary of $53,000 per year. A career in forensic psychology can be lucrative, especially for those with doctorates. As with many professions, maintaining high standards, longevity, and professionalism will create more opportunities and higher pay for an individual.
For more information, check out our Career Guide in Psychology on the MatchCollege blog.