A forensic psychology degree can open the door to a wide variety of careers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for psychologists are expected to grow by about 14 percent (much faster than average). This includes specialized fields, like forensic psychology. Those seeking to enter or advance in this field may want to consider pursuing a master’s degree in forensic psychology, which integrates psychology with processes and procedures of the legal system.
The field of forensic psychology also offers a variety of career options—from consulting on public policy to working within the criminal justice system. While these are options that many may pursue, they’re not your only choice.
What does a forensic psychologist do?
Generally speaking, forensic psychology includes areas where psychology and the legal system connect. Many people believe they know exactly what a forensic psychologist does by watching their favorite crime shows. While shows such as “Criminal Minds” portray forensic psychologists as action heroes, the truth is a forensic psychologist will probably spend more time studying criminals and their crimes to help law enforcement better understand patterns in behavior.
While there are many who work with law enforcement to profile criminals, forensic psychologists may also work in a variety of other areas. For example, many forensic psychologists will work in the court system in order to help lawyers, judges, and juries better understand the motivations behind criminal behavior. In fact, many choose this path to advocate on behalf of underserved populations, including African-Americans, Latina/Latinos, those from lower-economic areas, children, or those with mental illness.
There are many paths available for those seeking a career in forensic psychology. Continue reading to discover a few of our highlights.
12 Forensic psychology career paths following a master’s degree
1. Correctional Counselor
Those with a master’s degree in forensic psychology can seek employment in a correctional facility. Forensic psychologists can leverage their understanding of crime, punishment, and the legal and psychological ramifications of both to perform a variety of meaningful roles in the correctional system. This can include offering treatment and counseling for inmates and ex-convicts.
Additionally, forensic psychologists may assist in developing programs that help reduce recidivism rates. Correctional counselors provide mental health counseling and support to prison inmates and often conduct both individual and group sessions with inmates.
Their work might include:
- Counseling sessions
- Conducting psychological evaluations
- Collaborating with caseworkers, lawyers, and other employees at the correctional facility
Correctional counselors can provide deeper insights into the state and well-being of inmates and give recommendations into parole hearings.
2. Jail Supervisor
Jail supervisors, also known as corrections supervisors, work in correctional facilities like juvenile jails, state penitentiaries, and detention centers. Their work centers around keeping inmates and staff members safe. Responsibilities can include overseeing daily activities, alleviating conflict, and ensuring the prison is clear of contraband.
A successful jail supervisor has strong communication and conflict resolution skills. Since their job is to keep the peace, it’s important to understand each situation and deal with it patiently. That’s why a forensic psychology background can be so beneficial.
3. Victim Advocate
A victim advocate works directly with victims of crimes and survivors of traumatic events like sexual assault or domestic violence. Advocate responsibilities often include helping the victim understand his or her case and legal rights, providing support through the legal process, and attending hearings with the victim.
It’s important to keep in mind that advocates are there to provide information, resources, and support to victims—but they do not tell victims what to do. Victim advocates can work for government organizations like police stations or courts and for private organizations like nonprofits or crisis centers.
4. Jury Consultant
Forensic psychologists are needed in a variety of applications in court systems, including evaluating witness testimony, selecting juries, providing consultations, and more. For example, a jury consultant would work with lawyers to provide insights on which jurors to select for cases. As consultants, they do a lot of research into potential jurors and are heavily involved in the voir dire process. Voir dire is when prospective jurors are questioned by both the prosecuting and defense attorneys.
Additionally, jury consultants take notes during the trial itself on juror body language and behavior. This information helps lawyers prep their strategies and coach witnesses.
Because forensic psychology combines psychological insights with the court system, a master’s degree in forensic psychology is a stepping stone toward this career path. Forensic psychology courses often include information on jury selection and courtroom dynamics.
5. Federal Government Employee
Individuals with forensic psychology degree backgrounds can be well-equipped and attractive job candidates for federal government organizations. This can include working at the FBI, DEA, CIA, VA hospitals, or other state and local government institutions.
Forensic psychology prepares people to think critically, combine interdisciplinary perspectives, and apply psychological perspectives to real-world situations. This type of education can set individuals up for success in jobs like being an FBI special agent or a VA hospital worker.
These positions do not require licensure, but it often helps to receive a higher graduate-level degree to further your career in these organizations.
6. Police Consultant
While many forensic psychologists will work in the justice system, others will choose to work on the side of law enforcement as police consultants. In many instances, police officers and detectives rely on forensic psychologists to help them understand the minds of criminals and to help them apprehend felons. While television tends to bump up adrenaline for ratings, this is probably the most recognizable job for forensic psychologists because of shows like “Law & Order” or “CSI.”
Police consultants help educate police officers on how to best approach their communities in order to promote community policing strategies, and how to best address interpersonal struggles or challenges within the department. Responsibilities can include:
- Providing suicide prevention training
- Anger management courses
- Critical Incident Stress Debriefing training
- Educating police officers on how to better handle situations involving the disabled and mentally ill
7. Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor
Forensic psychology graduates often work as counselors in a wide variety of industries. From addiction treatment facilities to domestic violence shelters to private practices, forensic psychology is a versatile field that can translate into many different types of counseling careers.
Of course, many counseling careers do require licensure. If you’re interested in becoming a licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC, LPC, LCPC, etc), be sure to look for forensic psychology programs with a licensure track. This ensures that you’ll be well-equipped to take the necessary exams and apply for licensure.
8. Probation Officer
If you have an interest in working in the justice system but would like to do so more peripherally, consider becoming a probation officer. Probation officers assist in supervising people who were recently released from the prison system and/or those placed on parole (parolees).
A master’s in forensic psychology will aid professionals in making decisions about release date determination, evaluating the likelihood of risky behavior, and advising past offenders. With a degree that is invested in psychological wellness, those deciding to pursue a career as a probation officer can become important points of contact for those who need guidance as they strive to do better.
9. Crime Analyst
Crime analysts work closely with law enforcement agencies to sort crime profiles and detect criminals. They do this by collating and sampling data to control the occurrences of crime in a given location by providing statistical, strategic, and investigative support to the police force.
Crime analysts work with variables such as demographic, economic, and locational factors, which may differ based on the types of prevalent crimes and their frequency. They use tactical methods, strategic findings, and administrative research as tools in implementing their work. These methods may require specialized training and skills––by acquiring a degree in Forensic Psychology, you could gain detailed knowledge on how to examine statistical data, read and evaluating forensic research, and so on.
10. Forensic Research Psychologists
As a researcher, forensic psychology is key to examining many aspects of criminology. Forensic Research Psychologists carry out their research in a variety of areas, including studying criminal history and questioning suspects, victims, and other people related to a crime. They also study the situations surrounding a particular crime as well as the age group that is most related to that crime.
The researcher studies the crime scene and records the information (such as eye-witness accounts, patterns, and evaluation of offenders and victim treatment programs to name a few) that the other law and security personnel missed. Forensic psychologists employ the knowledge of the researcher in abnormal or difficult cases, and the researcher may also be in charge of collating data and cataloging it for forensic and criminal expert use.
11. Investigative Journalist
Those with a background in forensic psychology can use their specialized knowledge to work as a crime reporter or an investigative journalist. In these roles, you play a vital and often ignored role in criminal justice and criminology.
In many cases, investigations become overwhelming to law enforcement agents and detectives, and investigative journalists may step in to provide additional research and even data documentation for certain cases and crimes.
An investigative journalist works with law enforcement to collect and analyze the information that they receive through witnesses and informants, attend and address press conferences, interview victims, suspects and relatives of those who are involved in a case, and follow up on leads and tips that relate to a crime.
12. Forensic Social Worker
This role is a combined social work and criminal justice professional that works to navigate the consequences of crime for all parties involved. They work in association with traditional social workers and help those that the crime directly affects. They serve as a link between the court system, law enforcement agencies, and the affected individuals.
Their work functions include:
- Recommending appropriate therapy and protection of criminal defendants and informants
- Evaluating the defendant’s mental state
- Testifying as expert witnesses
- Identifying criminal activities within their clients
Forensic psychologists have a part in almost all aspects of society, and with the ever-increasing crime rate, their expertise is beneficial to all involved in the criminal justice system
How to become a forensic psychologist
There is no single way to become a forensic psychologist. Forensic psychology is a broad field that applies psychology to the legal system, so forensic psychology careers are diverse and ever-growing.
First, you can obtain a master’s or doctoral level degree in forensic psychology. There are licensure and non-licensure forensic psychology tracks. If you’re interested in becoming a licensed counselor, a high-level forensic psychologist, or a professor, you should pursue a doctoral degree.
As for licensure, the American Board of Professional Psychology has a Specialty Board Certification in Forensic Psychology. This is not a required credential to practice forensic psychology, but it proves that you have a high level of competency in the field.
If you’re interested in becoming a licensed counselor that focuses on dealing with criminal defendants, sex offenders, victims, and other legal arenas, you can become an LPCC (Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor).
Read more about how to become a forensic psychologist here.
Degrees in Forensic Psychology
Whether you’re looking to become a victim advocate or a jury consultant, a forensic psychology degree is a great place to start. The Chicago School offers Forensic Psychology degree programs online and at campuses nationwide.
Learn more about forensic psychology careers and degree programs
If you would like more information about pursuing a master’s degree in forensic psychology at The Chicago School, visit the Forensic Psychology program page or fill out the form below to request more information.