How do I know if a career as a Criminal Psychologist is right for me?
Those interested in the world of criminal psychology should consider a number of things before pursuing a career in this field. Far too many students start studying the topic in school, only to discover that they can't handle certain aspects of it. The movies and television shows make criminal psychology seem glamorous and exciting, but there are other things involved besides chasing criminals.
The first step involves dedicating yourself to quite a bit of time in college. There are very few positions available to those with only a bachelor's degree. Most employers require at least a master's degree, and those hoping to work as a profiler must have a doctorate as well. That adds up to a minimum of eight years in college, not including field work and internships. Unless you're willing to spend that much time in school, criminal psychology is probably not the best choice.
Another way to tell if this is the right career for you is by looking at your people skills. Working as a criminal psychologist involves working with a variety of different people. These individuals need to have strong interpersonal skills and the ability to work with others. They work with not only criminals, but agents of law enforcement and lawyers.
The ability to adapt well to new surroundings is another skill associated with criminal psychology. These people are often called into different situations on a daily basis. One day they're working with lawyers, the next they're in the prison, and then on another day they're sitting in front of a crowded courtroom. They seldom know what will happen next or what to expect. Even when they work with the same individuals, they still experience different things depending on the situation, the person's mood, and other factors.
Ask yourself if you're capable of working long hours alone, or if you need to constantly be surrounded with people. Criminal psychologists spend a lot of time on their own and can go days without working with another person. They must also have strong research skills and strong organizational skills. When putting together a criminal profile, they have to sift through case files and dozens of other documents. Then organize their thoughts and findings into easy to read documents for law enforcement officials.
Lastly, consider your own feelings about danger and personal safety. The one thing the television shows and movies usually gloss over is the risk to the criminal psychologist's personal safety. They are constantly putting their life in danger on a regular basis. There are stories about psychologists working in the prison system that were attacked by inmates. They face attacks from other inmates in the prison; they face danger when working on a case, because of the chance that the criminal decides to take action against them. There are many different things to look at and consider before deciding on a career as a criminal psychologist.
Schools Offering Criminology Courses:
- M.A. in Forensic Psychology: Non-Licensure Track
- BS in Criminal Justice - Forensic Psychology
- Graduate Certificate of Completion in Forensic Psychology
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