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Criminal Justice Articles

What does a Criminal Psychologist do?

Criminal psychology is a branch of study that belongs to the field of criminal anthropology. It attempts to delve deep into the minds of criminals, trying to fathom their thoughts, reactions, and intentions before, during, and after committing a crime. It can be a difficult profession at times, since criminal psychology entails extensive research and intensive work.

Criminal psychology started getting prominence as a profession in the US during the 1940s, when the practice of ‘offender profiling’ began. In fact, one of the first offenders to be profiled was Adolf Hitler. The renowned psychiatrist Walter C. Langer was given the responsibility of profiling the German ruler by the United States Office of Strategic Services. In the following years, the opening of an FBI training academy called the Behavioral Sciences Unit (BSU) gave criminal psychology a major boost, and ever since, the field has generated much public interest.

Criminal psychologists are often involved in court cases as they are called up by the jury as witnesses. They help the jury understand the mindset of an offender better, since criminals tend to open their hearts to criminal psychologists. Every now and then, they are required to do clinical work, and hence, a sound knowledge of social psychology as well as developmental psychology is needed. The evaluation of criminals by criminal psychologists carries a lot of weight, because an offender may or may not stand trial depending on the evaluation. If a criminal psychologist feels that a criminal is mentally unstable, he may be sentenced to a mental home instead of a prison.

The job involves working closely with lawyers and attorneys. Lawyers are assisted by criminal psychologists in the trial work. On the other hand, the jury for the trial is selected by the attorneys with the help of criminal psychologists. Sometimes, criminal psychologists are given the duty of framing the questions that will eventually be asked by the jurors.

In order to be a criminal psychologist, you will need to have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and psychology. However, to go up the ladder in this field, you will need a master’s degree to play investigative and clinical roles. Additionally, a masters’ degree will guarantee a better salary as well as a more rewarding job. If you decide to carry on with your study in clinical psychology, you can go on to be a PhD in Psychology. It goes without mention that a PhD will give you even better career rewards.

Criminal psychology is related to forensic psychology in many ways. While the latter tries to put together what exactly happened in a crime case, the former deals with why it happened. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, sterner law enforcement in the coming years will result in an increase in the number of convicts in prisons. This will also mean that the demand for criminal psychologists will rise. Criminal psychology is now an integral part of the current legal system, and it is a valuable component in the judicial process.

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