What does it take to become a Forensic Psychologist?
Forensic psychology applies the study of the mind to the field of criminal justice. Professionals in this field work closely with the legal system. Duties are wide ranging, and may include evaluating criminals, testifying in court, working with law enforcement, or helping to choose a jury. They might become involved in a trial when a defendant enters an insanity plea or to treat sex offenders. Some choose to focus their careers more on academia and research. Forensic psychologists may be employed by a variety of places, including prisons, medical examiner's offices, hospitals, juvenile detention centers, universities, and mental health clinics. They sometimes work with insurance companies in matters like figuring out whether a person committed suicide.
In order to become a forensic psychologist, people usually need to have at least a graduate-level education. The first step is to get a bachelor's degree with studies in a related field. Ideally, this means majoring in psychology and taking a number of courses that focus on criminal justice or the legal system. Developing writing and research skills during this time is a good idea. It's possible to get an entry-level job that deals with forensic psychology with only a four-year degree. One example of this is working as a technician or assistant in a forensic hospital. Further education is required for career advancement, though.
There are few schools that offer graduate degrees in forensic psychology, because it's a relatively new specialty. Some students are able to major in this particular specialty. Acceptance into forensic psychology programs is very competitive; it's important to get good grades as an undergraduate. Many students get their master's and doctorate degrees in a related area of psychology instead. Coursework and research projects should be focused on criminal justice or law whenever possible. Before choosing a school, make sure that these opportunities will be available. More and more universities are developing programs in forensic psychology, unfortunately there aren't yet enough to meet the demand. A few colleges now offer a dual doctorate degree that leads to PhDâs in both forensic psychology and law.
Most forensic psychologists benefit from getting a lot of clinical practice in graduate school. This should involve working with typical clients as well as criminals. In order to gain valuable experience, students can consider internships or fellowships. Internships typically take place before studying for a PhD, while fellowships are for doctoral graduates. Working in a prison or hospital in this capacity is an excellent real world opportunity to improve clinical skills. After obtaining a PhD, some forensic psychologists choose to become board certified.
Experts say that forensic psychology is the fastest growing specialty within the field of psychology. As a relatively new subfield, it's expected to develop in leaps and bounds over the next few decades. The criminal justice system is recognizing how valuable psychologists can be, and they are employing more every year. This is a wonderful and exciting time to get started in forensic psychology.
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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