Where do Criminal Psychologists work?
When individuals think of forensic psychology, one of the first things that come to many minds is the image of a criminal profiler, such as Jodie Foster in the film The Silence of the Lambs, playing the young profiler Clarice Starling as she investigates the motives of Hannibal Lecter. However this isn't forensic psychology, but is actually criminal psychology and criminal psychologists who work in different areas.
The purpose of a criminal psychologist is to study the criminal and get inside their mind. They interview criminals and learn more about their background and their childhood. They look for underlying links or reasons for their behavior. They also seek to understand the will and intention behind the criminal's actions, as well as their thoughts and behaviors.
In situations where the criminal isn't known or identified, the criminal psychologist works as a profiler. The role of the profiler involves determining a psychological profile of the criminal. They look at all the evidence, interview witnesses, and speak with the victims. From there they draw up a detailed profile on the individual, including as much information as possible.
The majority of criminal psychologists work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and usually in Quantico, Virginia. This is the home to their Behavioral Sciences Unit. The FBI uses criminal psychologists for their profiling abilities in the case of unsolved crimes. They ask the psychologists to setup profiles regarding the criminal, especially in high profile crimes that cross different jurisdictions.
Criminal psychologists also work for the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime. The purpose of this group involves doing research into criminal activities. They research past activity, look for links into different crimes, and try to draw connections. This helps other psychologists draw up profiles for criminals in the future.
These individuals sometimes work for the legal system at mental institutions and also interview criminals prior to their trials. They look for signs of insanity or any mental instability and identify those criminals that aren't fit to stand trial. They also administer psychological tests to identify hidden thoughts and feelings inside the criminal.
Lawyers often call upon criminal psychologists for help in regards to eyewitness testimony. They also use psychologists to dispute evidence and conclusions on the part of those hired by the opposing side. They need professionals trained in the field to discuss the person on trial and their behavior. These individuals usually have a full-time job, but work as an expert on a consultant basis when needed.
Local law enforcement is another area where criminal psychologists work. Like the Federal Bureau of Investigation, they too need profilers working on different cases. Local police often have cases where the criminal isn't caught until a significant amount of time has passed. In the case of serial criminals who commit multiple cases in a short period of time, the profiler determines the behavior and possible next step of the criminal. They also work on cold cases, especially when the police determine a connection between a closed case and a newer, still open case.
Schools Offering Criminology Courses:
- Graduate Certificate of Completion in Forensic Psychology
- M.A. in Forensic Psychology: Non-Licensure Track
- BS in Criminal Justice - Forensic Psychology
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- Bachelor of Arts in Applied Psychology/Forensic Psychology
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