To understand the job description of a forensic psychologist, it is important to know the difference between psychiatrist and psychologist. One of the major difference between both these job designations is that unlike a psychiatrist a psychologist cannot prescribe medication. Forensic psychologists are trained professionals who study human behavioral patterns relating to criminal tendencies and other aspects pertinent to the criminal justice system. Psychology exponents study human behavior, conditioning of the mind and the role it plays in the actions that we undertake. Criminal psychologists apply these same principles to the study, analysis and research of criminal tendencies.
The duties of this profession are wide-ranging and interesting, making it one of the enigmatic career options.
- The job involves working with law enforcement agencies, lawyers, criminals, accused, judges, etc. They will use their training in forensic psychology to assess individuals and to devise action plans to counteract criminal behavior.
- They will interview people who have been incarcerated and are serving time or awaiting trial. In the interview, they will try to assess behavioral patterns and belief systems developed by such individuals.
- One of the main tasks they undertake is to evaluate whether an accused is mentally fit to stand trial or needs medical and psychiatric help. They will administer psychological tests to assess the mental condition of the accused and will conduct one-on-one interviews.
- A forensic psychologist will also work with District Attorneys (DA's) and help out in the jury selection process. Potential jurors will be interviewed and will be evaluated to justify if they are acceptable for a particular case.
- One of their responsibilities is to attend court in the capacity of a witness and take the stand to give their expert opinion on certain matters pertaining to a case. They will testify on different aspects like criminal behavior, mentality of the accused, etc.
- Dealing with juveniles in detention and counseling them is one of the other responsibilities undertaken by forensic psychologists. Developing corrective plans that will help young offenders get back into the main stream of society is part of the job duty.
- Criminal profiling is one of the crime solving aspects of the job. They will predict habit patterns, and sometimes, will be able to generate a physical description of criminals to help investigative agencies solve crime and catch offenders.
- They will also interview and counsel victims of sex crimes, domestic abuse, racial discrimination, etc. They will also help prepare these clients for testimonies that can be emotionally tasking, for example, in rape cases.
Requirements and Salary
- Candidates need a bachelor's degree in psychology with a specialization in forensics.
- Employment for candidates who have completed a masters program or Ph.D. is more readily available than for those with a bachelor's degree.
- The average salary stands between USD 55,000 to USD 90,000, making it a decent profession to pursue.
- Highly experienced professionals earn more than USD 100,000 as well.
Considering the fact that dealing with diverse subjects and extending help for solving crimes makes the job very exciting. But remember, the job profile is not about playing Sherlock Holmes, but more on the lines of the less glamorous part of Dr. Watson. Forensic science plays a crucial role in the criminal justice system. Similarly, forensic psychologists play a big role behind the scene to help investigative agencies deal with criminals.