innerbody

Criminal Psychology Careers

What Does a Criminal Psychologist Do?

criminal psychologist meets lawyers

What motivates someone to commit a crime? Which incarceration and rehabilitation methods are most effective? How can society help prevent incarcerated persons from re-offending after their release? A criminal psychologist attempts to answer all these intriguing questions using research-based techniques to investigate criminal cases, collaborate with prisons and police, and navigate the criminal justice system.

As an expert in both law and psychology, a criminal psychologist (also known as a forensic psychologist) works closely with judges, attorneys and other legal professionals to analyze the psychological aspects of crime and punishment. While many people believe this is a job that resembles the crime-solving methods of characters on TV procedurals, the reality is far from it. In fact, criminal psychologists devote relatively little of their time to examining crime scenes and attempting to “get into the head” of a criminal perpetrator. Most day-to-day responsibilities are far more benign, collaborative, and interpersonal.

Broadly speaking, forensic and criminal psychology can be seen as a form of applied social psychology or applied social work. Psychologists in this field interact heavily with the bureaucracy of the legal system and devote much of their time to assessing a detained person and his or her incarceration environment. Criminal psychologists are often staffed within jails and prisons, helping to form treatment plans for offenders, or evaluating programs that already exist (such as mandatory drug treatment). While criminal psychologists do work with police and investigators as well, their primary concern is evaluating police methods and helping to improve a police department’s functioning at a broad, systematic level.

A criminal psychologist’s role within the criminal justice system often is to make psychological assessments of incarcerated persons, both formal and informal. These professionals are often hired to assess the accused person’s motivations, mental status and fitness for trial. The psychologist may be called on to evaluate parental fitness in child custody cases and interview children about their preferences and needs. Psychologists may also be tasked with interviewing children and other vulnerable populations who have been victimized.

Criminal psychologists may be asked to testify in court, providing information on factors such as a defendant’s competency or sanity, and can serve as an “expert witness” on a variety of relevant psychological topics. It should be noted, however, that very few criminal psychologists are involved in deeming defendants “insane”, or in assisting with an “insanity defense”. Criminal defendants are rarely deemed insane by the court system, and the so-called “insanity defense” is so unsuccessful and challenging that it is rarely attempted.

On the other side of the courtroom, criminal psychologists may assist with jury selection for either the prosecution or the defense. They may help attorneys form probing questions that are posed to potential jurors, and can assist in interpreting responses. After a verdict has been reached, a criminal psychologist can provide sentencing and treatment recommendations based on his or her assessment of the defendant.

In a jail or prison setting, these psychologists evaluate inmates, predict their risk of recidivism (re-offending), and make recommendations that can affect their parole status. Some criminal psychologists work with offenders in a therapeutic capacity to modify problem behaviors and promote successful rehabilitation. They also work with correctional facility staff for assistance with issues such as inmate mental health.

Criminal profilers (also called investigative analysts) represent a subspecialty within the larger field of forensic psychology. Criminal profilers analyze crime scene evidence in order to provide investigators with descriptions of unknown offenders. Drawing on their knowledge of human behavior and crime statistics, they make educated guesses about the offender’s age, sex, occupation, personal habits and behavior, which inform the investigations of police. These clues help investigators to focus and narrow their search. However, these professionals represent a minority of criminal psychologists.

Salary and Job Outlook

State
Average Wage
California
$107660
Florida
$91920
Massachusetts
$80230
Texas
$90570

Hover over any state to explore local income and job growth data.

Created with Raphaël 2.1.0 AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE DC FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY

ALABAMA

Median Salary: 
$94,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $58,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $108,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 2%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

ALASKA

Median Salary: 
$91,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $80,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $105,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Anchorage$80,940$91,720$105,860

ARIZONA

Median Salary: 
$95,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $43,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $108,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Phoenix$24,520$93,900$108,130
Tuscon$23,980$94,590$108,500

ARKANSAS

Median Salary: 
$89,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $42,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $108,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Little Rock$24,060$89,030$108,490

CALIFORNIA

Median Salary: 
$105,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $47,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $136,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 80

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Los Angeles$47,040$113,450$151,050
San Francisco Bay$50,010$111,990$133,680
San Diego$45,950$105,480$124,440
Sacramento$54,500$95,290$127,050

COLORADO

Median Salary: 
$92,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $39,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $112,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Denver$47,790$101,510$116,450
Colorado Springs$74,870$97,380$108,510

CONNECTICUT

Median Salary: 
$94,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $26,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $119,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Hartford$26,430$95,660$138,540

DELAWARE

Salary and Job Growth Data Not Available

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Median Salary: 
$96,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $41,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $126,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Washington DC$52,180$99,920$158,520

FLORIDA

Median Salary: 
$87,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $43,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $148,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 29%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 100

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Miami$33,900$77,000$164,480
Orlando$70,180$91,820$119,340
Tampa$43,720$89,030$108,510
Jacksonville$53,950$83,530$108,500

GEORGIA

Median Salary: 
$91,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $44,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $108,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 0%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Atlanta$45,050$95,930$111,840
Augusta$23,980$91,820$108,500

HAWAII

Salary and Job Growth Data Not Available

IDAHO

Median Salary: 
$91,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $26,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $105,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 37%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

ILLINOIS

Median Salary: 
$101,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $39,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 16%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

INDIANA

Median Salary: 
$92,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $33,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $108,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 19%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Indianapolis$58,830$97,800$109,010

IOWA

Median Salary: 
$100,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $24,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $112,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

KANSAS

Median Salary: 
$89,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $55,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $108,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Kansas City$55,140$91,820$108,500

KENTUCKY

Median Salary: 
$91,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $50,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $108,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

LOUISIANA

Median Salary: 
$94,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $57,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $113,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New Orleans$42,230$92,760$114,170
Baton Rouge$60,950$91,830$118,280

MAINE

Salary and Job Growth Data Not Available

MARYLAND

Median Salary: 
$102,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $48,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $150,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 26%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Baltimore$36,880$99,910$147,950
Frederick$52,180$111,200$153,350

MASSACHUSETTS

Median Salary: 
$90,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $41,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $124,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boston$40,810$77,220$122,710
Springfield$26,940$101,200$122,640

MICHIGAN

Median Salary: 
$90,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $31,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $111,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 2%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Detroit$26,060$93,750$117,940

MINNESOTA

Median Salary: 
$102,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $45,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

MISSISSIPPI

Median Salary: 
$83,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $24,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $100,200

Job Growth Data Not Available

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Gulfport$23,970$86,240$100,170

MISSOURI

Median Salary: 
$94,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $42,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $108,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 3%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
St. Louis$33,160$91,820$102,960
Kansas City$55,140$91,820$108,500

MONTANA

Median Salary: 
$89,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $34,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $108,500

Job Growth Data Not Available

NEBRASKA

Median Salary: 
$94,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $31,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $105,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 29%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Omaha$38,720$92,840$105,710

NEVADA

Salary Data Not Available

2014-2024 Job Growth: 4%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Las Vegas$51,940$91,830$102,960

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Salary Data Not Available

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

NEW JERSEY

Median Salary: 
$103,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $33,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $122,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: -4%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Newark$27,040$106,640$122,350

NEW MEXICO

Median Salary: 
$91,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $42,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $108,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 21%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Albuquerque$30,900$93,010$108,500

NEW YORK

Median Salary: 
$100,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $40,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 19%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New York City$40,840$109,790Over $187,200

NORTH CAROLINA

Median Salary: 
$94,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $43,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $108,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Charlotte$23,980$91,830$105,720

NORTH DAKOTA

Median Salary: 
$83,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $39,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $108,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

OHIO

Median Salary: 
$96,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $43,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $112,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: -5%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Cleveland$24,930$95,440$107,020
Columbus$72,040$97,080$102,790
Cincinnati$43,850$98,220$109,790
Dayton$77,840$101,370$132,210

OKLAHOMA

Salary Data Not Available

2014-2024 Job Growth: 9%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

OREGON

Median Salary: 
$91,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $35,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $114,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 6%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$44,520$93,550$111,460

PENNSYLVANIA

Median Salary: 
$90,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $51,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $111,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 9%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Philadelphia$49,560$97,780$115,760
Pittsburgh$43,070$87,920$104,920

RHODE ISLAND

Salary Data Not Available

2014-2024 Job Growth: 9%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Providence$46,640$100,370$118,620

SOUTH CAROLINA

Median Salary: 
$94,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $58,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $108,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 1%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SOUTH DAKOTA

Median Salary: 
$91,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $24,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $108,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 3%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

TENNESSEE

Median Salary: 
$94,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $24,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $108,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: -10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

TEXAS

Median Salary: 
$94,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $50,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $111,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Dallas - Ft. Worth$44,650$97,050$114,700
Houston$32,670$103,510$122,330
San Antonio$68,400$94,590$108,510
Austin$83,450$97,370$108,500

UTAH

Median Salary: 
$89,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $42,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $105,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

VERMONT

Salary Data Not Available

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

VIRGINIA

Median Salary: 
$97,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $66,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $158,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Virginia Beach$62,480$97,370$108,510

WASHINGTON

Median Salary: 
$95,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $56,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $115,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 9%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Seattle$45,070$95,980$115,790

WEST VIRGINIA

Median Salary: 
$89,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $24,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $108,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Huntington$23,970$89,030$102,700

WISCONSIN

Median Salary: 
$91,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $33,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $112,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 2%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Milwaukee$24,810$94,980$112,250

WYOMING

Salary and Job Growth Data Not Available

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the American Psychological Association Division 41, criminal psychologists can generally expect a median income of $41,690 at the outset of their career. The BLS reports that the median income overall is $95,710 and that the top 10% of wage earners make a median of $127,710 annually, so the prospects for wage growth are quite substantial.

Compensation of criminal psychologists varies by employment setting, education level, experience and geographic location. Professionals working in public and government settings usually earn less than those in private practice.

According to the BLS, employment of psychologists (including criminal psychologists) is expected to grow by 19% between 2014 and 2024, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. According to the APA Division 41, careers in criminal psychology have grown steadily for the last three decades, and are expected to continue.

Licensed and certified professionals should have no trouble finding work in the foreseeable future. At present, there are not enough qualified criminal psychologists in practice to meet the needs of the justice system. There is also a push underway to reintegrate criminal offenders into the community following custodial sentences. Criminal psychologists are therefore needed to advise these efforts and to provide direct services to inmates who are candidates for rehabilitation. Demand will be highest for criminal psychologists who hold doctoral degrees in applied specialties.

Compare Salaries by City

Boston MA Median Pay

$77220 Per Year

$37.12 Per Hour

Los Angeles CA Median Pay

$113450 Per Year

$54.54 Per Hour

Steps to Become a Criminal Psychologist

1

Earn a bachelor's degree.

Prior to graduate study, candidates must first earn a four-year bachelor’s degree, ideally with coursework in psychology and criminal justice. Internships are often provided that involve working in correctional facilities or police departments; these experiences give applicants a significant advantage and a wealth of useful experience.

Show Me Schools »

2

Obtain your graduate-level degree.

To practice as a criminal psychologist, it is necessary to earn a graduate degree from a nationally accredited program. Most professionals in this field hold doctorates, but a master’s degree may be sufficient for some roles, particularly those outside of academia.

There are several dozen graduate programs in forensic psychology across the US, including PhD and PsyD programs (click here for a recent guide to all programs). A PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) degree is more research- and theory-oriented, and requires a lengthy dissertation; the practice-based PsyD (Doctor of Psychology) is more oriented towards hands-on skills and is somewhat less illustrious. Dual-degree programs in law and psychology are also available.

Admission to a graduate program in psychology is quite competitive. A quick review of current program admission statistics reveals that applicants should have a GRE of at least 1000 and a GPA of 3.0 in order to be admitted to the average program, though competitive programs expect scores in the 1200 and 3.5 range, respectively. Students can strengthen their applications by working, volunteering, interning, or conducting research in the field of psychology.

Most programs offer some form of tuition assistance in return for work as a Graduate Research Assistant (GRA), which can help students build useful work experience and achieve research publication. The average PhD in forensic psychology takes 5 years to complete, though there is significant variation.

3

Continue clinical training after grad school.

Psychologists undergo clinical training during and after graduate school. This training involves therapeutic interaction, assessment, and psychological measurement, as well as a great deal of relevant coursework. Following the completion of required coursework and exams, criminal psychology students must complete an internship and, typically, a dissertation-level research project.

4

Obtain licensure.

Following graduation with a PhD, master’s, or PsyD, the average forensic psychologist much achieve licensure. In order to qualify for licensure, candidates must complete a prescribed number of hours of supervised experience via an internship, preceptorship or residency, and may be asked to complete a state-level exam.

Licensing is mandatory for criminal psychologists who provide forensic assessment and treatment. Rules and licensure methods vary by state. Usually, candidates must hold a degree from an accredited training program and have at least one year of clinical experience. Some states require passage of written and oral examinations. Board certification in this specialty is available through the American Board of Forensic Psychology. Candidates must hold a doctorate, meet rigorous education and experience requirements and pass written and oral examinations. To maintain licensure and certification, criminal psychologists must engage in continuing education throughout their careers, to ensure they are up-to-date on best practices and the latest research.

5

Advancing your career.

Criminal psychologists who hold dual degrees (in psychology and law, for example) are attractive to employers because they have a broad knowledge base and can function in multiple areas. Another path to advancement is specialization in an area of interest such as family, civil or criminal forensics. Criminal psychologists who go into private practice enjoy more flexible hours and increased responsibilities, and they may work for more lucrative, less dangerous clients.

Exploring Degree Paths

BACHELOR'S DEGREE

4 years

Criminal psychologists must hold a graduate degree and complete an internship in order to practice. Most of them obtain a doctoral degree. Many also complete a post-doctoral fellowship in forensic psychology. But first things first! In order to get into graduate school, you’ll need to complete your undergraduate education and earn a bachelor’s degree.

Show Me Schools »

Getting into a psychology doctoral program — and especially a PhD program — can be tough. As an undergraduate, you can prepare by doing the following:

  • Major in psychology or a related behavioral science
  • Earn top grades
  • Gain research and work experience in the field

Some students further enhance their resumes by earning masters’ degrees in psychology before applying to a doctoral program.

DOCTORAL DEGREE

5-7 years

Practicing criminal psychologists generally hold one of the following degrees:

  • The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is a research-based degree. Candidates complete an original research project and write and defend a dissertation. This pathway is essential for students who hope to work in academia after graduation.
  • The Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) is a practice-based degree. This is a shorter program that allows candidates to begin their fieldwork earlier. PsyD programs are usually easier to get into than PhD programs. However, students may have a harder time obtaining funding, internships, and top positions after graduation.

Most criminal psychologists are trained in clinical or counseling psychology. Some doctoral programs offer a concentration or minor in forensic psychology. A few criminal psychologists also hold a legal master’s (MLS) or Juris Doctor (JD).

Most doctoral programs in psychology are housed within large universities. When selecting a school, look for:

  • Opportunities to conduct fieldwork in legal settings
  • Faculty with research interests in criminal psychology
  • A good track record for placing students in forensic psychology postdoctoral fellowships and jobs

In most cases, it’s important to attend a school accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). Graduates of accredited programs have an easier time finding internships, getting licensed and certified, and finding jobs. (Possible exception: a non-accredited research program may be sufficient for students who are planning careers in research only.)

Doctoral programs in psychology begin with a few years of coursework. Criminal psychology students will benefit from classes in:

Forensic psychology

Learn about the role psychologists play in the legal system and the regulations affecting this practice area.

Forensic assessment

Study the many ways in which psychologists can measure criminal behavior, including testing instruments and structured interviews.

Forensic psychology ethics

Examine professional, ethical, and legal issues that can arise during criminal psychology practice, plus ethical codes and theories that can help to resolve them.

Substance abuse evaluation and treatment

Understand theories and pathology of addiction plus current approaches to treatment.

Doctoral candidates in clinical and counseling psychology also complete a series of supervised fieldwork experiences called practica. If you want to work as a criminal psychologist, use this opportunity to gain some experience in legal settings.

Psychology students who plan to practice clinically must complete a one-year internship. This usually happens during the final year of the doctoral program.

In order to be licensed for clinical practice in most states, psychologists must complete a one-year post-doctoral fellowship. This experience allows them to deepen their skills while benefiting from supervision and mentorship. Fellowships are available in many specialties, including forensic psychology.

Keys to Success as a Criminal Psychologist

Necessary Skills and Qualities

Analytical skills

Criminal psychologists rely on excellent analytical and observational skills when conducting research and assessing patients.

Communication

They also benefit from excellent verbal and listening skills, as much of their job involves communicating with offenders and others involved in the criminal justice system. An ability to interact and communicate with a wide variety of people, from police officers to judges to incarcerated persons, is essential to the psychologist’s success.

Stress management

The forensics field exposes psychologists to potentially upsetting situations and subject matter, as well as moral quandaries and potential abuse. In some positions, psychologists may need to view crime scene photos and work closely with people accused of violent crimes. Emotional stability coupled with excellent stress management skills will help these professionals cope in challenging and stressful situations and allow them to maintain professional objectivity.

Solid ethics

A strong commitment to the ethics of their profession is essential, as forensic psychologists are often placed in morally gray situations with multiple stakeholders (including victims, defendants, lawyers, judges, and police officers).

Additional Credentials

Practicing forensic psychologists can pursue voluntary board certification through the American Board of Forensic Psychology (a member board of the American Board of Professional Psychology).

To be eligible for board certification, candidates must:

  • Hold a doctorate from an accredited psychology program
  • Complete an internship
  • Be licensed and practicing in at least one jurisdiction
  • Have 1,000 hours of documented work experience in criminal psychology (and postdoctoral fellowship hours count)
  • Show a strong track record of continuing education and supervision in the field of criminal psychology
Erika Price, PhD

Erika Price has a PhD in Social Psychology from Loyola University Chicago, and serves as an instructor at North Park University and The Chicago School for Professional Psychology. A recent Postdoctoral Research Associate, Erika has studied Open-Mindedness and Political Tolerance with support from the John Templeton Foundation.

x