Forensic psychology is a specialty that combines psychology and legal matters. Many jobs reside in the criminal justice space, whether that’s working for attorneys, law enforcement agencies, or the courts.
No matter the specific application, practicing psychology within the legal realm is a line of work that can be incredibly fascinating.
Jobs in this field can also be very satisfying. With a diverse range of jobs available for people with degrees in forensic psychology, you can find an employment area that is of interest to you, that fits your talents and skills well, and that allows you to make a positive difference in other people’s lives.
If you’re ready to begin or continue your studies in forensic psychology, you can look forward to the following careers as being possible options for you upon graduation.
A common position for someone with a degree in forensic psychology is a victim advocate.
As the job title indicates, this is a position in which you advocate on behalf of the victims of crimes. That advocacy typically involves the following:
- Identifying resources that are of use to the victim (e.g., safe housing)
- Providing counselling to victims of crimes
- Going to court and attending other legal proceedings with the victim
- Helping victims understand their legal rights
This is not a complete list of the job duties that victim advocates have, but it should give you a good idea of how a forensic psychology degree would be useful in this position. Not only do the counselling-related skills come into play, but the familiarity with legal proceedings and other legal actions that you gain in a forensic psychology program would be beneficial in this position as well.
Another highly common job for forensic psychologists is to offer services as a jury consultant.
As a jury consultant, it’s your job to help the prosecution or defence develop a jury that is most amenable to their position. So, for example, if you are working as a jury consultant for the defence, you would help generate questions to ask potential jurors that would reveal any personal biases they hold that might influence their decision as a member of the jury.
Additionally, jury consultants examine the personal characteristics of potential jurors, identifying those whose personal beliefs or attitudes might not align well with the defence.
But jury consultants don’t just work with attorneys to shape the composition of a jury. They provide other trial-related services as well.
For example, jury consultants will often help prepare witnesses for testifying in court. This might include running a mock trial in which the witness is cross-examined to give them a better understanding of what it might be like to be harshly questioned by the opposing attorneys.
Probation officers are responsible for supervising individuals that are on probation or parole. These individuals are often recently released from jail or prison, or have been sentenced directly to probation without a jail sentence.
In either case, a probation officer frequently meets with probationers to monitor their progress towards reintegrating with society. This might include administering personality tests, helping the probationer set goals for the future, or connecting the probationer with community resources (e.g., employment services), to help them get back on their feet.
Probation officers can certainly benefit from having a degree in forensic psychology. On the one hand, probation officers must have a detailed understanding of the law, while on the other hand, they must have a deep understanding of human behaviour. Additionally, it’s helpful to be able to draw on knowledge of counselling techniques to use when probationers are experiencing difficulties reintegrating into the community.
Juvenile Offender Counsellor
This career is very similar to being a probation officer. The only major difference is that the clients are juveniles that have been involved in the criminal justice system.
The knowledge and skills you gain in a forensic psychology degree program can help you as you try to guide juvenile defenders in getting their life back on track. This is easier said than done, though.
Complicating matters is that juvenile offenders are often victims of other crimes (e.g., child abuse). On top of that, rates for recidivism for juvenile offenders are higher than for adults. So, as a juvenile offender counsellor, your task will be to use your understanding of psychological principles and knowledge of the criminal justice system to develop interventions that minimize the likelihood of your client committing another crime.
Perhaps the most well-known career path for forensic psychologists is to work as a criminal profiler.
Unlike what’s portrayed on TV and in movies, criminal profilers aren’t special agents with guns that hunt down criminals. Instead, this job usually entails working in an office with a larger team of law enforcement professionals to track and identify criminals.
For example, a primary task of profilers is to research past crimes and known offenders and see if there is a link to current crimes. An education in forensic psychology allows profilers to conduct thorough research, recognise patterns of behaviour, and devise a profile based on hypotheses regarding the likely personality traits of the offender.
Of course, this is a very difficult job and one that requires a lot of skill and training. But the same can be said for any of the forensic psychology careers discussed here. Nevertheless, this work can be very exciting and offers you the opportunity to have a very rewarding career.
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