- How to Become a Criminal Psychologist
- Overview of Criminal Psychology — What Is a Criminal Psychologist?
- What Does a Criminal Psychologist Do?
- The Role of Psychology in the Legal System
- Criminal Psychologist Salary & Employment Outlook
- Criminal Psychologisy Jobs & Job Description
- Criminal Psychology Degrees & Education
- Related Careers
- Criminal Psychologist Job Description Example
- Criminal Psychologist Resume Preparation
- Requirements – Skills, Abilities, and Knowledge – for a Criminal Psychologist Role
- Criminal Psychologist Skills for Resume
How to Become a Criminal Psychologist
Television shows such as “CSI” often feature criminal psychologists in starring roles.
But while TV may make such jobs appear romantic, this field often is invaluable in helping law enforcement entities apprehend criminal offenders and even prevent crime.
As technology advances, criminal psychologists have even more tools at their disposal to help them practice their profession, making it an ever-more effective and attractive career pursuit.
Criminal psychology studies criminals, specifically, their thoughts and intentions, motives and reactions, emotions and feelings, especially as experienced when the individual is engaging in criminal behaviors.
The goal of a criminal psychologist is to determine why a criminal commits a specific crime, from the time he or she makes the decision that results in a crime, to the moment the individual appears in court.
Effective criminal psychologists help keep the world safe by using their expertise to help find and capture criminals.
Overview of Criminal Psychology — What Is a Criminal Psychologist?
Criminal psychology is a niche specialty in the psychology spectrum in which the psychologist serves in a variety of capacities, including working with law enforcement to determine the ly profile of the type of person who might commit a specific crime, giving opinions on court cases describing the mental states of people who have broken the law, and working directly with a captured criminal.
Psychologists are trained professionals who understand the inner workings of the human brain and psyche. A psychologist studies thoughts and behaviors, mental processes and emotions, and, using his or her accumulated knowledge and training, assesses the mental and physical states of a person by studying the individual and talking with him or her.
What Does a Criminal Psychologist Do?
One of the best-known roles of a criminal psychologist is offender or criminal profiling. The psychologist assesses an offender’s mental state and provides a psychological analysis.
Profilers, for instance, attempt to identify the age, gender, sex, background, physical characteristics, educational and socioeconomic levels, geographic background, and other traits of criminals who have not yet been apprehended.
Through an examination of the evidence left at a crime scene, criminal psychologists can determine the probable mental characteristics of the perpetrator of a specific crime.
In the last few decades, profiling has progressed from a hunch-based guessing game, which was, nevertheless, often fairly accurate, to a more rigorous field, in which the principles of forensic science and psychology are applied to help provide more accurate profiles.
Criminal psychologists do not always work as profilers. Some work with criminals who have already been apprehended, determining the motivations for their crimes and the lihood that they will offend again if released back into society.
Others work with attorneys for the prosecution or defense, describing the criminal’s actions to help incarcerate or exonerate the individual. Some criminal psychologists work as witnesses, providing expert testimony in a variety of criminal cases.
In high-profile cases, criminal psychologists may be called upon to determine how a violent criminal’s actions are affecting the society at large in the region in which the crimes are occurring.
To perform these duties, criminal psychologists require a highly specialized set of skills and a diverse base of knowledge, including:
- Thorough understanding of psychological principles
- Understanding of the criminal justice system
- Ability to work with officers of the law, attorneys, and criminals
- Understanding of the legal process, as well as of what constitutes a sound, compelling legal argument
- A strong constitution, since the psychologist will ly witness gruesome crime scenes
- Ability to assess empirical evidence and draw meaningful conclusions about a criminal’s mental and emotional state
- Ability to work with criminals in a calm, compassionate, and nonjudgmental manner
- Excellent written and verbal skills
- A strong sense of logic and ethics
Not all criminal psychologists work with violent crime or even with criminals. Some may use their insights to offer opinions about custody cases, for instance. For the most part, however, their focus is on crime, as the title suggests.
The Role of Psychology in the Legal System
Criminal psychologists’ role in the legal system is important. While they provide a diverse array of services, the psychologist’s duties usually fall into one of four categories:
If an individual has already been apprehended, the criminal psychologist may offer a clinical assessment of the criminal’s mental state, his or her ability to stand trial, whether the person has a mental illness, if he or she is capable of understanding the proceedings, and so on. The psychologist uses a variety of tests, tools, and interviewing techniques to construct these assessments.
The clinical psychologist may perform simple experiments to determine whether a suspect is capable of committing the crime of which he or she is accused. For example, the psychologist may perform tests to determine if a witness could see or hear a crime taking place as alleged in his or her statement.
When applied to large groups, statistics can offer reliable evidence. Criminal psychologists often perform research and use the resulting statistical evidence to inform a case by estimating the probability of a certain event occurring or making recommendations as to whether a criminal is ly to repeat the crime, which is called recidivism.
When law officers and legal teams are uncertain as to how to proceed with a case, they may request that a criminal psychologist serve in an advisory capacity as a consultant.
The psychologist can help determine whom to interview, how and when to interview the individuals, or how to encourage an individual who is reluctant to talk, such as a victim.
They can also predict how the suspect will act during the case and advise as to the best treatment of the person.
Criminal psychologists spend much of their time in offices and courts. While a case is going forward to trial, they may be constantly on hand to inform legal teams or to provide expert testimony.
Between cases, criminal psychologists expand upon the offender’s profile by conducting research, examining evidence from crime scenes, and interviewing people with whom the suspect has interacted.
They spend the greater part of their day at police stations, assisting with state and federal investigations, as well as in correctional facilities and mental health centers.
Many criminal psychologists work for local, state, or federal institutions. While some psychologists are employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (I), this is not as common as television may make it appear.
Some criminal psychologists go into business for themselves in a freelance or consulting capacity. Others work as teachers or professors, helping train new psychologists.
They may educate aspiring psychologists at colleges, universities, or specialized training centers.
In any position, criminal psychologists are ly to spend at least some of their time profiling criminals.
This ever-growing field of investigative analysis is beneficial to successfully resolving cases and apprehending criminals.
The psychologist must have a thorough understanding of human psyches, behaviors, and mental processes. The psychologist is charged with answering specific questions, including:
- Was intent behind the crime?
- Does the offender understand the charges leveled against him or her?
- Is he or she fit to stand trial?
- Was the offender in his or her right mind at the time of the crime?
- How much planning and forethought went into the perpetration of the crime?
- What types of emotions was the offender experiencing before, during, and after the committal of a crime?
- Is the offender ly to commit the same crime again?
- Is the person a sex offender?
- Is the criminal still at large, and if so, how can the offender be identified?
- Can the criminal help play a role in the larger effort to prevent crime?
- What is the criminal’s level of responsibility for the crime?
- Can the criminal be treated?
The criminal psychologist uses a battery of tests to help answer these questions, speaks to people in the criminals’ lives as well as to the criminal themselves, draws on statistics regarding similar crimes, and weaves together all the evidence to create informed characterizations of the offenders.
Criminal Psychologist Salary & Employment Outlook
Classified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as “psychologists, all other,” criminal psychologists earned an average salary of $98,230 as of May 2019.
Many of these highly specialized psychologists work for the federal and state governmental agencies, where they earn an average salary of $94,670 and $104,280, respectively.
Criminal Psychologisy Jobs & Job Description
A criminal psychologist spends his or her day examining crime scenes, looking at crime scene photos, working with law enforcement officers, advising lawyers, and testifying in court. More specifically, daily duties may include:
- Responding to a crime scene on short notice when a crime has been committed
- Reading through and advising as to legal documentation
- Talking to witnesses before a trial
- Conducting research into the nature of the crime
- Interviewing other people involved with the crime or who know the suspect
- Evaluating the risk that the criminal will commit the crime again
- Communicating findings through writing and speaking
- Maintaining records of the case and its conclusions
- Staying informing on case law and statutes
- Observing details of a case to look for patterns and details
- Administering and analyzing psychological tests
Criminal Psychology Degrees & Education
To become a criminal psychologist, you must first earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field, followed by a master’s degree in psychology.
This completes the minimum requirements necessary to use the title “psychologist” and to begin work with patients on a clinical basis or offer clinical opinions.
However, a master’s degree is typically not enough to find first-rate employment as a criminal psychologist.
Therefore, many people who want to go into criminal psychology opt to earn a doctorate, either a Ph.D. or Psy.D.
During your time as a doctoral student, you may choose to focus on theory or research, or you may take a very hands-on, forensic-oriented approach.
Doctoral degrees typically take about five years to complete after the years of study required to earn master’s and bachelor’s degrees. However, at that time, you will most ly have acquired enough expertise to begin working while still in school.
To begin practice, you must take the licensing examination in your state or jurisdiction, then keep it current. Certifications are not required, but you may opt for additional certifications to increase your expertise and credibility.
Ready to start your journey in criminal psychology? Find a psychology degree program near you.
Criminal Psychologist Job Description Example
Criminal psychologists carry out research, surveys, and interviews to generate useful information about criminals.
Criminal Psychologist Job Description Example
What Does a Criminal Psychologist Do?
Criminal psychologists basically analyze the behavior and actions of criminals to produce results necessary for a legal ruling or law enforcement decision.
Their job description entails conducting assessment of an accused to determine their fitness for trial.
They obtain information as relates to a criminal case by carrying out surveys, interviews, and research.
In fulfilling their roles, criminal psychologists evaluate the eligibility of parents for custody of a child in a child custody case after considering the needs and choices of the child.
They also serve as expert witnesses in a law court providing psychological verification of mental instability as may be claimed by a defendant.
As part of their duties and responsibilities, these psychologists can work in a corrections facility where they assess prison inmates to determine their inclination towards re-offense.
They provide counseling and advice to aid them in rehabilitation and through probation.
Criminal psychologists performing in a legal capacity assist with the selection of the jury for a defense or prosecution.
Their work description may also involve helping legal advocates construct probing questions for potential jurors during the jury selection process.
In an academic setting, criminal psychologists work as instructors, teaching criminal psychology to students in colleges.
They can also work with law enforcement organizations such as the police to draw up the profile of criminal suspects by making logical assertions as to the age, sex, behavior, and occupation of an offender, thus providing clues that aid crime investigation.
They also carry out evaluation of police methods to help boost efficiency and general functioning of the police department.
Criminal psychologists engage in the research and study of the motivation and pattern behind a criminal behavior; they apply the knowledge and results of their findings in developing appropriate strategies and techniques for interviewing and assessing a suspect.
They may be employed by the state/federal government in a correctional facility and mental health institutions, or they may work for themselves as sole consultants.
Criminal psychologists require a terminal degree (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) in clinical or counseling psychology, a year’s internship, and a successful completion of the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology, in order to obtain license to practice as a criminal psychologist.
Among the qualities criminal psychologists possess are critical thinking skills, strong communication skills, refined research skills, and knowledge of social issues and legal laws as pertains to mental health and court procedures.
Criminal psychologists perform various duties, tasks, and responsibilities as highlighted in the job description example below:
- Carry out a mental assessment of suspect to determine their psychological status and fitness for trial
- Evaluate parents in a child custody case to determine who is most suitable to take custody of a child
- Provide results/materials that can serve as a valid evidence in a court trial
- Stand as expert witnesses in a law court to testify for or against a prosecution/defense
- Assist with the assessment and selection of the members of the jury for a trial
- Assess and counsel prison inmates aiding them in rehabilitation and social reintegration to reduce the risk of re-offense
- Teach principles of criminal psychology to psychology majors in colleges and universities
- Engage in research and surveys to identify the reasons behind the perpetration of a crime
- Apply the results of the research in the assessment and interview of a suspect
- Assist law enforcement agencies in creating a profile for an unknown criminal offender
- Evaluate police methods to recommend necessary adjustments that will boost effectiveness
- Hired as consultants by various agencies/clients to provide expert recommendation, and help crack a psychological case which usually borders on crime
- Provide therapy and behavior modification for offenders on probation
- Assist attorneys in developing probing questions for a court case.
Criminal Psychologist Resume Preparation
If you’re looking to create a criminal psychologist resume then the functions of the position shown in the sample job description above can be applied in making the work experience section of the resume.
Highlighting the aforementioned duties and responsibilities in your resume creates the right impression about your experience on the job and your ability to excel in it to a potential employer.
Requirements – Skills, Abilities, and Knowledge – for a Criminal Psychologist Role
If you are looking to work as a criminal psychologist, here are major requirements you will need to meet to stand a chance with employers:
- Education and Training: To qualify as a criminal psychologist, you are required to obtain an undergraduate degree usually in psychology or in a related discipline. Furthermore, you are expected to go for a Master’s and Doctorate degree studies in clinical or counseling psychology during which you participate in a year’s internship and subsequently pass the State examination to obtain license that allows you practice as a criminal psychologist
- Critical Thinking Skills: The job of a criminal psychologist is an intellectually demanding task that requires you to possess the ability to thoughtfully process a situation
- Research Skills: As one of their key qualities, criminal psychologists are adept to conducting research and surveys to draw conclusions on the motive and actions of a criminal
- Knowledge of the law/Social issues: Criminal psychologists are knowledgeable in social and cultural matters; they have good understanding of case law, mental health law, and various other legal laws, knowledge of which aid them in effectively carrying out their duties.
Criminal Psychologist Skills for Resume
The above mentioned qualities and training are essential in filling the skills section of your criminal psychologist resume.
Recruiters will certainly give attention to your resume if it shows the skills and qualities that they require of a criminal psychologist.
The criminal psychologist job description shows the vital functions of the role that you need to know if you are thinking of starting a career in it, just as it provides employers the information to create an effective work description for newly employed criminal psychologists.
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