There are many different types of forensic psychologist jobs in a variety of roles and settings. The roles in which they work depend upon their education, training, and experience, and the settings in which they work depend upon where they live, their specific occupation, and the populations they serve. Many forensic psychologists work as researchers, clinical psychologists, eye witnesses, consultants, or in other roles; and they commonly work in settings such as prisons, psychiatric hospitals, treatment facilities, halfway houses, mental health agencies, and private practices (to name a few). Some forensic psychologists might even find themselves moving from setting to setting as they fulfill their roles in a variety of capacities. Some common forensic psychology careers might include:
Some professionals with a PhD in forensic psychology work as academic researchers and instructors. Forensic psychologist researchers focus their careers on conducting research, teaching in traditional academic settings, and training students in school or on the job. They may also work part time as consultants or expert witnesses.
Many forensic psychologists focus primarily on providing “expert witness” testimony in court cases and trials. While “fact witnesses” testify about what they have observed, “expert witnesses” provide testimony based on what they know as experts. As experts, the court expects them to be able to clearly depict how or why something might have happened. Expert witnesses are often times called upon to evaluate a defendant and then explain to the court the mental state or condition of the defendant. As mentioned above, expert witnesses often work as academic researchers, instructors, or in other capacities.
Clinical Forensic Psychologist or Treatment Provider
Forensic psychologists may work as treatment providers. In this role, forensic psychologists provide treatment, consultation, or intervention to people in both civil and criminal cases. This type of work typically arrives by request of the court, lawyers, and people otherwise involved in the legal system.
Consultant to Law Enforcement
Forensic psychologists often times collaborate with law enforcement agencies in a number of capacities. They commonly provide assistance during crises (such as acts of terrorism, attempted suicides, or incidences of post-trauma) and support to personnel and their families. Forensic psychologists may also provide law enforcement personnel with training and programs that help them take care of their mental health on the job.
Correctional forensic psychologists work with inmates and offenders in correctional facilities such as prisons, halfway houses, and treatment centers. Within correctional facilities, forensic psychologists might serve as consultants to employees or provide evaluation and/or treatment to those who are imprisoned or on patrol.
These are just some of the many roles forensic psychologists fill. For a more exhaustive list of types of forensic psychology jobs, visit the American Psychological Society here.
Growth of Forensic Psychology Careers
The BLS estimates that employment in the field of psychology which includes forensic psychology will grow at a rate of 22 percent per year, which is faster than the average for all occupations. This is good news for those who would like to become a forensic psychologist. The rate of growth and availability of forensic psychology jobs vary by state, employer, and specific occupation within the field. Currently, larger cities, such as New York and Los Angeles,may offer more career options for psychologists. The salary for forensic psychologists can vary greatly depending on degree level and industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, psychologists, (excluding industrial, clinical, counseling, and school psychologists) including forensic psychologists, earn a median salary of $89,900.
Forensic Psychology vs. Criminology
When considering forensic psychology careers, it is important to note that there is a difference between forensic psychology and criminology; these two fields are often confused with one another. The biggest difference between the two is that forensic psychology pulls from two primary fields: psychology and law. Criminology is an interdisciplinary field that draws from psychology, sociology, anthropology, and law. Learn more about common forensic psychology courses.
Another primary difference is that forensic psychologists provide services to people in the legal system, while criminologists study crime and people who commit crimes. Finally, forensic psychologists are first and foremost trained as psychologists, while criminologists are primarily trained as researchers. As such, jobs in forensic psychology differ quite a bit from jobs in criminology.