What is the Job Description of a Forensic Psychologist

If you are thinking of becoming a Forensic Psychologist, then this job description guide will greatly be of help to you.

I read a novel recently where the heroine is an FBI profiler who studied psychology and regularly offers therapy to children who are affected by domestic abuse and family problems.

Just like me, whenever most people hear ‘forensic psychology’, their minds conjure images of the various action or thriller movies and novels they have seen and read respectively.

We think it’s a high action job that requires so much adrenaline.

In real life though, it isn’t as interesting or glamorous as it appears to be.

Well, if you’re interested in knowing how minds work in relation to the legal system, then this job will be totally interesting to you.

In real life, it usually leaves lasting effects on the mental and emotional health of forensic psychologists.

Forensic psychology is a type of psychology that works with and for the law. It is under the big umbrella of criminology.

Forensic psychologists work with courts as well as various investigation agencies.

They try to get into the mind and head of a criminal to determine if he is credible and competent enough to take a stand in court.

What is Forensic Psychology? – Who is a Forensic Psychologist?

forensic psychologist job description, duties and responsibilities and salary

Forensic psychology is a type of psychology that applies science, technology and applies psychology to solve questions related to criminology, law and the legal system.

It is a very broad field and what they do can’t be fully understood and known because the moment you feel like you know something, the more you realize you don’t.

Having said this, a forensic psychologist, therefore, is one who works with and for the legal system, presenting facts and pieces of evidence after a series of assessment tests and evaluation.

Forensic psychologists deal with suspected criminals, criminals, and children. It may even extend to families of suspected criminals too.

Because they are very observant and can usually read people.

Their presence and expertise are needed during questionings of suspects or alibis.

Forensic psychologists are able to observe suspects’ personalities and listen closely to hear what is being said and what isn’t said.

In addition, they observe how the suspects fidget, their eye movements, their physical looks and a lot more.

They help prison inmates by creating and executing behavioural management plans that can help them gain parole.

Forensic psychologists work with attorneys, judges, and other legal specialists to analyze and understand the psychological details of various cases. They typically specialize in areas such as civil, criminal or family cases, and often testify as an expert witness in court.

What Are The Duties and Responsibilities of A Forensic Psychologist?

As with most criminology fields, the duties and responsibilities of a forensic psychologist are so many. This is mainly because they work with the law and hence their daily job functions are versatile and can change.

Their roles are hardly defined therefore, their duties are always changing.

No matter what happens, a typical day for a forensic psychologist is very busy can be emotionally and mentally draining.

Some of their duties and responsibilities include:

  • Evaluating and assessing individuals to establish rationality and psychological health.
  • Performing competency, suicide and violence risk assessments.
  • Performing various tests to know the competency of someone standing for trial
  • Assessing recidivism risks
  • Profiling criminals. This is usually assigned to highly-trained professionals in the law enforcement field. 
  • They help in child custody cases by evaluating the child and to determine if the child can recall the truth during a hearing.
  • Making and compiling quantitative and qualitative reviews in compliance with applicable standards and procedure
  • Appearing in and providing the court with expert testimony regarding any case
  • Helping to investigate child abuse and neglect cases
  • Coaching and teaching psychology students
  • Acting as consultants for psychological issues and in correctional institutions
  • Helping felons to create plans for rehabilitation or parole
  • Evaluating potential jurors and consulting with the appropriate offices with regards to selecting juries
  • Consulting with, and providing training and curriculum development for, law enforcement and corrections agencies
  • Evaluating potential police officers for employment through psychological screenings

Qualifications and Requirements of Forensic Psychologists

  • Doctoral degree in psychology.
  • 2+ years of work experience in clinical psychology.
  • Work experience with forensic psychiatric cases or any related criminology case
  • State license
  • Knowledgeable in cultural diversity

Special Skills and Abilities Needed

The job of a forensic psychologist is not for everyone.

They communicate with numerous amount of people every day and their job has a lot to do with gruesome stories and sightings which can leave lasting effects.

Some special skills needed include:

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Objectivity
  • Eyes for Details/Observant
  • Empathy
  • Critical thinking
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Organizational skills

1. Excellent Communication Skills

A good forensic psychologist needs to be an effective and outstanding communicator.

In a day, you are likely to meet with attorneys, jurors, inmates, investigation agents, etc.

Knowing the right things to say and being able to listen to is a very good skill to have.

Communication skills include listening, speaking as well as writing skills.

A good forensic psychologist is good at adjusting his communication style as required by the present situation.

For example, you cannot communicate the same way you do a felon with an abused child.

2. Objectivity

There’s no place for your emotions or showing how you feel regarding a particular case in forensic psychology.

To be a good forensic psychologist, you need to be able to remove your emotions from situations and see the reality of the situation as it is.

You need to be unbiased, impartial and not influenced by personal prejudices.

As it is in the world of criminology, you will hear very gruesome stories and meet with both the abused and the abuser.

The emotions tend to run very high during any sessions.

As a result, refrain from forming emotional attachments and let all your relationships with attorneys, inmates, etc. be completely professional.

3. Eyes for Details/Observant

Generally, psychologists are very observant and have keen eyes.

But this particular skill has to be more for a forensic psychologist because he/she will daily meet with people who may have criminal minds or have been severely abused.

You should observe for things that the normal untrained eyes can’t see. You should watch out for every word said and unsaid, and every conscious or unconscious action.

Understanding body languages and group dynamics are very important skills you should have.

This skill is used during evaluations of potential police officers, jurors, with victims, with inmates and with suspected criminals.

4. Empathy and Compassion

In as much as you’re supposed to be objective about cases, you also need to be compassionate and be able to feel the pain of victims of abuse.

Never let your emotions cloud your judgment, but at the same time be empathetic with clients as this tells them that you care for them and for their cases to be solved.

5. Critical Thinking

The forensic psychology field combines psychological concepts, counselling public policy, the legal system, and more. Because the field is interdisciplinary, it’s vital to possess strong critical thinking skills.

Forensic psychologists must be able to make critical observations of various parties, interpret research data, and make timely, informed decisions.

6. Interpersonal Skills

You should know how to relate to people. You should have a good knowledge of personalities and relate to people accordingly.

This especially makes it easy for people to open up to you and let their guards down.

7. Organizational Skills

During the day or even the course of your career, you will have a lot of information concerning different cases and different observations you’ve made. You should know how to organize your files and notes accordingly. It should always be within reach and never too hard to find.

Do not throw away past case files. Organize them and keep them in a safe and secure place.

Additionally, apart from these skills above, a good forensic psychologist should be able to take good care of his/her mental and emotional health. You should always make time for yourself.

Where Can A Forensic Psychologist Work and What Are The Hours Like?

Most forensic psychologists have their own private practices and work individually with courts and police agencies. They provide consultations contractually.

The rest can be employed by the state or federal governments, schools, hospital, clinics and other employers.

Those who own their own practices fix their schedule themselves. They choose their working hours and may decide to work part-time according to their various contracts.

Those employed by agencies and the like work regular hours and some may even have shifts. This is especially true for those working in hospitals and clinics.

Salary/Earning Potential of a Forensic Psychologist

This is a good-paying job.

However, the salary is dependent on different variables such as the level of expertise, where you work as well as the work required of you.

You will find the exact amount that you will be paid as a forensic psychologist in the job description in your place of work.

Reports have it that those who work in prisons are among the lowest paid.

The pay ranges from $43,800 to $129,250 per year and the median (according to the U.S Bureau of Labour Statistic, 2018) is $79,010.

Summary of the job description of a forensic psychologist

Finally, being a forensic psychologist is a highly rewarding job.

You are constantly helping people to heal from painful experiences, to help inmates gradually become good and acceptable citizens.

Also, you are helping families by solving their cases and providing the court with dependable and competent jurors to avoid skewed cases.

You are also helping the country at large by helping to select the best law enforcement agents.

All you need is to be hardworking, have knowledge of your job description as a forensic psychologist and improve on all special skills necessary. 

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