If you are thinking of becoming a Forensic Psychologist, then this job description guide will greatly be of help to you.
I recently read a novel where the heroine is an FBI profiler who studied psychology and regularly offers therapy to children affected by domestic abuse and family problems.
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.
We think it’s a high-action job that requires so much adrenaline.
In real life, though, it isn’t as exciting or glamorous as it appears.
Well, if you’re interested in knowing how minds work in relation to the legal system, then this job will be exciting.
In real life, it usually leaves lasting effects on forensic psychologists’ mental and emotional health.
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 psychology is a type of psychology that applies science and technology and applies psychology to solve questions related to criminology, law, and the legal system.
It is a 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 works with and for the legal system, presenting facts and pieces of evidence after a series of assessment tests and evaluations.
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 the questioning of suspects or alibis.
Forensic psychologists can 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 behavioral management plans to 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; hence, their daily job functions are versatile and can change.
Their roles are hardly defined. Therefore, their duties are constantly changing.
No matter what happens, a typical day for a forensic psychologist is hectic and 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 determining if the child can recall the truth during a hearing.
- Making and compiling quantitative and qualitative reviews in compliance with applicable standards and procedures.
- 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 create plans for rehabilitation or parole
- Evaluating potential jurors and consulting with the appropriate offices with regard 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 people daily, and their job has a lot to do with gruesome stories and sightings that can leave lasting effects.
Some special skills needed include:
- Excellent communication skills
- Eyes for Details/Observant
- 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 will likely meet with attorneys, jurors, inmates, investigation agents, etc.
Knowing the right things to say and being able to listen to it is an excellent skill to have.
Communication skills include listening, speaking as well as writing skills.
An excellent 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.
There’s no place for your emotions or showing how you feel regarding a particular case in forensic psychology.
To be an excellent forensic psychologist, you need to be able to remove your emotions from situations and see the reality of the situation as it is.
You must be unbiased, impartial, and not influenced by personal prejudices.
As it is in the world of criminology, you will hear gruesome stories and meet with both the abused and the abuser.
The emotions tend to run very high during any session.
As a result, refrain from forming emotional attachments and let all your relationships with attorneys, inmates, etc., be entirely 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 meet daily with people who may have criminal minds or have been severely abused.
You should observe for things that normal untrained eyes can’t see. You should watch out for every word said and unsaid and every conscious or unconscious action.
Understanding body language and group dynamics are essential skills you should have.
This skill is used during evaluations of potential police officers, jurors, victims, 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 abuse victims.
Never let your emotions cloud your judgment, but also be empathetic with clients as this tells them that you care for them and for their cases to be solved.
5. Critical Thinking
Forensic psychology combines psychological concepts, counseling 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 makes it easy for people to open up to you and let their guard down.
7. Organizational Skills
During the day or even the course of your career, you will have much information concerning different cases and 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.
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 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, hospitals, clinics, and other employers.
Those who own their practices fix their schedule themselves. They choose their working hours and may work part-time according to their contracts.
Those employed by agencies and the like work regular hours, and some may even have shifted. 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 depends on different variables such as the level of expertise, where you work, and your required work.
You will find the exact amount you will be paid as a forensic psychologist in the job description in your place of work.
Reports show that those working 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 Statistics, 2018) is $79,010.
Summary of the Job Description of a Forensic Psychologist
Finally, being a forensic psychologist is a gratifying job.
You are helping people heal from painful experiences and helping 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 claims.
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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