FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY

 What is Forensic Psychology? It's Not Silence of the Lambs!

by Matthew T. Huss - Creighton University

Forensic psychology is one of the fastest growing areas of psychology as suggested both by an increase in the practice of clinical psychology within our legal system and the increasing interest expressed by undergraduate and graduate students. However, students often become interested in the field because of sensationalistic media portrayals that may not be accurate nor offer realistic employment opportunities. Students may become disheartened to learn that certain media depictions are less than realistic but should be excited to learn about the real possibilities forensic psychology has to offer. This article will attempt to describe the field of forensic psychology, identify possible careers, and suggest relevant training opportunities.

It's difficult to turn on a television, go to the movies, or walk through a bookstore without running across a fictional portrayal of a crazed but brilliant serial or mass murderer being tracked by a psychologically sophisticated and deductively sound hero. Popular movies such as Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal and television shows like Profiler often depict the intersection of law enforcement and psychology in sensationalistic and dramatic fashion. If you watch the news or read a newspaper you can hear about the psychological "sketch" offered by a forensic psychologist in the latest Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Kaczynski, or Michael McDermott trial. Our society has become increasingly fascinated with individuals who seemingly are able to perpetrate the most heinous crimes imaginable. Now is this stuff interesting?
     Sure it is! Similar things got me interested in forensic psychology! We are horrified but drawn to these scenes much like we are drawn to the aftermath of a car accident. Are these depictions accurate? Probably not. Are they accurate depictions of forensic psychology? Almost never. Forensic psychologists are not able to become psychically linked with a particular killer and visualize their next move as the heroes in the movies or on television seem to do. Forensic psychology is a discipline based on the scientific practice of psychology. So, while forensic psychologists get the cool jobs, they are far from the situations often portrayed.

So What is Forensic Psychology?

     If someone told you he or she was a forensic psychologist, what would you think they do? Do they have something to do with the high school speech and debate team? Do they perform autopsies on homicide victims? If you are like most people, these thoughts probably immediately came to mind. However, the origin of the word forensic comes from the Latin word forum. Forums were the public gathering places in the Roman city-states where much of the judicial process took place in the form of debates. As a result, forensic psychology deals with the intersection of psychology and the legal process.
     There continues to be debate in the field about the definition and breadth of the term
forensic psychology. Some professionals apply the term broadly to describe any intersection of the legal system and psychology (Wrightsman, 2001). However, others use the term to specifically describe the clinical practice of psychology in legal contexts (e.g., Melton, Huss, & Tomkins, 1999). For example, the American Board of Forensic Psychology and the American Psychology-Law Society (1995) define forensic psychology as:

the professional practice by psychologists within the areas of clinical psychology, counseling psychology, neuropsychology, and school psychology, when they are engaged regularly as experts and represent themselves as such, in an activity primarily intended to provide professional psychological expertise to the judicial system. (p. 6)

Such a definition focuses the field on the mental health aspects of psychology and the law and away from the more experimental areas of jury selection and eyewitness identification. When I speak of forensic psychology, I will be focusing on the intersection of mental health, or the clinical practice of psychology, and the law. Moreover, when I speak of the law, I do not simply mean law enforcement but the legal process itself. Working with law enforcement is just one activity a forensic psychologist may undertake in a routine day.
     Clinical psychologists are broadly concerned with the assessment and treatment of persons with mental disorders. They interact with people suffering from a variety of mental health problems ranging from the less severe (marital difficulties and adjustment problems) to the more severe (e.g., schizophrenia, posttraumatic stress disorder, major depression, or bipolar disorder). Clinical psychologists specializing in forensic psychology work with individuals who may present with a variety of mental illnesses and mental health issues within the context of the criminal or civil arenas of the law. Civil matters usually involve civil litigation in which a plaintiff usually brings forward a suit because they believe someone else has physically or emotionally injured them. Examples may include personal injury suits, civil commitment proceedings, child custody disputes, or workers' compensation cases. Criminal areas of forensic psychology include those situations in which an individual has committed a crime against society. Examples that necessitate the involvement of a forensic psychologist may include pleading insanity, raising issues of competency to stand trial, assessment of future violence potential during sentencing, or treatment of sex offenders.

Careers in Forensic Psychology

     So what can a forensic psychologist do besides track down the bad guys and hang out with "crazy" people who eat their relatives? Forensic psychologists can be employed in a variety of settings including jails, prisons, state hospitals, federal and local law enforcement agencies, community mental health centers, juvenile detention facilities, private practice, or colleges and universities. Forensic psychologists are likely to perform a myriad of roles in these settings that are only limited by time and imagination.
     For example, let's take a brief snapshot of the possible tasks a forensic psychologist may perform. Let's say a man --we'll call him Charlie--is accused of brutally murdering a family while they slept. Before he enters a plea, the court may be interested in whether Charlie possesses sufficient intellectual ability (i.e., is competent) to enter a plea (e.g., guilty or not guilty) at his initial arraignment. A forensic psychologist may be called to ascertain whether Charlie has sufficient cognitive ability to understand the nature of the charges against him and can assist in his defense. So, let's assume the court finds Charlie competent to enter a plea and stand trial for the crime. Charlie may suffer from paranoid schizophrenia, and his defense attorney may be interested in using an insanity defense. Again, you might be asked to assess whether at the time of the crime Charlie was suffering from a mental illness that made it impossible for him to understand the quality of his actions or the difference between right and wrong. Assume the outcome did not go well for Charlie and he was convicted of the murders. Before the court decides whether to sentence him to a particular period of time behind bars, you might once again be asked to evaluate him regarding his potential for future violence. The court, in deciding his ultimate sentence, may take into consideration whether it is probable and under what conditions Charlie is likely to commit future violence. Finally, it appears that Charlie has been sentenced to serve his time in the same institution where you work. It is now your job to design and implement a treatment program for Charlie in order to stabilize him while he is incarcerated and improve his chances if he is ever released. It is not likely that a forensic psychologist would be involved in every aspect of this example case, but it does give you some idea of the possibilities.
     It's clear that with Charlie, forensic psychologists are asked to really get inside the mind of someone. You may have to assess an individual's current cognitive and mental abilities. You may have to play detective and attempt to assess their mental status at some point in the past. You may even be asked to predict someone's future behavior. How good of a job does your local meteorologist do at predicting whether it will rain tomorrow or not? Can you imagine how difficult it is to predict the behavior of a human being over the next 20 years of that individual's life? However, it's these challenges that offer the most excitement for students entering the field of forensic psychology.
     One of the biggest enticements for students to become interested in forensic psychology is their interest in "criminal profiling." The reality is that most law enforcement agencies do not use criminal profiling procedures, and those agencies that do use similar procedures are more likely to employ law enforcement personnel than they are to employ a forensic psychologist. Criminal profiling is much more of a law enforcement technique and art form than it is a scientific process (Wrightman, 2001). Students interested in these types of careers should have a broad interest in law enforcement and not simply intend to work as a profiler, because these employment opportunities are extremely rare. Again, the sensationalistic portrayals fall a little short of the reality. Criminal profiling was conceived out of years of law enforcement experience with serial offenders and is not rooted in psychological principles. Thus, most people who conduct "profiling" are law enforcement personnel who may or may not have formal training in the behavioral sciences. More importantly, many graduate programs in forensic psychology do not favorably evaluate applications from students whose sole interest is in criminal profiling.

Training in Forensic Psychology

     There are almost as many ways to be trained in forensic psychology as there are possible tasks for forensic psychologists to perform. However, the first thing that should be noted is that in order to be a forensic psychologist you have to be a good clinical psychologist. Also, by saying clinical psychologist I mean someone who practices psychology in some sort of mental health setting, not simply someone who has received a graduate degree in clinical psychology (see Norcross, 2000, for the distinction between clinical and counseling psychology). What I mean is that in order to become a good clinical or practicing psychologist you need a basic understanding of psychopathology, clinical assessment, and psychotherapy. You need to be able to tell the difference between a criminal and a noncriminal. The best training programs allow you to gain experience with both. Students who are only interested in learning about forensic clients and are not interested in more traditional clinical psychology areas could have some difficulty succeeding in quality clinical or counseling psychology programs. However, there are certainly programs available that will allow you to focus on forensic populations while limiting your experience with nonforensic clients.
     You may have already guessed that in order to obtain a career in forensic psychology you will probably need a graduate degree, either a master's or a doctorate. You certainly might be able gain employment in an entry-level position at a forensic hospital or prison (e.g., psychological technician), but you will be very limited by your lack of education. As a result, a number of graduate programs are increasing their offering of forensic course work and practica (Bersoff et al., 1997). The number of programs specific to forensic psychology are also increasing at both the master's and doctoral levels (Melton et al., 1999).
     There are several master's programs in forensic psychology at institutions such as Castleton State College, the University of Denver, John Jay College, Marymount University, and the Sage Colleges. Of course, these programs are likely to vary in quality and focus of their training. For example, some of these programs identify themselves as "forensic" psychology programs, but their focus is on the broader psycholegal field and not on the clinical practice of psychology. Students interested in forensic psychology should do a thorough job of investigating a program and asking difficult questions. How long does it take students to graduate from the program? Do graduates of the program obtain the types of jobs in which I am interested? What types of job placements or clinical practicum experiences are available? If you eventually want to obtain a PhD, is the program successful at placing students in quality PhD programs?
     There also are a number of doctoral training programs at schools such as the University of Alabama, the University of Arizona, the University of Nebraska, Sam Houston State University, and Simon Fraser University, to name a few. A more comprehensive list of graduate programs in forensic psychology can be obtained by checking the American Psychology-Law Society website at
www.unl.edu/ap-ls/gradp.htm and www.unl.edu/ap-ls/CAREERS.htm [WEBMASTER NOTE: This material can now be accessed at www.ap-ls.org/students/graduateIndex.html]. At the doctoral level, forensic programs can be very diverse. Programs may offer joint degrees in both clinical psychology (PhD or MA) and the law (JD or MLS) or simply offer specialized course work and clinical experience on the way to a PhD. It is certainly not necessary to receive a law degree in order to be a forensic psychologist. However, joint degree programs may offer some advantages to particular students. Melton et al. (1999) offer a more comprehensive discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of the different types of doctorate programs in forensic psychology.
     Remember that in order to be a good forensic psychologist, you must first be a good clinical psychologist. In order to become a competent and successful forensic psychologist, you do not have to enter a forensic psychology program, though it is preferred. In fact, most forensic psychologists have not received their education in one of the select few forensic psychology programs. Obtaining admission to any APA-approved clinical or counseling doctoral program is an achievement! If you decide to pursue your training in a program that does not have a specific focus in forensics, you can obtain predoctoral training in forensically focused clinical placements. You can seek forensic training at forensic predoctoral internships such as with the Federal Bureau of Prisons or a number of mental hospitals around the country. There also are a number of postdoctoral fellowships that can be obtained after you have completed your PhD (see Bersoff et al., 1997, for a comprehensive list).

Conclusion

     Simply put, forensic psychology is an awesome field! While you are probably not going to become like Special Agent Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs, there are a number of opportunities available for forensic psychologists. It's hard for me to believe that my original interest has ultimately paid off, and I get to continually learn and teach about the things that I find so interesting and challenging. Furthermore, forensic psychology has not even approached its potential. The next generation of students has a very bright future ahead of them.


References

American Board of Forensic Psychology, & American Psychology-Law Society. (1995). Petition for the recognition of a specialty in professional psychology [Online]. Available: http://www.unl.edu/ap-ls/petition.PDF [WEBMASTER'S NOTE: Link no longer works]

Bersoff, D. N., Goodman-Delahunty, J., Grisso, J. T., Hans, V. P., Poythress, N. G., Jr., & Roesch, R. G. (1997). Training in law and psychology: Models from the Villanova Conference. American Psychologist, 52, 1301-1310.

Melton, G. B., Huss, M. T., & Tomkins, A. J. (1999). Training in forensic psychology and the law. In A. K. Hess & I. B. Weiner (Eds.), Handbook of forensic psychology (2nd ed., pp. 700-720). New York: Wiley.

Norcross, J. C. (2000, Fall). Clinical versus counseling psychology: What's the diff? Eye on Psi Chi, 5, 20-22.

Wrightsman, L. S. (2001). Forensic psychology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.


Matthew T. Huss (image)ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Matthew T. Huss, PhD, is an assistant professor at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebr. He earned his undergraduate degree at Creighton University, where he was inducted into Psi Chi. He earned his master's degree in general - experimental psychology from Emporia State University and is a graduate of the Clinical Psychology Training Program (forensic emphasis) and the Law and Psychology Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He currently teaches Introductory Psychology, Psychology and the Law, Forensic Psychology, and Abnormal Psychology, and is a coauthor of the chapter "Training in Forensic Psychology and the Law" published in Handbook of Forensic Psychology (Melton, Huss, & Tomkins, 1999). His research interests generally revolve around risk management in specific populations (e.g., domestic violence and sex offenders) and forensic psychology in general.

For more information, visit the American Psychology-Law Society website: www.ap-ls.org

Spring 2001 issue of Eye on Psi Chi (Vol. 5, No. 3, pp. 25-27), published by Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology (Chattanooga, TN). Copyright, 2001, Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology. All rights reserved.


Careers in Forensic Psychology (Details):

FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY is the application of psychology to the criminal justice system. Many people confuse Forensic Psychology with forensic science. Although the two are closely related, there are many differences. The primary difference is that forensic psychologists delve into the vast psychological perspectives and apply them to criminal justice system. On the other hand, forensic psychologists frequently deal with legal issues, such as public policies, new laws, competency, and also whether a defendant was insane at the time a crime occurred. All of these issues weave together psychology and law topics and are essential to the discipline of Forensic Psychology. Forensic Psychology knowledge is used in various forms, such as in treating mentally ill offenders, consulting with attorneys (e.g., on picking a jury), analyzing a criminal's mind and intent, and practicing within the civil arena.

Individuals interested in pursuing a Forensic Psychology career would have take psychology and criminal justice courses at the core of their academic studies. There is a very limited number of academic institutions that specifically offer a Forensic Psychology degree. Clinical, social, cognitive, criminal investigative, and developmental psychology also help to prepare one for this speciality.

A forensic psychologist may chose to solely focus his/her career on research, ranging anywhere from examination of eyewitness testimony to learning how to improve interrogation methods. Another form of Forensic Psychology work is public policy, in which researchers can help in the design of correctional facilities and prisons. More generally, Forensic Psychology covers territory between the traditional options of criminal justice (i.e., academic training, law enforcement, and corrections).


A Brief History

Forensic Psychology dates back to at least the turn of the twentieth century. William Stern studied memory in 1901 by asking students to examine a picture for forty-five seconds and then try to recall what was happening in it. He would see how much the person could recall at various intervals after seeing the picture. These experiments came before more contemporary research about the reliability of eyewitnesses testimony in court. Stern concluded from his research that recall memories are generally inaccurate; the more time between seeing the picture and being asked to recall it, the more errors were made. People especially recalled false information when the experimenter gave them a lead-in question such as, "Did you see the man with the knife?" The person would answer, "yes," even if there was no knife present. Lead-in questions are often used in police interrogations and in questioning witnesses.

Hugo Munsterberg is often called the first forensic psychologist. He wrote a book called On the Witness Stand. It was published in 1908, after the work of William Stern. Other psychologists before this, such as Alfred Binet and Sigmund Freud, had also constructed tests that could be used in judicial proceeding. They both did studies suggesting that the time it takes for a person to answer a question could be a factor in determining guilt or innocence.

In 1916, Lewis Terman, a Stanford psychologist, began to apply psychology to law enforcement. He revised Alfred Binet's intelligence tests and formed the Stanford-Binet intelligence test. These tests were used to assess the intelligence of thirty applicants for the police and firefighting jobs in San Jose, CA. A few years later, L. L. Thurstone used the same type of test in Detroit. Now, this type of testing is used in most police departments in the country.

The application of psychology in law and law enforcement continued throughout the 1920's and 1930's. To this day, there is still a special interest in extending psychology to police work. The demand for psychologists in the legal system has grown considerably over the past several decades. Currently, almost 2,000 psychologists belong to the American Psychology-Law Society.


Important Terms and Definitions

The following are terms that are important to be familar with when learning about Forensic Psychology:

Some Important Terms in Forensic Psychology


Competency The mental condition of the defendant at the time of trial is brought up every now and then by the defendant. If a defendant is found to be incompetent, our justice system will not usually punish him/her.
Insanity Sometimes forensic psychologists are asked to determine whether a defendant was mentally capable at the time an offense was committed, commonly by employing the McNaughton rule and/or the substantial capacity rule.
Expert Witness The majority of forensic psychologists testify in court for both the defense and also for prosecuting attorneys about the sanity and competency of defendants, the accuracy of the eye witness, in child custody cases, and also a variety of other things.
Criminal Profiling With a lot of experience and schooling, one could work closely with local police and also federal agencies to create psychological profiles of defendants.
Jury Consulting Many forensic psychologists work with attorneys in selecting jurors, analyzing the potential verdicts of juries, and explaining actual trial verdicts.


Some Interesting Subfields

There are many things you can do in the field of Forensic Psychology. Here are some examples of interesting areas:

Some Interesting Subfields Within Forensic Psychology


Clinical-Forensic Psychology This subfield is very similar to clinical psychology. Clients here are not only suffering from some type of mental problem, but their issues are of importance to legal decision making as well.
Developmental Psychology This area has to do with juveniles, the elderly, and the law. The focus is on policy making rather than treatment of those with mental problems.
Social Psychology Much of the interest in this field, as applied to Forensic Psychology, is concerned with how jurors interact and arrive at a group decision.
Cognitive Psychology This field is closely associated with the social psychology subfield, but it looks more into how people make decisions in legal cases.
Criminal Investigative Psychology This area deals with police psychology, criminal profiling and psychological autopsies. Experts may chose to conduct research and/or work closely in analyzing the minds of criminal suspects.


A Typical Day Practicing Forensic Psychology

The typical day of a forensic psychologist can vary. In general, it is oriented toward research activities. However, a psychologist may do other things as well, such as helping with jury selection. In this case, the psychologist would wake up fairly early and gather information on studies done on juries especially relevant to a pending case. They would then go to a courthouse or to an attorney's office to sift through papers or conduct interviews of possible jurors. The psychologist might also help attorneys narrow down the joror pool by eliminating people whose views may affect the outcome of the trial in an undesirable way. This process can sometimes last several weeks or even longer.


Pros and Cons of a Career in Forensic Psychology

There are both potentially rewarding and frustrating aspects to working in Forensic Psychology that need to be carefully considered before pursuing a career in this field. Listed below are some potential pros and cons.

Some Potential Attractions of Careers in Forensic Psychology


Helping Others Forensic psychology can be very rewarding when you make a difference in someone's life.
Opportunities There are many different subspecialties within the field.
Changing Environment When working in prisons and with juvenile offenders, every day can be different.
Recognition Those who act as expert witnesses are usually well known.
Personal Fulfillment When conducting research, psychologists' findings are often beneficial to society.

Some Potential Drawbacks of Careers in Forensic Psychology


Continuing Education Attending seminars and conferences throughout one's professional life is important for keeping current in the field. Also, it is not easy to get a job directly out of the doctoral program without additional training.
Risk of Injury The people that forensic psychologists work with in prison settings are sometimes very violent.
Teamwork Some people would rather work independently. In this field, people are constantly working with the courts, police, and a variety of other professionals.
Pay The pay range for someone in this field does not always compensate for the hard work and long hours.
Burnout Risk Forensic psychology can be a very stressful job. Often, people and situations cannot be changed easily.


Education and Training for Careers in Forensic Psychology

NEEDED SKILLS, ABILITIES, and KNOWLEDGE: Those with a desire to work in Forensic Psychology must be patient, adaptable, comfortable working with others, and enjoy doing research. Often, one must be a good speaker because many people who do work in this field work as expert witnesses at some point during their career. An expertise in abnormal, motivational, clinical, and social psychology is also key to being successful in this field. Additionally, working in this field requires continuing education throughout one's career, even after 5-7 years of graduate school.

OPTIONS AND PAY RANGES WITH A BACHELOR'S DEGREE: There are not many opportunities for someone with only a bachelor's degree in this specialty. One cannot be a licensed psychologist without receiving a doctoral degree. To move toward a career in Forensic Psychology, it would be wise to to take a few important classes in the undergraduate years of schooling. Some key classes to consider taking are in criminology, criminal law, statistics, research methods, social psychology, and abnormal psychology. One of the most beneficial classes to take at this time would be motivational psychology. It would be a good idea to understand why people do the things they do and make the choices they do early on in one's education.If possible enroll in a bachelor of the sciences rather than a bachelor of the arts program.

To begin getting some experience and work before graduate school, one could begin working as a residential youth counselor, a case worker, or a probation/parole officer (see Entry Level Jobs). These positions are entry level positions with a bachelors degree and involve both psychology and the law. The jobs listed tend to be low paying, ranging from $19,000 to 20,600 annually to start (based on a 1995 survey; see APA), but they give one the opportunity to see what kinds of people they will be working with in the future and the types of problems they have.

OPTIONS AND PAY RANGES WITH A MASTER'S DEGREE: The pay for a psychologist with a master's degree in this field is between $20,000 and 25,000 annually to start (see Pay Ranges). People with M.A. degrees focused on clinical psychology usually work in institutions, where a Ph.D. will supervise them. Correctional facilities are a primary place for employing master's level forensic psychologists rather than doctoral level psychologists because they can be paid a lower income. Those with M.A. degrees who have attended a college with an emphasis on developmental, social, and cognitive psychology have more opportunities than those graduating with a clinical degree because they will not be assessing patients. They can work in research settings, for the government, and/or for non-profit organizations; in these capacities, they can also become involved in policy making.

Some Terminal Master's Degree Programs for Pursuing a Career in Forensic Psychology


Forensic Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice This program places emphasis on applying psychology to the criminal justice system and offers a broad range of classes involving psychology and the law.
Forensic Psychology at Castleton State College This program emphasizes Police Psychology, psychology and the law, and correctional psychology.
Forensic Psychology at the University of Melbourne This Australian program, focused on the criminology aspect of Forensic Psychology, moves students toward a career in social work.

OPTIONS AND PAY RANGES WITH A DOCTORAL DEGREE: The doctoral degree offers many opportunities for forensic psychologists. The salary usually starts out at between $35,000 and $40,000 annually (see Salary Data). with a doctorate, one can go into independent practice. Private practice areas might include counseling offenders, being an expert witness for hire, conducting assessment, conducting psychotherapy, and consulting on civil and criminal issues. Ph.D.'s can also work in colleges and universities. Along with this, they can now supervise those who only have their master's degree.

Some Doctoral Degree Programs for Pursuing a Career in Forensic Psychology


Applied Forensic at California School of Professional Psychology This Psy.D. program prepares students to work as practitioners and consultants in many different mental health institutions and also in the criminal justice system.
Forensic Clinical Psychology at Sam Houston State University This program focuses offender therapy and assessing offenders. The curriculum leans more toward clinical psychology as applied to the criminal justice system.
Forensic Psychology at Widener University Competency in clinical psychology is most important in this program. Students can then chose to specialize more toward forensic careers.


Employment Resources for Forensic Psychology

The best ways to learn about jobs in Forensic Psychology is to talk to someone in the field. Searching the Internet is a great way to find out about employment possibilities. Here are some employment-related resources to consider:

Some Resources for Exploring Careers and Career Prospects in Forensic Psychology


Swenson's Forensic Psychology Website This site will give you an idea of who employs forensic psychologists. It also contains links to some current job listings.
Careers and Training This great site shows what some people have done with their degrees.
American Academy of Forensic Sciences This site gives an updated list every two weeks of forensic position openings.
Forensic Science Society This site provides a list of job vacancies in the field and also mentions links to other pages with job opportunities.


Learning More About Forensic Psychology

If you would like to learn more about this field, try reading the daily newspaper as a start. Every day there are stories in the paper about what is happening in the mental health field and also in criminal justice settings. Half of the stories we read about concern court cases and what has gone on in some neighborhood. The forensic psychologist is usually not mentioned, often because he/she operates behind the scenes. Here are some good general resources to consider if you want to learn more about Forensic Psychology:

Some General Resources for Learning More about Forensic Psychology


The Ultimate Forensic Psychology Database To find out more about Forensic Psychology and also about psychiatry, try this site. It also gives ideas about what kinds of careers forensic psychologists pursue.
What is Forensic Psychology? It's not "Silence of the Lambs" Students may become disheartened to learn that certain media depictions are less than realistic but should be excited to learn about the real possibilities Forensic Psychology has to offer. This article describes the field, identifies possible careers, and suggests relevant training opportunities.
Psychology Information Line This is a great place to start if you are interested in Forensic Psychology.It also contains some good links to find out even more about this area.


Outlook

Forensic psychology has experienced steady growth in the past two decades. It is predicted that research work, consultation, and clinical practice in psychology and the law will continue to grow over the next ten years. The highest demand is predicted to be working with the courts, attorneys, and lawmakers. Jobs will also continue to grow in colleges and universities where most of the research is conducted. Laws are constantly changing, which can be good news for a forensic psychologist. Exploring different ways of dealing with juvenile offenders is also becoming a popular subject; decisions related to dealing with these offenders often require the expert advise of a forensic psychologist. Those who hold doctorate degrees will have many more career opportunities than those with only a master's degree. It is almost impossible to specialize in this field with only a bachelors degree.


Summary

There will always be a need for forensic psychologists in our society. To be involved in Forensic Psychology you must be passionate about what you do. The money you make does not usually compensate for the hours of hard work invested. The true personal payment comes in knowing that you can make a difference in a person's life and maybe even make society a little bit better. There are many different fields of specialization to get into in this field; this can be quite exciting at times.

Working in prisons or with juveniles can change from day to day and be very rewarding. However, the burnout rate is high because a psychologist may often try to change someone or something that cannot be changed easily. Testifying in court can also be stressful. If you contemplate a career in Forensic Psychology, it would be goot to keep in mind that to really get ahead requires extensive education.


Acknowledgments

This page was created by Lorraine Diviny and Kelly Hemple as a project for a Senior Seminar in Psychology (PSY400) class taught by Dr. Arvid J. Bloom at West Chester University in Spring 2000.

 

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