Criminal Psychologist Career

Career Overview

Criminal psychology mainly involves studying the behavior of criminals and why certain individuals are predisposed to commit crimes or violent acts. Psychologists who specialize in the field often work as criminal profilers or as expert witnesses in court. Therefore, criminal psychologists are often hired by the police and federal agencies, such as the FBI, to solve crimes and evaluate individuals convicted of aberrant acts. Criminal profiling, used mainly by the FBI, enables law enforcement officials to locate and apprehend offenders suspected of such criminal offenses as theft, murder, and rape. Today, the field of criminal psychology also includes studying the behavior of criminals who commit fraud on the Internet.

Psychologists delve deep into the interior thought processes of clients as a way of life. Criminal psychologists use this ability to gain insight into the minds of people who commit crimes in order to help solve crimes or to create a profile for investigators to find the perpetrator. Tasks vary from reviewing evidence in a case in order to tease out hidden clues to writing reports about a defendant’s ability to stand trial. Criminal psychologists may be called on to interrogate a criminal or to provide expert testimony in a case. They may comb the website or investigate the home of the criminal in order to glean understanding of the thought processes and underlying agendas of those who commit crime. They may help create profiles of potential future victims. It can be solitary work, but putting the puzzle together makes this an essential part of the teams that work to solve crimes everywhere.

Related Reading: How to become a Criminal Psychologist.

Criminal psychologists attempt to explain and predict deviant behavior within various demographics, utilizing a variety of theoretical orientations. For example, psychologists who subscribe to the functionalist view of criminal development might argue that social deviance provides certain benefits, and therefor serves a legitimate function within an individual’s lifespan. Those who subscribe to the Freudian view of criminal behavior might theorize that an arrested stage of development causes criminal tendencies.  The development of psychological profiles of offenders and victims is also an important part of the field. Criminals are studied at various points of their involvement with the legal system to gain further insight.

Topics in criminal psychology include the formation of criminal intent through primary and secondary socialization experiences. Criminal psychologists also attempt to explain why some individuals exposed to certain variables and stimuli become criminals, while others exposed to the same set of circumstances do not.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Department’s Bureau of Labor and Statistics indicates that the job availability for psychologists will increase at the rate of 12% till 2018. However, this depends upon an individual’s specialty. For example, school psychologists can expect this increase to be around 11%, while forensic psychologists could experience an increase of at least 14%.


Criminal psychologists are able to get great monetary benefits for their services. As the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, the average annual income for these professionals is $89,900.

Educational Requirements

A criminal psychology career begins in an undergraduate school where you should opt for a psychology major during a Bachelor of Science or Arts program. Once your bachelor’s degree is completed, a subsequent step to becoming  a criminal psychologist is to finish a master’s, or maybe doctoral degree. There are many universities that provide higher degrees in criminal psychology. To become a fully licensed psychologist every graduate must complete 3,000 supervised hours of practice. This should be easy for criminal psychologists working in a prison or for the court system.

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