What Do You Need to Start Forensic Psychology Career

If you regularly watch television dramas then you must know how popular forensic psychology really is. That fact that forensic psychology has books and television shows involving its applications and use, shows how widely used this science is which also says something about its career prospects.

Forensic psychology is one of the many branches of psychology. It can be described as a union between the justice system and the field of psychology. It uses the methodology, teachings and concepts of psychology and applies it in the justice system to add value to it. The purpose of forensic psychologists is to assist the justice system so that better decisions are made. Much of what a forensic psychologist does revolves around court testimony integrity, evaluating stakeholders, formulating psychological findings into understandable language, and so on.

What is the Importance of Formal Education?

There is no mistaking the fact that education is necessary if you wish to make a name for yourself in the forensic psychology industry – under normal circumstances. A degree or two in the relevant field can make a world of a difference in how you climb the ladder of success in the industry of your choosing. With the right academic qualifications on your resume, potential employers and head hunters will be in a better position to determine your worth and suitability for a job as opposed to those candidates without the relevant educational qualifications.

So if you plan to become a forensic psychologist, you must make sure you have the right academic training, exposure and concepts to start your career. What is of equal importance is certification and licensing which helps you meet industry standards of excellence. Licensing and certification needs vary from state to state, so before you pursue either you must look up the state laws and policies.

What are the Degree Options and Requirements?

At the undergraduate level, you may be able to start your career in forensic psychology. This may include associate’s degrees, diplomas or bachelor’s degrees. However, a degree of this academic level may only be sufficient to start you off in a basic entry level position or that of an assistant. The most common approach adopted by students in getting the academic qualification usually starts with a bachelor’s degree which leads to a master’s program and eventually a doctorate.

A bachelor’s degree provides a comprehensive exposure to students with respect to psychology – as a matter of fact, at this stage students develop their foundation in psychology which is crucial for later learning. Some universities may offer bachelor’s programs that are dedicated to forensic psychology whereas other programs offer a general and well-rounded exposure to psychology. Possible courses that students may come across are principles of psychology, neurology, sociology, ethics, communication skills, statistics, and so on.

The next step is a master’s program in psychology and here students are presented with the opportunity to focus entirely on forensic psychology. If you want to start a master’s program then you must have successfully completed a bachelor’s program from a reputable and recognized institute. Some programs may require you to have practical exposure in forensic psychology by way of internships or formal training.

At the doctorate level, you may be given the opportunity to focus on a particular niche in forensic psychology by choosing electives or areas of research. Some courses you may come across are forensic studies, forensic pathology, forensic sciences, statistical inference, criminal justice, and so on. Emphasis is given to research projects, thesis projects or dissertations. Before you start a doctorate program you may need to have anywhere between 2 to 5 years of practical experience.

To learn about certification, exam schedules and course content, it is recommended you consult with the American Board of Forensic Psychology.

What is the Career Potential for Forensic Psychology?

Progress and career growth in a field like forensic psychology are largely dependent on your level of experience, the number of cases you have worked on, your success rate and your original contribution to the field in terms of insight and research. All these variables come with time and can influence your career growth and earning potential. As of May 2020, the average annual salary for a forensic psychologist is around $69,514 (payscale.com).

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