Consider a career as a criminal psychologist – Part 1

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Job details & work setting

Criminal psychologists are often hired to determine and evaluate an accused individual’s mental status and motivation as well as their fitness for trial. These professionals may be called on to interpret polygraph data, project the risk of recidivism when a prisoner comes up for parole and assess parental fitness in child custody cases. They work closely with attorneys, judges and other legal professionals to analyse the psychological aspects of crime and are often required to testify in court and in some cases, provide recommendations for sentencing and treatment.

Students learning clinical procedures from their hospital mentors Also known as forensic psychologists, these professionals are experts in both psychology as well as law. Their main goal is to obtain the answer to the question, ‘What motivates a person to commit a crime?’

Within the criminal justice system a criminal psychologist’s role is to make both formal and informal psychological assessments. Some criminal psychologists may also work with offenders in a therapeutic capacity, trying to modify problem behaviours and promoting successful rehabilitation.

Criminal psychologists play a key role in the justice system by assisting in identifying and apprehending offenders and predicting the future likelihood of criminal behaviour. They also work towards ensuring that anyone accused of a crime receives fair, appropriate and humane treatment. These professionals take great pride in protecting public safety while enjoying the intellectual stimulation provided by this uniquely challenging field.

Criminal profilers represent a subspecialty within the broader field of forensic psychology. Also known as investigative analysts, criminal profilers do the job of analysing crime scene evidence in order to provide investigators with descriptions of unknown offenders. Drawing on their knowledge of crime statistics and human behaviour, criminal profilers make educated guesses about the age, sex, behaviour, personal habits and occupation of the offender. These clues help investigators to narrow their search.

Work settings & salary

As a criminal psychologist you could work in a psychiatric hospital, community mental health centre, correctional facility, forensic hospital or academic institution, probation office or you could have your own private practice. Most criminal psychologists work full time. Being employed by an institution or agency would mean working fixed hours whereas running your own private practice would mean more flexible hours.

Much of your workday would be spent interviewing suspects, victims and witnesses, conducting case research and performing assessments. To be able to get all of the information you need regarding the case, you would need to work closely with state attorneys, private lawyers, federal agents and police officers.

Compensation of criminal psychologists varies widely depending on level of education, employment setting, geographic location and experience. Professionals working in public and government settings usually earn less than those in private practice. Criminal psychologists who choose to go into private practice also enjoy greater responsibilities along with a more flexible schedule.

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