Careers with Forensic Psychology Degrees

Law Enforcement

Description: Some people who earn their degree in forensic psychology will ultimately decide to pursue a career in law enforcement. Some of these people may have felt drawn to the law enforcement portions of their forensic psychology training. Some others may have chosen a degree in psychology to serve as a foundation for their inevitable career as a law enforcement officer. They may become police officers, law enforcement staff, detectives or other positions with the area of law enforcement. The benefit to a forensic psychology degree for law enforcement is those with this training will have a thorough understanding of human behavior, motivation and cognition.

Qualification: The minimum educational level to become a law enforcement officer is a bachelor’s degree. While psychology is one of the possible majors, there are many other specializations that can segway into a career in law enforcement. While this is the minimum requirement, some agencies may have additional degree requirements. Anyone entering the field of law enforcement will also be required to complete specialized training in this field.

Salary: According to the 2017 Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook (BLS-OH), the average nationwide salary for a law enforcement agent is $62,960 per year. There is a wide range in salary depending upon the region of the country you reside, the type of law enforcement position held and the level of experience.

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Court Liaison

Description: One of the bachelor’s level forensic psychology jobs that many graduates pursue after college is working as a Court Liaison. These are people who work closely with law enforcement agencies, the court system and crime victims to help make the process smoother for everyone involved. Court Liaisons have a mixed skill set with a deep understanding of the court system, but also a high level of compassion when working with victims and their families. Some of their responsibilities include supporting court officials, assisting police officers, engaging with law enforcement staff and other way to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the court system. They may also do things like assisting with filings documents for trials and hearings, helping gather any necessary information from either side or helping prepare police officers to give testimony in court.

Qualification: In order to become a Court Liaison, you must hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Clinical or Forensic Psychology. In some municipalities, the job description may call for a higher degree or internship as additional training.

Salary: The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not currently collect salary data for the position of Court Liaison, however Payscale.com has collected data that shows an average annual salary of $40,494.

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Justice

Victim Advocate

Description: Victim Advocates are people trained in both psychology and the legal system to work with victims of crimes to help guide them through the complicated legal system. Victims of crimes may have experienced a traumatic event and having to navigate the complicated legal system can make the situation even worse for victims. Victim Advocates are therefore very important professionals who can help educate, support, and guide crime victims throughout the entire process.

Qualification:

The minimum academic requirement to become a Victim Advocate is a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, Law, Forensic Psychology or Social Work. Most individuals who become Victim Advocates will have specific training in the legal system and how it works. While there is no necessity to have specific certification, anyone interested in pursing this forensic psychology career can look into joining the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA).

Salary: A relatively new career, Victim Advocate is not yet recognized specifically by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Payscale.com states that the annual salary range is $26,038 – $48,589, with an average of $34,716.

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Jury Consultant

Description: Also known as Trial Consultants, Jury Consultants are a fairly new portion of the forensic psychology field. These are highly skilled professionals who offer their services as individual consultants. It is unusual for someone to enter their career as a Jury Consultant, instead most are skilled psychologists or counselors who can offer their professional experiences after years in the field. The role of a Trial Consultant is to work with either the prosecution or the defense to help determine which potential jurors are most favorable for their side. Many also offer their services to help prepare witnesses for trial.

Qualification:

There are no specific guidelines for Jury Consultant training, but in more cases a Master’s Degree in Psychology, Law, Social Work or other related fields would be the minimum educational level. Most successful Jury Consultants also have a breadth of experience working professionally.

Salary: According to online legal employment resource Law Crossing, most Jury Consulting positions are found in larger metropolitan cities. Salaries are quite varied depending upon the professional’s experience, region of the country, type of consulting and a number of other factors. Law Crossing states that an entry-level salary as a Trial Consultant for an experienced doctoral level psychologist ranges from $65,000 to $110,000. At the master’s level you can expect a range of around $50,000 to $80,000 a year.

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Victim Counselor

Description: When a person is the victim of a crime, the outcome of the crime can take a larger toll than many people think. Even in the case of non-violent crimes, victims are often left feeling frightened, isolated, lonely, confused and angry. This is where a Victim Counselor can make a tremendous difference. They offer everything from counseling and support to help navigating the legal system. Some professionals who earn their degree in forensic psychology will choose to work with crime victims to help restore their lives to before the crime. They may work in a private practice, as a part of the legal system or for a police department.

Qualification:

To become a Victim Counselor a professional must adhere to their state guidelines on educational and licensing requirement for a mental health counselor. In most states a Master’s Degree in Psychology is the minimal requirement.

Salary: According to the 2018 BLS-OH the average mental health counselor earns an annual salary of $43,300 per year, with a range of $27,310 – $70,840. This data is not specifically gathered for victim counselor, so the range may be slightly different.

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Criminal Profiler

Description: Criminal Profilers have become the fodder for many a television show in recent years. With a sudden fascination in how a psychologist can help detectives and law enforcement officers catch criminals, just about everyone with a TV has at least heard of Criminal Profiling. In reality this career is slightly less flashy that depicted on television, but an important part of the criminal investigative process. Criminal Profilers use their years of education, training and experience to help investigators understand the mind of criminals. They can help in finding suspects of crimes and in some cases be an integral part of bringing a criminal to justice. Many profilers work for government agencies like the FBI, but some work on a more local level.

Qualification: In order to become a Criminal Profiler, most agencies will require a candidate to hold their PhD in Forensic Psychology. This will include all of the necessary research, internship and other experiential learning that is necessary to enter this field.

Salary: The salary of a Criminal Profiler will vary greatly depending upon where you work. FBI Criminal Profilers fall into the pay grade category of General Schedule pay scale, with a starting pay grade of at least General Schedule (GS)-10. In 2018, this includes a range of $48,289 to $62,787 annually. With experience and time, a profiler can expect to move through the incremental pay grades. The General Schedule pay range for 2018 is:

  • GS10: $48,289-$62,787
  • GS11: $54,062-$68,983
  • GS12: $63,600-$82,680
  • GS13: $75,628-$98,317
  • GS14: $89,370-$116,181
  • GS15: $105,123-$136,659

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Expert Witness

Description: Another popular tv psychology icon is that of an expert witness. There are Expert Witnesses in all varieties, ranging from ballistics experts, to medical witnesses, to finger print experts. In this case we are talking about Expert Witnesses who offer their sworn testimony regarding the mental health status of a criminal. Expert Witnesses are usually mental health professionals with years of experience working with clients or patients. Because they have this extensive experience working with clients, this allows them to make professional judgements about things like mental state at the time of a crime, how fit someone is to stand trial, the motive behind a crime, and many other issues that fall into their professional experience. In some instances, a mental health professional will be asked to provide testimony regarding a case they already and involved with, but only with the permission of the client.

Qualification:

In order to be hired as an Expert Witness one must hold a Doctoral Degree in Psychology and have extensive experience working in the mental health field.

Salary: According to Zip Recruiter, the average annual pay for an Expert Witness is $156,000 a year. It should also be taken into consideration the fact that there are some expert witnesses who earn a small stipend in exchange for their testimony, as opposed to those who earn a full time living. So, this may skew the average annual salary slightly.

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Academia

Description:

Qualification: In almost every sub-field of psychology you will find a large percentage of graduates who at some point in their career enter the world of academia. Most will enter as professors, while some others will pursue research. Becoming a college professor can be done at almost all levels of professional experience, but most after some clinical experience. Becoming a Forensic Psychology College Professor means that the next generation of students will get the training and insights they need to enter the field. Most college professors also act as mentors for students as they choose their own path within the varied field of Forensic Psychology.

Salary: In May 2017, the average annual salary for a Post-Secondary Psychology teacher was $85,050. The top ten percent of this group earned on average $148,840.

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Forensic Psychologist

Description: For many, the ultimate goal is to eventually become a forensic psychologist. This is a top-level psychological position that can take many different shapes. They may work in a private practice setting working as a consultant for the law enforcement or the courts. They can be found in governmental agencies ranging from a local police department to the FBI. Many forensic psychologists can be found working in the prison system as counselors to inmates who either have a psychiatric diagnosis or want to work on self-improvement to reduce their chances of committing future crimes upon release.

Qualification: Forensic Psychologists generally have obtained their doctoral degree in psychology, although some states allow licensure at the master’s level. As part of their graduate training, forensic psychology students will complete an internship relevant to the field they wish to enter. Additionally, most states require that a forensic psychologist obtain their state license to practice psychology.

Salary: In 2017, the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median wage for “All Other Psychologists” was $97,740. However, no specific data is given for Forensic Psychologists. Payscale.com outlines a range of $38,675 – $111,086 for these professionals, with a median of $62,778. Salaries vary widely depending upon the area of forensic psychology you pursue, location and professional level.
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