Career options with a master’s degree in forensic psychology
A forensic psychology degree can open the door to a wide variety of careers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for psychologists are expected to grow about 14 percent (much faster than average). That includes specialized fields like forensic psychology. Those seeking to enter or advance in this field may want to consider pursuing a master’s degree in forensic psychology, which integrates psychology with processes and procedures of the legal system.
The field of forensic psychology also offers a variety of career options—from consulting on public policy to working within the criminal justice system. While these are options that many may pursue, they’re not your only choice.
Continue reading to learn more about what a forensic psychologist does and different career options that may be available with a master’s degree in forensic psychology.
What does a forensic psychologist do?
Generally speaking, forensic psychology includes areas where psychology and the legal system connect. Many people believe they know exactly what a forensic psychologist does by watching their favorite crime shows. But while shows such as “Criminal Minds” portray forensic psychologists as action heroes, the truth is that they a forensic psychologist will probably spend more time studying criminals and their crimes to help law enforcement better understand patterns in behavior.
While there are many who work with law enforcement to profile criminals, forensic psychologists may also work in a variety of other areas. For example, many forensic psychologists will work in the court system in order to help lawyers, judges, and juries better understand the motivations behind criminal behavior. In fact, many choose this path to advocate on behalf of underserved populations, including African-Americans, Latina/Latinos, those from lower-economic areas, children, or those with mental illness.
Career options with a master’s degree in forensic psychology
There are many paths available for those seeking a career in forensic psychology. Continue reading to discover some that we’ve chosen to highlight.
1. Correctional Counselor
Those with a master’s degree in forensic psychology may seek employment in a correctional facility. Forensic psychologists can leverage their understanding of crime, punishment, and the legal and psychological ramifications of both to perform a variety of meaningful roles in the correctional system. This can include offering treatment and counseling for inmates and ex-convicts.
In addition, forensic psychologists may be responsible for developing programs to help reduce recidivism rates. Correctional counselors provide mental health counseling and support to prison inmates and often conduct both individual and group sessions with inmates. Their work may include:
- Counseling sessions
- Conducting psychological evaluations
- Collaborating with caseworkers, lawyers, and other employees at the correctional facility
Correctional counselors can provide deeper insights into the state and well-being of inmates and give recommendations into parole hearings.
2. Jail Supervisor
Jail supervisors, also known as corrections supervisors, work in correctional facilities like juvenile jails, state penitentiaries, and detention centers. Their work centers around keeping inmates and staff members safe. Responsibilities can include overseeing daily activities, alleviating conflict, and ensuring the prison is clear of contraband.
A successful jail supervisor has strong communication and conflict resolution skills. Since their job is to keep the peace, it’s important to understand each situation and deal with it patiently. That’s why a forensic psychology background can be so beneficial.
3. Victims Advocate
A victims advocate works directly with victims of crimes and survivors of traumatic events like sexual assault or domestic violence. Advocate responsibilities often include helping the victim understand his or her case and legal rights, providing support through the legal process, and even attending hearings with the victim.
It’s important to keep in mind that advocates are there to provide information, resources, and support to victims—but they do not tell victims what to do. Victim advocates can work for government organizations like police stations or courts and for private organizations like nonprofits or crisis centers.
4. Jury Consultant
Forensic psychologists are needed in a variety of applications in court systems, including evaluating witness testimony, selecting juries, providing consultations, and many others. For example, a jury consultant would work with lawyers to provide insights on what jurors to select for cases. As consultants, they do a lot of research into potential jurors and are heavily involved in the voir dire process. Voir dire is when prospective jurors are questioned by both the prosecuting and defense attorneys.
Additionally, jury consultants take notes during the trial itself on juror body language and behavior. This information helps lawyers prep their strategies and coach witnesses.
Because forensic psychology combines psychological insights with the court system, a master’s degree in forensic psychology is a smart stepping stone toward this career path. Forensic psychology courses often include information on jury selection and courtroom dynamics.
5. Federal Government Employee
Individuals with forensic psychology degree backgrounds can be well-equipped and attractive job candidates for federal government organizations. This can include working at the FBI, DEA, CIA, VA hospitals, or other state and local government institutions.
Forensic psychology prepares people to think critically, combine interdisciplinary perspectives, and apply psychological perspectives to real-world situations. This type of education can set individuals up for success in jobs like being an FBI special agent or a VA hospital worker.
These positions do not require licensure, but it often helps to receive a higher graduate-level degree to further your career in these organizations.
6. Police Consultant
While many forensic psychologists will work in the justice system, others will choose to work on the side of law enforcement as police consultants. In many instances, police officers and detectives rely on forensic psychologists to help them understand the minds of criminals and to help them apprehend felons. While television tends to bump up the adrenaline for ratings, this is probably the most recognizable job for forensic psychologists because of shows like “Law & Order” or “CSI.”
Additionally, police consultants help educate police officers on how to best approach their communities in order to promote community policing strategies, and how to best address interpersonal struggles or challenges within the department. Responsibilities can include:
- Providing suicide prevention training
- Anger management courses
- Critical Incident Stress Debriefing training
- Educating police officers on how to better handle situations involving the disabled and mentally ill
7. Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor
In addition to correctional counselor careers mentioned above, forensic psychology graduates often work as counselors in a wide variety of industries.
From addiction treatment facilities to domestic violence shelters to private practices, forensic psychology is a versatile field that can translate into many different types of counseling careers.
Of course, many counseling careers do require licensure. If you’re interested in becoming a licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC, LPC, LCPC, etc), be sure to look for forensic psychology programs with a licensure track. This ensures that you’ll be well-equipped to take the necessary exams and apply for licensure.
Interested in jumpstarting your forensic psychology education?
Whether you’re looking to become a victim advocate or a jury consultant, a forensic psychology degree is a great place to start. The Chicago School offers M.A. Forensic Psychology programs online and at four campuses nationwide – Chicago, Irvine, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.
If you would like more information about pursuing a master’s degree in forensic psychology at The Chicago School, visit the program page or fill out the form below to request more information.
The Chicago School
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