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Top 6 Careers in Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychology is growing in popularity, thanks largely to part to programs like CSI, NCIS and The Closer. However, as is the case with many other topics, forensic psychology is not what you see on television. While careers in forensic psychology are among some of the most interesting and unique in the field, don’t expect that you’ll be solving crimes based on intuition and psychology skills. Forensic psychology isn’t the most glamorous; it requires hard-working, intelligent and well-educated professionals who take their jobs seriously. In fact, the majority of forensic psychologists hold master’s or terminal degrees from top-notch forensic psychology schools.

If you’re looking for information on what forensic psychology careers are really like, read on to learn about forensic psychology’s top six careers.

Forensic PsychologistCorrectional Psychologist

Correctional psychologists work with offenders who are incarcerated, on probation or up for parole. They conduct psychological evaluations and provide treatment for their clients. Occasionally, they may be asked to serve as an expert witness and provide testimony regarding their clients’ progress and mental condition. Unlike evaluators, the scope of their work with the client is larger. They seek to diagnose and treat the client over a longer period of time. In this way, correctional psychology combines techniques from both forensic and clinical psychology.

Jury ConsultantsJury Consultant

Jury consultants, sometimes called trial consultants or litigation consultants, work with attorneys to help with jury selection, witness preparation and developing case strategies. Jury consultants rely heavily on research and statistics in their work, so a solid understanding numerology is beneficial to those working in this career. While the opinion of a litigation consultant is definitely valued, at the end of the day, the lawyer who hired or employs the consultant has the final say on matters at hand.

Expert WitnessExpert Witness

In and of itself, expert witness is not a full-time career path; it is usually a task performed in conjunction with another position, such as clinical psychologist, evaluator or academic researcher. Unlike character and fact witnesses, expert witnesses can provide their expert opinion on matters under their jurisdiction. In the field of forensic psychology, this area of expertise includes cognitive, behavioral and social development and matters of mental health. In the past, expert witnesses had been servants of the court. Now, most are recruited by trial attorneys. No matter who calls the witness, the judge has the final decision on whether or not expert testimony is permissible. It is up to each expert witness to make an ethical decision to stay true to their field or to focus on the outcome of the trial.

Mental  Health EvaluatorEvaluator

Evaluators may work in mental health facilities, state psychiatric hospitals and private practice. Although evaluators typically have prior clinical psychology experience, they do not provide counseling or treatment to clients. Instead, their job is to evaluate individuals involved in criminal or civil cases. Their job responsibilities include, but are not limited to, determining a defendant’s competency to stand trial, positing theories about mental state at the time of a crime and evaluating the likelihood that an offender is likely to commit future crimes. They may also be asked to evaluate someone’s mental state after an accident or for matters that arise in custody cases.

Law Enforcement ConsultantLaw Enforcement Consultant

Law enforcement consultants work with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to assist officers and their families. They are often called on to help with crisis intervention. Law enforcement consultants may help officers cope with the post-trauma effects of witnessing particularly disturbing crimes, evaluate officers for psychological soundness after discharging a weapon or counsel families of officers who have been killed in the line of duty. They also provide stress management services and assist in developing police training programs. The question of confidentiality can create ethical problems in this career path, as it is often unclear if the client is the police department or the officer referred.

Forensic AcademiaAcademia

Forensic psychologists in academia help to propel the field further through research and empirical experimentation. Research forensic psychologists focus on the areas where psychology and the law overlap. These professionals usually have a terminal degree, such as a Ph.D. or Psy.D. Their main focus is research, but they may engage in other areas of academia, including teaching, training and supervising students. They may also be called upon to perform any other number of duties under the forensic psychology umbrella, as discussed above. Some famous psychologists in this area include Saul Kassin, who is known for studying false confession, and Elizabeth Loftus, who famously researched eyewitness testimony.

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