When you hear the word ‘forensics’, you probably think of the people who wear those white, plastic, hooded onesies and collect evidence at crime scenes.
Forensic psychologists, however, have much better dress sense and don’t spend their entire time picking up fingernails and bits of soiled fabric with latex gloves and tweezers.
Primarily, forensic psychologists use their specialist knowledge of psychological theory to assess, treat and support prisoners and offenders. They also use their expertise to help victims and people who work within judicial institutions.
As well as helping people in need of psychological therapy, forensic psychologists play a vital role in the conviction and sentencing of criminals by outlining psychological profiles, giving evidence where necessary, and offering expert advice to parole boards.
Typically working in prisons, young offender institutions, probation services, hospitals and police stations, forensic psychologists gauge individual service users’ needs and assess any risks that they may pose to themselves and other people.
Based on these assessments, forensic psychologists then create bespoke therapy and rehabilitation plans for individual service users, which might involve group counselling sessions and anger management classes.
Forensic psychologists are also responsible for maintaining records, tracking the progress of service users, and writing reports.
In more senior roles, forensic psychologists may also be responsible for managing trainee forensic psychologists, conducting research, and developing strategies to improve therapy and rehabilitation services.
Salary & benefits
Trainee forensic psychologists working in prison and probation services can earn anywhere between £17,000 and £20,000 per annum. If you work for the NHS, however, you will earn between £25,000 and £34,000 whilst you are training.
Once you’ve managed to qualify as a chartered forensic psychologist, your salary will increase to between £26,000 and £38,000 in the prison service, and between £31,000 and £40,000 in the NHS.
Senior forensic psychologists can earn up to £95,000 and beyond.
Forensic psychologists typically work five days a week, nine-to-five. However, extra evening and weekend work may be required from time to time.
To enter this line of work, you will need an undergraduate degree in a psychology-related subject which is accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS).
Alternatively, if you complete an unrelated undergraduate degree, you will be required to complete a one-year conversion course.
In order to become a chartered forensic psychologist, you will then need to obtain a master’s and a BPS Qualification in forensic psychology.
Finally, all forensic psychologists are required to become registered members of the Health and Care Professions Council.
Training & progression
Forensic psychologists complete the majority of their training whilst on the job and working towards chartered status.
However, the British Psychological Society also gives its members access to a range of additional training and networking opportunities. The International Academy for Investigative Psychology also offers a range of relevant training courses.
Many forensic psychologists opt to work on a freelance basis once they have gained a decent amount of experience.However, some large organisations give forensic psychologists the opportunity to advance into senior management positions with strategic and policy-making responsibilities.
Some forensic psychologists, on the other hand, choose to specialise in one particular area, such as treatment for drug addiction.