A forensic psychologist is a psychologist who offers an expert opinion based on forensic evidence or data, somewhat like the TV show CSI. They add a bit of human perspective on crime scenes and criminals. This position isn't for everyone and becoming a forensic psychologist is not easy. First, you will have to go through some tough classes in school then the pressures and responsibilities of the job can be rather overwhelming.
The requirements for a career in forensic psychology are rigorous. For those with only a bachelor's degree in forensic psychology, there are not many career opportunities available. To become a licensed forensic psychologist, one must have a doctoral degree. While in school, it is advisable to take classes such as criminology or criminal law in addition to classes on motivational psychology. In addition to a degree, one must also obtain a license in the state of residence and practice.
If you have a master's degree in forensic psychology, you can expect to make a starting salary of $20, 000 to $25, 000 per year. Most people with a master's degree in forensic psychology end up working at correctional facilities. The starting salary for licensed forensic psychologists is much better, ranging from $35, 000 to $40, 000 a year. As with other jobs, the more experience one has, the higher the salary. If you decide to open an independent practice, you can expect to earn even more.
It makes sense that the salary is would be higher because the job of a licensed forensic psychologist is extremely demanding. A forensic psychologist is expected to spend a lot of time in court, testifying on behalf of one party or another. In most cases, forensic psychologists will have to evaluate their clients, prepare a plan about how to test them, present the information to the court, and then testify. More often than not, they have to testify about someone's mental state. With more and more people claiming they are "not guilty" due to a mental defect, it is becoming harder for a forensic psychologist to decide whether the clients are telling the truth or lying.
Top forensic psychologists know how to deduce if a patient is lying. They look for certain clues that give people away, making them invaluable for other law enforcement officers. Forensic psychologist may have to study evidence at the crime scenes and conduct in-depth interviews with the clients to determine if they truly suffer from a mental illness. It's a forensic psychologist's job to find out if the client was mentally competent enough to understand what they were doing when they committed the crime. If the client was not competent, they would likely be sent to an institution where they would receive treatment for their mental illness. This means that they would not be going to a prison. In addition, forensic psychologists are also expected to assess prisoners before they leave prison to determine if they would pose any danger to the society.
As they are involved in many aspects of the criminal justice system, the demand for licensed forensic psychologists will only increase in the future.
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