Psychologists are professionals who study and interpret human behavior. Forensic psychologists work with criminals by analyzing their actions to determine the mental profile and thought processes that drive them. Their work often aids in criminal investigations and tracking serial criminals.
Education and Training
All psychologists need at least a master's degree or a doctoral degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The majority of forensic psychologists have doctoral degrees along with forensic-specific clinical experience. This typically involves clinical work in a law enforcement forensics lab. The doctoral degree typically has a strong emphasis on research, which helps prepare someone for a career researching behaviors and actions of criminals. Forensics psychologists must also hold their state clinical psychology license.
Forensic psychologists are scientific professionals. They rely on statistical analysis to match evidence to theories on why people commit crimes. Much of the profiling done in forensics is based on models of standard behavior. In essence, the psychologist projects the likely behaviors of a criminal based on what research and studies suggest are his most likely courses of action. Coinciding with scientific training, forensic psychologists must have critical thinking skills to discern facts from opinions and speculation.
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The ability to interpret the motives of criminals is useless if the forensics psychologist can't effectively communicate his findings to other law enforcement officials and the courts. Psychologists normally work with investigators by building criminal profiles and explaining likely motives and behaviors. They also get called into court to testify and must explain the link between evidence and the psychology of crimes. Written communication is also important to create profiles used in investigations and reports.
Legal knowledge is a must for forensics psychologists since they serve as part of the law enforcement process. A minor in law or other training in law is a good addition to a psychology degree. Mental health law and criminal case law expertise are especially useful. In addition, a forensic psychologist needs a good grasp of courtroom procedures so he comes across as competent, professional and believable during criminal cases.
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