So You Want to Become a Criminal Psychologist? Here’s What You Need to Know

You Want to Become a Criminal Psychologist

Careers in criminal psychology have gained widespread recognition thanks to investigative TV shows that depict them as larger than life.

Most professionals in the field can agree that criminal psychology is indeed an exciting branch of psychology. 

If you feel that a career in criminal psychology would be an excellent fit, here is everything you need to know.

What It Entails

Typically, these professionals study criminals, their thought patterns, motives, emotions, reactions, and feelings. The goal here is to draw a complete picture of why a certain crime was committed, from its inception to when the culprit appears in court. 

Another thing criminal psychologists do is profiling. They use the available information to figure out the gender, age, education, background, sex, and personality traits. 

These profiles help law enforcers to catch the perpetrators. 

Criminal psychologists also help make judgments regarding incarceration. This is done by speaking to people serving jail terms and figuring out whether or not they are reformed and should be set free.

This becomes a delicate balance between keeping communities safe and not incarcerating offenders for longer than is necessary.

Formal Training is Required

The pathway to becoming a criminal psychologist begins with a psychology degree. From there, you can then go on to specialize in criminal psychology, followed by 18 months of supervised practice. 

Because of the competitiveness in this field, most students continue to Master’s and Doctorate levels. Indeed, most job openings you find will require these qualifications. 

Certifications aside, you will also need to register with the New Zealand Psychologists Board or the Institute of Criminal Justice and Forensic Psychology. Formal training will take you through biology, sociology, psychology, the legal system, and criminology.

It Highly Collaborative

A significant part of your role is to support law enforcers in apprehending criminals. 

As such, you will work collaboratively with the police and federal agents, crime victims, attorneys, and professionals in the court system.

Working well with others will not only allow you to be effective in your job but also build valuable professional networks. 

You Will Need Good Communication Skills

Communication skills are quickly becoming a must-have soft skill for most careers. Criminal psychology is not an exception. 

You will be working in tandem with different other agencies. You will often need to explain or describe your findings to these agencies, make presentations, and even testify in court.

Being able to break down complex information and explain it clearly is also a plus. Therefore, you will need to continually work on your communication and people skills to enjoy a successful career in this field.

Working Hours and Travel

Criminal psychology is not a 9 to 5 job. 

Crime happens anywhere and at any time. This means that you will be on call even during odd hours of the night, weekends, and holidays. You might also be required to testify or provide your services in far-flung areas. This will come with some level of travel.

If you are looking for a fast-paced and exciting career that will allow you to travel and explore, this might be the career for you.

Work Environment

Forensic psychologists work in different environments, including private and government hospitals, police force, prison systems, higher learning institutions, and even private corporations.

In this career, you will spend your time interviewing people, preparing for and giving expert testimony, and researching offenders’ life histories. After some years of practice, some criminal psychologists opt to teach in tertiary institutions or set up consultancy firms. 

Final Word

This list should give you a reasonably good idea of what to expect should you go into criminal psychology. If you are still interested in pursuing a career in this field, carry out more extensive research and identify the right school to get formal training.