If you have an interest in the legal system combined with a longing to study the goings-on of the criminal mind, or you want to help those who are victims of a crime, consider obtaining a masters in forensic psychology.
Before you consider this avenue, note that those who are interested in obtaining a master’s-level education in this area should first have a bachelor’s degree in either psychology, criminal justice or a closely related field.
Since 1990, the field of forensic psychology has gained popularity among psychology majors and Hollywood as films and television shows have given the field greater visibility thanks to movies such as the Silence of the Lambs and Copycat, and television shows such as Law and Order, which portray the field as a more exciting and dangerous therapeutic area. By design, the field of forensic psychology involves the application of psychological skills and principles to patients entangled in the legal and criminal systems, which does carry a certain amount of risk.
Unlike traditional psychologists, forensic psychologists are focused on facts as they pertain to a case, rather than providing empathy to the patient. There are also no clauses of confidentiality when speaking with a forensic psychologist, as their evaluations are court-ordered, rather than for medical purposes. This requires a clinical knowledge of psychology and a familiarity with the judicial system, as often times someone with expertise in forensic psychology is required to testify in court on their findings, translating their clinical opinions into legalese for the court room. In addition, judges often rely on forensic psychologists to make treatment recommendations, sentencing recommendations (if applicable) and evaluations of a defendant’s mental and emotional competency to stand trial.
Prisons, correctional facilities, juvenile delinquent facilities, rehabilitation facilities and hospitals are just some of the places that those with degrees in forensic psychology practice their techniques.