How To Become a Police Psychologist (Plus Duties and Salary)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published March 17, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Police officers get exposed to many challenging and dangerous situations that may affect their mental health. Police psychologists use their knowledge of behavioral science and mental health to provide support, interventions and counseling to officers and their families, victims and witnesses. Learning the role of a police psychologist and how to become one can help you determine what steps to take to pursue this career. In this article, we define the role of a police psychologist, discuss their duties, skills, salary and job outlook and explain how to become a police psychologist.

What is a police psychologist?

A police psychologist is a psychology professional who applies behavioral science and mental health principles to support police officers, public safety officials and their families. They help treat mental and physical health through various means, such as counseling. A police psychologist also ensures police departments abide by ethical codes and police officers have what it takes to ensure public safety. Their duties typically involve assessments, clinical interventions and operational support.

Related: What Can You Do With a Criminal Psychology Degree? 10 Career Fields

What does a police psychologist do?

Police psychologists perform a wide variety of duties, with some centered on things like clinical and mental health services, substance abuse counseling and stress management. As an administrative role, they also provide support to human resources departments by determining which applicants best qualify for officer positions and by offering leadership and training. Overall, they use psychological principles to help them perform their jobs with greater ease and work with people both in and out of police departments. Here are some common duties for police psychologists:

  • Screen and assess applicants for police or public safety roles

  • Offer behavioral treatments and general counseling

  • Provide operational support, such as helping with paperwork

  • Offer training on basic psychology

  • Diagnose mental health disorders

  • Create peer support teams

  • Help police officers handle trauma and life-or-death situations

  • Perform interventions after a crisis situation

  • Help with interrogations and crisis or hostage negotiations

How to become a police psychologist

As a police psychologist, you're required to meet both basic and advanced requirements. Not only is it important to pursue a degree, but it's equally important to earn your license as a police psychologist. Learning the specific job requirements can help you make a more informed career decision. Use these steps to become a police psychologist:

1. Earn an undergraduate and graduate degree

While many universities don't offer a police psychology degree, you can pursue general psychology or a degree related to law enforcement to give you the foundational knowledge for this career. Earn both an undergraduate and graduate degree to become a police psychologist. Some master's degree fields you can pursue include forensic psychology, mental health counseling or applied criminology. A forensic psychology degree, in particular, can help you learn about psychology assessments, the legal system and criminal behavior theories. These subject areas can help you enter a reputable doctorate program.

Related: 16 Jobs To Pursue With a Forensic Psychologist Degree

2. Pursue a doctoral degree

While you can in police psychology with a master's degree, you're required to hold a doctorate degree in clinical psychology to provide licensed psychology services. Consider pursuing a doctorate that focuses on law enforcement. A doctoral degree provides you with extensive training in police duties and psychological principles. You may also learn about clinical and forensic psychology.

3. Complete an internship or fellowship and training

Follow up your doctorate degree with an internship or fellowship. Doing this can help you meet the job requirements and give you added on-the-job experience. Apart from an internship or fellowship, you're also required to complete one to two years of supervised training. This totals approximately 3,000 hours of work experience in this field.

4. Earn your license and certification

To become a psychologist of any sort, you're required to pursue a license. Earn your license by completing the exam administered by your state's licensing board. The exam covers core topics like the main principles of psychology, behavior, diagnosis and assessment.

Related: How To Become a Forensic Psychologist: Plus Salary and Skills

Police psychologist skills

Here are some common skills for police psychologists:

  • Knowledge of psychological principles: Having this knowledge helps a police psychologist provide better treatment to police officers, witnesses and victims.

  • Confidentiality: As a police psychologist, you provide counseling to police offers, victims and witnesses. This skill helps you keep any information they share private, which can help them trust you more and make them feel more comfortable speaking with you.

  • Observation and analytical skills: A police psychologist uses this skill to screen and assess applicants for police officer roles. Their observation and analytical abilities can help them determine which candidates make the best fit for the job.

  • Compassion: This skill helps show your patients that you care about how they feel. Showing empathy and compassion—particularly during a counseling session—can help them trust you and your support.

  • Communication: A police psychologist uses this skill to interview candidates and interact with the people who receive their mental health services.

Related: FAQ: What Is the Work Environment of a Forensic Psychologist?

Police psychologist salary and job outlook

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't have salary data for a police psychologist, it has data for general psychologists. According to the BLS, psychologists earn a median annual wage of $82,180. Your salary may change based on your expertise, employer, geographic location and specialty.

Th e BLS also reports an employment growth of 8% from 2020 to 2030 for general psychologists. This rate comes about as fast as the average for all other jobs in the workforce. According to the BLS, you can expect about 13,400 job openings for psychologists each year over the 2020 to 2030 decade. Some of these job openings may come from people leaving the workforce, while others may come from working professionals changing careers.

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