Forensic Psychologist Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

A Forensic Psychologist, or Forensic Psychology Expert, is a mental health professional who applies their understanding of human behavior to legal situations including civil and criminal court cases. They provide expert testimony during court cases, perform psychological evaluations of the suspects and defendants involved in a crime and conduct research on criminal behavior patterns.

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Forensic Psychologist Duties and Responsibilities

Forensic Psychologists perform a wide range of duties and are responsible for using their expertise to provide an actionable analysis—one that may be used in court. While providing testimony is one of the most important parts of this job, there are lots of other duties that make up the day-to-day aspects of this role. For example, psychologists must conduct interviews, interpret their findings and publish reports explaining the results. Other important duties and responsibilities include:

  • Providing psychological insight about a person’s behavioral patterns
  • Supervising junior staff members
  • Developing and administering psychological tests
  • Leading group or family counseling sessions
  • Maintaining records of all interviews and findings

What Does a Forensic Psychologist Do?

Forensic Psychologists can work as independent consultants or work at federal investigation offices, police stations, law firms and other organizations associated with the criminal justice system. They often specialize in a particular area such as family court or particular types of crimes. Forensic Psychologists conduct interviews to assess whether someone is mentally competent to stand trial or to gain insights into someone’s behavior as part of a criminal or civil case. They study research or conduct their own case studies on how a crime impacted the mental state of the perpetrator and the victim.

Forensic Psychologist Skills and Qualifications

Forensic Psychologists have lots of skills, such as communication, empathy, patience and listening skills, that overlap with other fields of psychology. However, since Forensic Psychologist regularly work with criminal investigators and people in the legal profession, they need an understanding of how that field works. Other important skills and qualifications for Forensic Psychologists include:

  • Research skills
  • The ability work in an environment where physical or verbal assault is possible
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Decision-making skills

Forensic Psychologist education and Training Requirements

Forensic Psychologists have steep education and training requirements. Candidates will have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, but you’ll likely come across candidate’s with master’s degrees or even PhDs. Qualified candidates will also have completed internships and residencies.

Many psychologists also have certifications. As you start interviewing candidates, you may come across candidates with qualifications in areas like:

  • Clinical health psychology
  • Cognitive and behavioral psychology
  • Counseling psychology
  • Clinical neuropsychology

Forensic Psychologist Experience Requirements

The amount of experience needed to start a career as a Forensic Psychologist depends on the candidate’s education level. For example, a company may ask that a candidate have a master’s degree or higher, or they may substitute years of experience and settle for a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. Indeed, it’s common for psychologists to move into forensic psychology since they already have relevant experience.

A Forensic Psychologist’s experience comes from real-world practice. Even in college, though, psychologists will have practice conducting interviews, collecting data and publishing their results. Keep in mind that Forensic Psychologists also work within the legal system, so you may want to look for experience in that field, as well.

Job Description Samples for Similar Positions

Forensic psychology is a niche profession that overlaps with other psychology and psychiatry roles. If you’re not finding exactly what you need for your job posting here, check out some other descriptions for similar roles. You might find more inspiration for what you need or get a better understanding of what the perfect forensic psychologist would do for your company.

Frequently asked questions about Forensic Psychologists

 

What are the essential traits of a Forensic Psychologist?

Good Forensic Psychologists are highly analytical people who are about to separate their emotions from a situation to produce a logical and fair assessment. They have heightened attention to detail that allows them to read body language and interpret conversations to identify mental issues and behavior patterns. Excellent Forensic Psychologists have a calm and relaxed demeanor that puts people at ease and allows them to express their genuine thoughts and feelings during an interview.

 

What are the daily duties of a Forensic Psychologist?

When working on a case, Forensic Psychologists begin by studying briefings and reports to learn about the details of a case and all of the parties involved. They may perform multiple interviews with a subject to determine their mental state and gather information about their psychology. Based on their research and observations, Forensic Psychologists make recommendations for treatment or disciplinary action and can sometimes have a role in how a guilty party is sentenced. They can also conduct risk assessments on someone’s mental state to determine whether they can be released on bail or if they require observation.

 

What should you look for on a Forensic Psychologist's resume?

If you want to hire a Forensic Psychologist, look for resumes that feature a heavy background in academic and criminal research. Experience in these two areas shows that a candidate has a strong knowledge of mental and behavioral conditions and the hands-on experience to identify them in real life. A Forensic Psychologist’s resume should emphasize how their psychological evaluations impacted the outcome of past cases and promoted the wellbeing of the people involved.

 

What is the difference between a Forensic Psychologist and a Criminal Psychologist?

Forensic Psychologists study the impact and effects of a crime while Criminal Psychologists use research on criminal behavior to assist in preventing future crimes. Forensic Psychologists work with both people convicted of crimes and others including witnesses, family members of the accused and the law enforcement officials involved with a case. Criminal Psychologists do research to create character profiles for potential criminal subjects and advise the police on strategies for identifying and apprehending suspects. They usually work more closely with the police department and other investigative agencies than Forensic Psychologists, who work with both law enforcement and the court system.

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