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Becoming a Forensic Psychologist
What do Forensic Psychologists do?
What they do
Forensic psychology is concerned with the psychological aspects of legal processes in courts. The term is also often used to refer to investigative and criminological psychology: applying psychological theory to criminal investigation, understanding psychological problems associated with criminal behaviour and the treatment of criminals.
Key tasks undertaken by forensic psychologists include:
- piloting and implementing treatment programmes
- modifying offender behaviour
- responding to the changing needs of staff and prisoners
- reducing stress for staff and prisoners
- providing hard research evidence to support practice
- undertaking statistical analysis for prisoner profiling
- giving evidence in court
- advising parole boards and mental health tribunals
- crime analysis
Where they work
The largest single employer of forensic psychologists in the UK is HM Prison Service (which includes the Home Office Research and Development Unit as well as prisons). Forensic psychologists can also be employed in the health service (including rehabilitation units and secure hospitals), the social service (including the police service, young offenders units, and the probation service) and in university departments or private consultancy.
In the treatment of offenders, forensic psychologists are responsible for the development of programmes for rehabilitation. They may include anger management, social and cognitive skills training, and treatment for drug and alcohol addiction.
In the support of prison staff, forensic psychologists may be responsible for the delivery of stress management or training on how to cope with understanding bullying, and techniques for hostage negotiation.
How do I become one?
To become a Chartered Member of the Society through the forensic psychology training route, you will need the following qualifications:
- Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC). This is achieved by completing a Society accredited degree or conversion course
- Society accredited Masters in Forensic Psychology
- Stage 2 of the Society’s Qualification in Forensic Psychology (two years supervised practice)
Some universities offer a doctorate programme in Forensic Psychology, which is the equivalent of both an accredited Masters qualification and stage 2 of the Society Qualification. This qualification makes you eligible to become to become a Chartered Member of the Society. Please contact the universities directly for more information.
In order to use the title Forensic Psychologist, you will need to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). This will involve completing Stage 2 of the Society's Qualification in Forensic Psychology or equivalent qualification that has been approved by the HCPC. Contact the HCPC for more information on the entry requirements for their register.
What is relevant work experience and how do I get it?
The universities offering the accredited Masters in Forensic Psychology will decide upon the type and nature of experience required. Identify the courses you are interested in and then approach the course tutors directly to see if they can provide you with a profile of the type of experience a successful applicant will have gained.
How much will I get paid?
Up to date terms and conditions of employment may be obtained directly from employers.
Where are jobs advertised?
- In Psychologist Appointments, which is part of The Psychologist, the Society's monthly magazine.
- In national newspapers (e.g. The Times, The Guardian, The Independent)
- In specialist publications from the Home Office
What if I'm a mature student?
Mature students often ask us if their age will prevent them from succeeding in a psychology career. You can find out more information under the Change of Career section.
What to do with a 2:2?
Admissions tutors will not normally accept graduates with a 2:2 unless they have achieved some higher qualification too. Any psychology Masters degree would be relevant: the main thing is that the MSc demonstrates applied research ability - a taught MSc would be less relevant unless there is a heavy emphasis on research methods.
Courses are looking for evidence that the person has the required academic and research ability. Usually this means an MSc or MPhil in which the candidate has successfully completed an applied research project, preferably in a forensic-related area. Contact the universities directly for more specific information on their entry criteria.
Where do I find out more?
- Accredited Psychology Courses: Contact courses direct for more information about content, entry requirements, application procedure etc.
- Home Office: Advertises vacancies for psychology graduates.
- Prison Service: Advertises jobs and provides information on the role of psychologists.
- The British Psychological Society Division of Forensic Psychology. Access to publications, conferences, and special interest groups and chat rooms with membership.
- Investigative Psychology: A rapidly expanding field, related to forensic and criminological psychology.
- Careers resources: Published work covering forensic psychology and other areas of psychology.
- BPS Shop: Find an array of forensic psychology publications through our online shop.
- Contact us: Request form for further specific information.