Forensic psychologist job profile
A forensic psychologist assesses criminal behaviour and helps people who have committed crimes.
What is a forensic psychologist?
Our role as a forensic psychologist relates to working with people who have been affected by crime or other legal systems (e.g. family courts).
Our aim is to work with people to help them address factors associated with risk of further offending and develop healthy, pro-social lives and contribute to a safer society.
Sometimes this involves exploring and understanding offending behaviour, vulnerabilities connected with offending behaviour (e.g. past trauma, substance use).
Our work is guided by empirically derived formulations, which feed in to treatment pathways, providing opportunities for recovery and rehabilitation.
What does a forensic psychologist do?
The daily key tasks for a forensic psychologist may include:
- Creating formulations of offence or other behaviours with people held in prison
- Delivering evidence informed psychological therapy at an individual or group level
- Supporting staff and multi-disciplinary teams to provide consistent care
- Supporting evidence informed policy and practice to maintain a focus on recovery and reconnection
- Evaluating and recommending changes to care where appropriate to ensure practice remains evidence driven
Forensic psychologists also provide evidence in legal or quasi-legal settings for parole boards and mental health tribunals.
The largest single employer of forensic psychologists in the UK is His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS).
Forensic psychologists are also be employed by a variety of NHS Trusts, Youth Justice, private justice and health providers, universities and third sector organisations (Charities).
Some practitioners also go into private consultancy.
To become a forensic psychologist you'll 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
- Completion of an HCPC approved programme
There are a number of routes to qualifications, some universities offer HCPC Approved programmes in Forensic Psychology, and the BPS also offers a qualification in Forensic Psychology.
Once you have completed your qualification, you'll need to apply to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) before practicing or referring to yourself as a forensic psychologist.
Contact the HCPC for more information on the entry requirements for their register.
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.
Up to date terms and conditions of employment may be obtained directly from employers.
Jobs advertisements for forensic psychologists can be found in the following locations:
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.
What funding is available?
Course organisers are usually best placed to give advice on funding.
There are a number of websites that offer information about postgraduate funding.
A few examples are listed as follows:
- Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU)
- DirectGov - Funding your postgraduate course
- Learn Direct - Postgraduate Funding
- Postgraduate Studentships
- Prospects - Funding my further study
Find out more about careers in forensic psychology
- BPS Explore - find a range of forensic psychology publications through our online shop
- Download our free Psychology Careers Guide