A career in criminal psychology
By: Mark Sturman 9th December 2016

A Career in Criminal Psychology: Things to Know

Not many of us have settled down to a good crime drama on the TV and not wondered what it would be like to be involved in a thrilling mystery, helping the police to crack the case by delving into the fascinating depths of criminal psychology. If you’ve progressed from wondering what it’d be like to thinking seriously about a career in criminal or forensic psychology, here are the questions you need to be asking before you take the plunge.

What Training Do I Need?

For all the accidental detectives you see on television, criminal psychology isn’t a field you can work in immediately without training. At the very least you’ll need a degree or a masters in psychology, but PhD and specialist training is far more likely to land you with a good job. Either way you’ll need to be prepared to dedicate several years to studying, including plenty of exams, case studies and essays.

Will I Be Involved in High Speed Car Chases & Arrests?

First things first, a career in criminal psychology probably won’t be exactly as it seems in your favourite crime drama. For example, there shouldn’t be any need for you to participate in arrests. Instead, a lot of your time will be spent on research or writing up reports of your findings for police teams or court cases. Also, cases can often take months to be resolved; not an action-packed 24 hours as some shows might have you think…

So I’ll Be Stuck at a Desk Then?

Not at all. One of the things many people in the profession love about their jobs is the sheer amount of variety they enjoy on a day-to-day basis. The role of a criminal psychologist can require anything from research and experimentation to interviewing and assessing criminals, advising the police on interview tactics, or giving specialist testimonies in court.

You may also be required to advise on whether or not a criminal is likely to reoffend or help solve a case and catch the perpetrator by providing insight into a criminal’s likely activities or motivations during or after a crime. This means your job could take you from your desk to a police station, prison, psychiatric hospital, or courtroom.

What’s the Money Like?

Your salary as a criminal psychologist will depend entirely on where you decide to work and what you’re most interested in; if you choose to go with a local government position or not-for-profit company you will likely earn a little less than you would working for a private company, but may find the work more rewarding. Either way, criminal psychology is a specialist career that requires years of study and expertise and salaries will normally reflect this.

Can I Cope?

The one thing most television shows probably do get right is the amount of upsetting evidence or dangerous people you are likely to come across as a criminal psychologist. No amount of excitement or financial reward will make up for it if you find that you can’t cope with some of the more disturbing aspects of the job.

Ask yourself if you think you would be able to manage interacting with someone who has committed the worst crime imaginable or viewing photos and evidence from a crime scene. If not, it’s perhaps best to stick to enjoying the drama on TV, but if you think you’re up to the task, you could well be on the cusp of entering one of the most fascinating professions around.

If you’re a newly qualified criminal or forensic psychologist or are looking to take the next step in your career, browse our current vacancies or register with our expert criminal justice consultants today. We’ll help you find the perfect role.