Criminal psychology is the study of the mental state of accused criminals. The goal of criminal psychology is to examine the criminals’ thoughts, intentions, motives, and emotions to determine why they committed the crime. They typically specialize in family, civil, and criminal cases.
What Do Criminal Psychologists Do?
While psychologists study the way the human brain works, criminal psychologists specialize in criminals and how they think. They collaborate with law enforcement officers others on criminal cases. Criminal psychologists interview suspected and accused criminals to try to understand their motivations and mental state while committing a crime. They collaborate with law enforcement officers, lawyers, judges, and others on criminal cases. In addition, they aid in criminal investigations and appear in court as expert witnesses to describe the mental state of an accused criminal.
Some criminal psychologists work as profilers. By examining the crime evidence, they try to identify details about the person who might have committed the crime, including age, gender, sex, background, and other characteristics. Their analysis is used by police and detectives in their investigation of a crime.
How to Become a Criminal Psychology Professional
To work in criminal psychology, at least a master’s degree is required, although a PhD is usually preferred and is more likely to lead to a good job. Psychology, sociology, or forensic science degrees can provide a strong foundation for further education and a career in criminal psychology.
Your master’s and PhD should be in clinical psychology, forensic psychology, or criminal psychology. Experts recommend that you select a program that focuses less on theory and research and provides more hands-on learning. Doctorate degrees typically take about five years to complete on top of a bachelor’s and master’s degree.
In addition to a good education, criminal psychologists need to be licensed and certified as psychologists. The applications and requirements vary by state. Professional experience, including internships, will help you obtain a job in criminal psychology.
Key Skills in Criminal Psychology
Criminal psychologists work with people on a daily basis, and must feel comfortable asking probing questions, coming to conclusions, and testifying in court. Key skills recommended for working in criminal psychology include:
- Strong verbal and written communication skills
- Analytical and problem-solving skills
- Strong intuition
- Empathy and people skills
- Observational skills
How Much Do Criminal Psychologists Make?
Criminal psychologists are psychologists who work in a very specialized field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, psychologists make an annual average of $77,030. Overall employment of psychologists is projected to grow by 14 percent in the next decade.