Criminal psychologist, investigative psychologist, legal psychologist
Forensic psychologists explore what makes people commit crimes.
Salary range: £30,401 to £43,772
How to become a forensic psychologist
You can get into this job through:
- a university course
- working towards this role
You’ll need to complete:
- a 3-year degree in psychology accredited by The British Psychological Society (BPS)
- a postgraduate master’s in forensic psychology
- complete 2 years’ supervised practice on Stage 2 of the BPS Qualification in Forensic Psychology – QFP
Some universities offer a doctorate programme in forensic psychology, which is the equivalent of both an accredited master’s and supervised practice.
If you have a degree in a different subject, you may be able to complete an approved psychology conversion course.
Competition for postgraduate training is strong. You’ll need a first or upper second class degree, and evidence of excellent research skills to apply. You’ll also need relevant work experience, for example in a prison or with a mental health service.
You’ll usually need:
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths
- 3 A levels or equivalent
- equivalent entry requirements
- student finance for fees and living costs
- university courses and entry requirements
You may be able to start your career in HM Prison Service as an interventions facilitator.
You could study for a psychology degree part time, while you work. Once complete, you could apply for trainee forensic psychologist roles.
- you’ll need to register with the Health and Care Professions Council
Professional and industry bodies
You can join the The British Psychological Society for professional recognition and training opportunities.
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- knowledge of psychology
- counselling skills including active listening and a non-judgemental approach
- analytical thinking skills
- the ability to understand people’s reactions
- sensitivity and understanding
- the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
- patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
- excellent written communication skills
- to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
Restrictions and requirements
You’ll need to:
What you’ll do
You’ll use your specialist knowledge of psychological theory and criminal behaviour to:
- support police investigations through criminal profiling
- support prison staff and other professionals in the welfare or criminal and civil justice systems
- carry out research to improve and develop professional practice
You’ll work with offenders to help them understand and overcome their problems and behaviour patterns. In this role you’ll:
- prepare risk assessments for offenders
- advise on the best location for prisoners
- develop treatment and rehabilitation programmes
- provide psychological therapy
- offer expert advice to parole boards, mental health tribunals and courts
- produce formal written reports
- help to write policies and strategies
- train and mentor new psychologists
- find ways to reduce stress and improve life inside prisons
You could work at a police station, in an NHS or private hospital or in a prison.
Your working environment may be emotionally demanding and you’ll travel often.
Career path and progression
You could go on to run a prison psychology department, move into a policy and strategy-based role or a management post, focusing on specific issues.
You could also move into freelance and consultancy work, for example as an expert witness.