Forensic psychologist

Criminal psychologist, investigative psychologist, legal psychologist

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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:

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.

Entry requirements

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

More information


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.

More information


Professional and industry bodies

You can join the The British Psychological Society for professional recognition and training opportunities.

Further information

You’ll find more about careers in forensic psychology from The British Psychological Society and Health Careers.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • 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

Day-to-day tasks

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

Working environment

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.

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